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It is my absolute pleasure to welcome to my blog, the Egyptian Chef, Mr. Khaled Elelimi, the owner of Pistachio restaurant in Singapore and one of the most revered and popular chefs in town.
Despite a cut throat competition among world class chefs in the Red Dot, Chef Khaled’s spotless reputation as an affable person and adept professional, has carved his unique place in the hearts and minds of both local Singaporeans and expat community.
As a trail blazer, Chef Khaled managed to bring Mediterranean cuisine to the limelight in an predominantly Asian culinary culture. Nothing held him back, not the the lack of ingredients, nor the high business and living cost. He persisted until he built his unique brand with the help of his supportive wife, Agnes.
When I approached him asking for an interview, he kindly accepted with no hesitation. To my surprise, this interview turned out to be mind blowing for me as a parent rather than a food writer. If you are wondering why, scroll down to read the interview below.
In addition to his inspiring story, Chef Khaled is sharing one of his favorite Egyptian recipes with us, a traditional Egyptian lentil soup.
For more easy-to-follow recipes inspired by my Egyptian cuisine, follow my Instagram account @cheznermine.
My name is Khaled Elelimi, born and bred in Ismailia city in Egypt, situated on the west bank of the Suez Canal.
I went to a public school where I terribly struggled with education from day one. I had a hard time digesting all the subjects, except English. As a consequence, I was beaten up by teachers, ridiculed by classmates and labeled as stupid. I always wondered what was keeping me behind. I was pretty talented with art subjects, but that wasn’t enough to garner respect from my peers and teachers. By all means, my school memories are probably the saddest!
The reasons of my learning difficulties remained unknown until 2012. Back then, I was having a random medical check when a Singaporean physician diagnosed me with acute dyslexia. This way belated diagnosis put all the pieces together and it explained why I suffered as a child and as an adult who had to handle a lot of administrative work as an executive chef in five stars hotels.
I graduated from school with barely minimum grades to qualify for agriculture college, but I knew I wouldn’t do any better, given my learning difficulties. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to a private college, yet a God sent angel disguised as a loving neighbor volunteered to pay my fees at the only culinary school my town had. That act of utter generosity changed the course of my life.
By the time I was graduating from the culinary school, I lost my father, which urged me to accept the first job I was offered to financially help my family. That job was in the kitchen of a five star hotel in Hurghada, a touristy city on the shores of the Red Sea in Egypt. There I found myself like a fish in water, enjoying being in the kitchen, and grasping plenty of culinary knowledge.
I began to climb the ladder of culinary profession from one big hotel to another bigger hotel, until I managed to get a job overseas with Four Seasons, first in the Maldives and then Mumbai. In India, I embraced Ayurveda, which means the science of life and it is based on treating diseases with food.
The reason behind the steady ascension of my career was my focus on self-development. More than half of what I earned I spent on excellent cookbooks to learn to expand my culinary knowledge and hone my skills. I always strived to be ahead of the game.
What brought me to Singapore was mere coincidence. In one overseas assignment in Seychelles I met my Singaporean wife Agnes, who encouraged me to take a leap of faith and start my own food business in Singapore. I moved to Singapore, worked with the Shangri La Hotel and then opened a small restaurant in a middle class neighborhood, where I introduced my Mediterranean dishes.
When my clientele started to increase, I moved to a bigger place which is now Pistachio, my restaurant in Wheelock Place in the heart of Singapore, where I share my food passion with a larger Singaporean clientele.
My career path was anything but easy! My dyslexia has made things harder but I persisted and never gave up. I was dedicated to my passion and never let go of any learning experience to excel and set myself apart from and that made all the difference.
Egyptian Lentil Soup
Recipe by Chef Khaled Elelimi
Serves 4-6 people
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- ½ cup sliced carrots
- ½ cup diced tomato
- ⅓ cup sliced yellow onion
- 2 tablespoons sliced garlic
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 2 ½ cups yellow or red lentils
- 9 cups water
- Cook the soup ingredients: Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add carrots, tomato, onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato has broken down and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt and pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste is browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add lentils and water; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft and the soup is thickened, about 25 minutes.
- Puree the soup using an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids).
- Serve with crispy pita bread.