Get Hungry: Bonfire Dances and Sweet Desserts with the Bearded Bakers
One late November evening in Sydney, the afternoon rain has cooled down the city and the party-goers have begun to dance the night away in Darlinghurst, while the food connoisseurs are enjoying one last glass of Shiraz in Surry Hills.
In a quiet suburb of Sydney everything is pitch-black and quiet. However, it's here, at the end of a long dark industrial road that the Knafeh team chose to set up their 20ft shipping container turned bakery.
'Unexpected places are always the best,' explains Ameer El-issa, co-founder and creative director of Knafeh. Listen intently and you will hear laughter and singing. Walk until the end of road and you will even see flames dancing in the night.
The El-issa brothers like setting up big stages, and bonfires are part of the experience. 'It's really about what we can make of the space we are in,' insists Ameer. Indeed, Knafeh is not only a bakery, it's also part theatre stage and part travelling dance troupe.
'The bakers dance, the crowd dances and every now and again my brother Joey likes to jump up on the front bar and really show everyone how it's done.'
Sometimes, other entertainers are given the stage, as Knafeh is used as a platform for up and coming artists. Knafeh changes location every two weeks, all around Sydney and the surrounding areas.
Nevertheless, Knafeh is also about luscious food and finds its roots in the eponymous Middle Eastern dessert. Ameer and Joey El-issa's mum created her own creamier and lighter version of the dish, "a sweet cheese and semolina pudding, covered in a layer of fine crumbing mix." The dessert is then baked on-site in their oven, 'where it comes out to be topped with finely crushed pistachios, and drizzled with fragrant sugar syrup. The result is a crunchy topping, and hot oozing centre, a bit like a hot crème brulée'.
Knafeh is their one and only dish but is likely to sell out by the end of the night. From foodies to families, all backgrounds, ages or walks of life are welcomed by 'The Bearded Bakers'.
They are also working on a multitude of other projects including consulting for charities and not-for profit, restaurants and cafés, including their own café: Bar Biscotti in North Strathfield, New South Wales.
Opened in 2014 and already in Sydney and Melbourne, the Knafeh team is planning to expand to other parts of the world.
We interviewed Ameer El-issa, co-founder of The Bearded Bakers and Knafeh:
Interview with Ameer El-Issa
What did the beginnings look like compared to now?
The beauty in what we do is in the simplicity. We've definitely evolved along the way, but the differences are subtle - for example where we would yell out customers' names for pick-ups, we've progressed to microphones and an audio system. The foundation of what we do has remained the same and that's really important to us, to stay true to what we do and why we do it, which is why the changes you see over time are about improvements, not dramatic shifts in focus.
Did you face any hurdles along the way?
When you break the mould and challenge the boundaries you will always encounter setbacks and hurdles, but what we realised really early on was that each time something didn't seem to go our way, the changes we had to make opened up new doors that wouldn't have otherwise opened and amazing things have come from it. From new locations, new contacts, new projects and new opportunities, there is a blessing in everything that happens to us, and we're incredibly humbled by and thankful for our experiences.
Could you share a memorable Knafeh story with us?
Recently we received a call from someone we know, telling us about a man who had just awoken from a coma after an accident at work. When preparing to go home, his family asked him what the first thing was he wanted when he got home, and his reply was 'Knafeh'. Our friend had called to tell us about this, so Mum baked him a tray and we arranged for it to be delivered for his coming home party. It was definitely one of the more memorable moments to date.
For more information, visit the Knafeh website.
Find out more about Street Food options in New South Wales.