Fawzy Mohamed blends the best of Egypt and New York at his restaurant Kosharie
For the Egypt-born chef Fawzy Mohamed, tenacity and hard work are essential ingredients for any successful business.
Along the sprawling restaurants and apartments on Regent Street sits Fawzy Mohamed’s restaurant Kosharie, which holds a story almost as unique as its menu. With a range of Egyptian and American foods, Kosharie offers everything from hoagies to kabobs and pizzas to wraps.
Behind the incredible food is Mohamed — who is both the chef and the owner — generous and assiduous in ensuring his visitors feel welcome and appreciated. To Mohamed, building relationships with customers is more important than anything.
“I’m not a material person,” he says. “Money means nothing.”
Upon moving to the United States at 24 years old from Egypt, he worked in New York City as an engineer but soon learned how to cook from his friends. Mohamed would spend hours upon hours perfecting a New York City favorite, pizza.
“All night long I was making pizza. The first one was, of course, terrible. The second one was average … by the time I reached 20-25 I was decent. By the time I reached 50 I was good,” he says.
Most people may have given up after a few tries, but Mohamed didn’t want to stop. As his own toughest critic, he continued to practice more until he met his expectation of what makes for “excellent” pizza.
Mohamed turned his love of cooking into two successful restaurants in New York, where he became friends with everyone who popped in to visit. Mohamed says he never tried to go “the rough way,” despite the restaurant industry becoming fiercely competitive over the years. Instead, Mohamed looks to form real connections with people who visit his restaurant without stepping on other owners’ toes.
While living in New York City, Mohamed took his family to Madison for a vacation. His children fell in love with the area and eventually moved here in 2000. Before launching Kosharie, Mohamed worked as the executive chef at Smoky’s Club for over a decade and worked as a sous chef at the Madison Club.
The road to his success did not come easy — he worked hard, but it came with a price: his health. Mohamed says he loves to work, but it also can be a disease as eventually, he was forced to grapple with his workaholism, taking nearly a year-long break to reset.
“The doctor told me, either you quit the business or you quit this life,” he remembers. He knew he wanted his children — 7 to 8 years old at the time — to get a good education.
Grinning from ear to ear, he shared how his daughter is now a lawyer and his son is a doctor. Above all else, his family comes first and foremost to him. He instilled values of hard work, love and care, and enjoys seeing them during visits.
Still, he says he doesn’t want them to help him with cooking or get involved in the “very, very hard” business.
Eventually Mohamed decided to shake things up and decided to work for himself again by opening Kosharie in November 2019. Kosharie is sandwiched between Regent Cuts Barber Shop and Sconnie Bar on Regent Street. Originally, he says the location had a bad reputation, but nothing could shake his confidence — not even a pandemic.
“I know what I’m doing. I’m good with the customers,” he says. As a new business, the pandemic hit the business hard.
But Mohamed kept at it, eventually growing by 400% in profits from 2020 to 2021, an impressive figure given the large portion sizes and reasonable price points. The Egyptian Kosharie, the restaurant’s namesake, is only $6.95, but it’s large enough to split with the family. Kosharie is a mixed assortment of lentils, rice, garbanzo beans, pasta, fried onions and tomato sauce.
In the next couple of weeks, Mohamed also plans to open up another late-night pizza restaurant directly next to Kosharie. For now, he’s still looking at the reviews from his customers, taking each to heart.
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