Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Paying it forward: How Abu Dhabi restaurateur helped dish up new opportunity for home baker

Kamila Osmonova turned her passion for baking into a business venture, and the budding entrepreneur says the pandemic can, in part, be credited for her success.

“Since we were staying at home, I had more time and I was baking almost every day for my family,” she says. Google reported a 54 per cent increase in searches for banana bread between March and April last year, but unlike most hobbyists who found their stride in baking loaves, Osmonova wanted more of a challenge.

“I think every woman has her own recipe for banana bread and carrot cake, but I like it when I can show my creativity and spend time trying different flavours and ingredients – doing something that cannot be replicated in every kitchen.”

The baker

Osmonova first tried her hand at baking tarts, but eventually found her creative calling with macarons. The small, round confection is composed of a creamy filling flanked by two meringue-like shells. Although the shells are easy to make and consist of only three ingredients – egg whites, sugar and powdered almonds – mastering the filling is the real challenge – and thrill, especially for the experimentative baker.

Osmonova says inspiration for new flavours can strike at any time, anywhere.

“I usually make notes about flavours I would like to try while I’m out and then start practising when I get back to my kitchen. I feel like you can show your creativity with this dessert by trying different flavours and colours. It’s very eye-catching, and you can satisfy different preferences by creating many versions of the same dessert,” she says.

Flavour combinations such as lemon and mint, mango and passion fruit, and white chocolate and raspberry are appetising of their own accord, but Osmonova enhances the look and taste by decorating them. Her love for ornamentation comes as no surprise since she spent 10 years designing watches for a company in Dubai.

The former engineer’s design ethos shines through in her baking, too. Her pretty pastel macarons come garnished with freeze-dried fruits or nuts in contrasting colours, making them both delicious and aesthetically pleasing.

Before long, Osmonova’s macarons were in demand as news of the tasty treats spread among her friends and within the local community. She welcomed the rise in requests, but remained conscious of her status as a one-woman show. As Osmonova sought to turn her hobby into a viable business, she considered her lifestyle, the barriers to entering the market and how she truly wanted to spend her time.

“For me, the biggest challenge is work-life balance. My first priority is my kids and being a mum without any help – no nanny or housemaid – I do everything myself, so I wasn’t looking to start a business on my own,” she says. “All the paperwork and arranging everything is difficult. It takes a lot of time and money.”

The restaurateur

Desert Lotus founder and Thai chef Buaban C Tucker says making a good macaron is no easy feat 
Desert Lotus founder and Thai chef Buaban C Tucker says making a good macaron is no easy feat

Starting a small business can indeed be an uphill battle, one that restaurateur Buaban C Tucker has undertaken and succeeded at. She recalls how difficult it was for her to establish her Abu Dhabi restaurant Desert Lotus in back in 2015.

“Five years ago, it was very complicated and you had to involve a lot of people to accomplish one task. Based on my experience, you have to know exactly where to go and what to do unless you have the money to pay someone to do everything for you. I did everything myself, walking every step of the way. It wasn’t easy, but all the effort paid off in the end.”

Tucker understands that it takes a lot of hard work and help from members of the community to be successful in business, and she wants to pay it forward.

“Our location at Al Bandar was opened by His Highness Sheikh Nahyan, who supported me in every way possible because he knows why I’m doing what I’m doing. We’re always sharing and giving. That is how Desert Lotus began,” she says.

“I organised a fundraiser by preparing food in my own kitchen. All the money raised went to the victims of the ­deadly earthquake that shook Nepal in 2015, and I will continue to give back in any way possible”.

This time, Tucker is bolstering a fellow female entrepreneurs by sourcing baked goods from Osmonova, which came about thanks to a third, altruistic woman whose background in business management helped bring two enterprising minds together.

The catalyst

Desert Lotus in Abu Dhabi has recently begun stocking macarons by home baker Kamila Osmonova
Desert Lotus in Abu Dhabi has recently begun stocking macarons by home baker Kamila Osmonova

“I told my good friend, Ohm, that I was looking for a line of fresh bakery products for the restaurant. I said that if I had to, I’d do it myself or support someone who’s talented and local to help them expand or get established. Ohm said: ‘That’s perfect! I know a lady named Kamila who bakes, and I will introduce you’.’”

Shortly after that conversation, Tucker connected with Osmonova, who shared her passion for baking and her delicious macarons. “She blew my mind because her baking is so good,” says Tucker. “Listen, I’m in the food business. I’m a Thai chef, but one thing I don’t think that I can do is a macaron. It’s difficult and it takes great talent to do that right.”

I’m here today by the chances given to me, so why not pass that on to others?

Buaban C Tucker, Desert Lotus

Recognising complementary talent and business needs is no easy feat, either. Ohm says: “I’m very excited for their partnership, and wish them a lasting and successful business relationship. I love seeing my friends succeed and advance their businesses. I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect them at this time.”

Osmonova’s highly sought-­after macarons are now available at Desert Lotus restaurant in Abu Dhabi, giving her the official entry into the market she was seeking. Through this partnership, Osmonova gets to do what she loves without the difficulty of setting up a business.

“I don’t want to do anything else, just bake,” says Osmonova, while Tucker wholeheartedly believes she’s doing what she’s supposed to do by way of helping a fellow woman with business goals. “I’m here by opportunity, too,” says Tucker. “I’m here today by the chances given to me, so why not pass that on to others?”

Published: April 14, 2021 07:12 AM

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