Incorporating the taste of his culture with his unique style of baking, Mahmood Janahi has created a name for himself as one of the most sought after artisans in the Kingdom. Baking for and serving customers from his own personal kitchen, the talented baker sat with Perle Magazine and discussed his love for baking.
Mahmood Janahi was introduced to the world of baking at the age of eight by his grandmother. To ensure that he and his cousins were behaving, Janahi recalls, his grandmother would ask them to bake a cake with her. She would give them all the ingredients and one-by-one each of them would put them in the mixing bowl. This became a weekly routine they would look forward to and it eventually lead him to baking and experimenting with different tastes and flavours. As he got older, he says, he would take self-baked goods to school for his peers. Moving to college in Australia meant becoming more independent and that’s when his other culinary skills came into play. As he went with a group of Bahrainis, Janahi says they relied on him for home-cooked food as it allowed them to get that ‘homely feel.’ “Us Middle Easterners, we like sitting and having that family culture” he says. At that time, he says, he was only focusing on cooking and it wasn’t until a peer’s birthday when Janahi was requested to make a cake that he started to bake once again. His cake was made to cater to the taste palette of his Middle Eastern friends and was an instant hit. At the time, one of his friends jokingly suggested Janahi open his own shop but the idea did not appeal to him and therefore he did not take it seriously.
After Janahi moved back to Bahrain, he was once again put in a situation where his skills were brought to light at his workplace. By 2008, Janahi was notorious for his cakes and was asked to create a menu. Though at first he was hesitant, he sent in a list of his cakes with their descriptions and prices to his friends who designed a professional-looking menu and forwarded it to those interested in trying his cakes. Within the first two hours of the menu being circulated he got his first call. That is when, he says, his cake baking business became official. In the beginning, Janahi says, he was nervous about serving his cakes to paying customers and would bake and test the samples several times before finalising his product. Over time, he says, he has not only become confident with his cakes but has also developed a unique style that sets his cakes apart. “When I first started, my cakes didn’t look the way they do now. Something I would tell everyone is that you have to have passion and patience to create something.”, he says.
Describing his cakes as inspired by Southern American and French-style baking, Janahi says his baked goods are “rustic, and homely with a touch of elegance” and marks the Naked Cake as his signature. He says he does not deem it important to have too much cream or lashes of chocolate, but rather lets his elegantly placed fruits and nuts make an impression. His ingredients, are all organic and edible and do not contain preservatives. Also known for his fusion cakes, Janahi says that he takes tastes from around the world and tries to translate them into cakes. For Ramadan, he creates a fusion between Arabic and Western flavours and uses ingredients like cardamom, saffron, and walnuts. “I like to infuse something that even if you go online and search you won’t find that recipe because it is originally created by me.” he says. The talented baker also introduced to Bahrain the Mille Crepe Cake. The multi-layered cake, with filling between each layer, is served with chocolate sauce and decorated with berries. He notes that though the dessert is popular in New York and Japan as well, he brought it to Bahrain with his own unique twist. He says he has since seen imitations of his creations around Bahrain and sees that as a way of educating others rather than competition on the rise. “The market is open for everyone. Each and every baker has his clientele. I am not here in Bahrain to have everyone come to me because that it is impossible and selfish. I support local businesses and I am a local business,” he adds.
However, Janahi says that though he too uses media for inspiration, he always adds his own touch to his creations. The innovative baker says that this kind of thinking is what will differentiate a business from its competitors. “I don’t copy trends. I create them!” he says.
Of his keys to success, Janahi says that one of the things he places great importance on is feedback. He adds that getting feedback immediately from his clients has not only helped him improve but also grow as a baker. Another factor that has helped him build a strong client-base is that when the customers call to place an order, they deal with him directly and the cake is based on the specific needs and occasion. Not only that, initially, Janahi says, he used to deliver the cakes himself and when the customers would find out that he is at the door with the cakes, they would collect the goods themselves. These little interactions, he says, build a relationship between the customers and the brand and that has helped him expand his clientele. The social-media savvy baker has also garnered a huge following on Instagram and Snapchat to further his reach to his customers. “I am where I am because of my people and because of the products I deliver” he says. Adding he does not entertain any negative comments that come his way as that is something which will not help him grow nor learn.
Janahi’s creations also gained him appraise from celebrity chef Buddy Valastro of Cake Boss on The Food Network who tried his cakes and he also had the opportunity to meet with renowned chef Wolfgang Puck as well as other social media personalities.
What makes Janahi and his baking truly unique is that everything is done in his kitchen. His self-designed kitchen is almost like a timestamp of his career and experiences so far. Along with the usual baking tools, Janahi has an eclectic collection of hand-painted plates, cake holders, and unique kitchen ornaments that give it a cosy and personal feel. Janahi says that because everything is done in his kitchen, its gives him exclusivity and an edge. This also allows him to take orders according to his schedule due to the time constraints of his full-time job as a Human Resources Manager in an international company. He adds that though he would, in the future, consider a TV cooking show, he does not wish to leave the corporate life just yet as he has a lot to learn. “I haven’t had enough of the corporate life and if it were not for the corporate life, I would not have reached this level of professionalism, because you learn a lot when you deal with people at work” he adds.
With no plans of expansion as of yet, Janahi says that currently he is supplying desserts to restaurants such as Grub Shack (located in Hamala) and Crave (located in Riffa) as well as collaborating with a date shop called Al Aseeb (located in Riffa) to create baked goods for Ramadan. His advice for those looking to start their own business or transitioning into opening a shop is that “you need to work, you need to get security and you need people to know who you are and then grow slowly.”
For anyone looking to enjoy an utterly unique and delicious experience through the combination of Western and international taste translated into a cake, Mahmood Janahi creates just that. His tasty and beautiful creations no longer need an introduction; just a spoonful and you’ll be hooked from the very first bite.
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