BY ANAAM IKRAM
Refashioning traditional Bahraini cuisine and food staples spanning the globe, Bossy Kitchen is redefining our perception towards healthy eating. A unique concept, with a name to match, Bossy Kitchen offers its customers a wholesome yet guilt-free dining experience, allowing them to indulge in their favorite foods without sacrificing flavor. Mohammed Al Khalifa and Aysha Al Araifi spoke with Perle Magazine about how they embarked on their culinary journey to create Bossy Kitchen.
An avid cook from the start, it was no surprise that Aysha was destined to run her own kitchen, synergistically coupled with Mohammed’s enthusiasm towards nutrition and fitness, further enhancing the brand. Working in harmony, Mohammed and Aysha combined their passions to create a distinct, hearty, and tasty menu that caters to a variety of dietary needs. “We approach each dish together, however she views each dish through a culinary lens”, Mohammed says, “While I tackle it from the aspect of nutrition”. Starting in 2012, as a stall at Market 338 in Adliya, then evolving into a home business, the husband and wife duo worked diligently towards serving a hearty meal, whilst educating their customers on the importance of conscious eating. Tapping in to the niche market, Bossy Kitchen garnered a strong following, leading to the opening of their full fledged restaurant in January 2015 at Reem Center, Located in Riffa.
Perforated metal sheets and wooden panels line the wall on one side, while Arabesque details with ‘pop-of-color’ furniture contrast the other side. Both designs collide to create a quirky raw aesthetic, aptly representing the modernization and healthy re-imagination of traditional dishes.
Being hands-on towards every aspect of the business,both Mohammed and Aysha oversaw and participated heavily in the construction of their two storey restaurant, alongside the creative hands of various family members. Each corner of the shop carries a story and an imprint left by the culinary duo, their parents and siblings; from a rice sack wall installation to concrete tables, reconstructed fridge door menu boards, faucet door handles, and an entire painting instillation piece made out of steel sheets and kitchen equipment. The interior mirrors their recipes, allowing Bossy Kitchen to juxtapose retro and modernity with ease.
The restaurant offers unique combinations such as the traditional Bahraini ‘Safi’ Rabbit Fish and ‘Muhamar’ Sweet rice reimagined in a Sushi form or their version of Vine Leaves, which is substituted by Quinoa or Brown rice wrapped in local Kale. Their best seller ‘Bossy Chicken’ sliders is comprised of baked chicken that retains its crispy crust, allowing customers to indulge in a feel good ‘clean’ cheat meal. Mohammed describes, “We try to insure that the majority of our dishes contain lean protein, clean carbs and healthy fats. For example The ‘Bossy Chicken’ is baked with very minimal oil only used to line the baking tray, so you get the comfort of the crispy crumbing yet it remains healthy, whereas with dishes like the Bahraini Sushi, it’s a guilty pleasure we did not want to alter, so we presented it in a controlled portion that remains filling”. Aysha explains their aim to excite people about vegetables and designed various recipes to ensure that people no longer see them as bland or boring. Introducing dishes such as the Roasted Cauliflower Salad and the Pumpkin Lasagna, Aysha says these are ideal for vegetarians, and have been surprised by the approval of many regular meat eaters. “This is what we try to do with our menu, we try to add items that you have not experienced anywhere before.
Of course we have simpler items such as regular Penne pasta with minor twists for those who don’t like to experiment too much, however we hope that by reading our menu, people would be encouraged to try different things”.
Aysha’s methodology towards preparing the meals, involves trying to ensure that each dish has three different colors and two contrasting flavors. “A Person eats with their eyes before they eat with their spoon,” she adds.
Their personalized approach towards their concept and customers is what has made them a crowd favorite. Aysha explains, “We need to focus on a the entire experience, and not just culinary. We want each customer to be fully immersed at Bossy. From greeting each guest, tweaking their dishes in accordance to their eating habits, the interior design and even the music that changes to suit the mood from being laid back during tea time, to more upbeat lounge during busy hours.” Mohammed emphasized their eagerness to please a variety of taste pallets “We don’t discriminate against any dietary requirements. Vegetarian, Pescterian, Vegan, anyone with sensitivity to Gluten, Paleo or meat eaters. All are welcome!”.
The creativity doesn’t end with the daily menu. To reward and excite regulars and newcomers alike, Bossy Kitchen hopes to keep things fresh with Saturday brunch and an array of theme nights that involve changing the menu and the ambiance, with music and set up to match the event. Mohammed describes “We have had themes based on various countries and pop culture, we will go from Moroccan, Indian or Thai night to a James Bond theme, or Burgerfest/Veganfest! For Thai night we changed the table numbers holders to pineapples, played Thai music, and dressed up in vacation clothes! We are not afraid to go all out”.
Bossy Kitchen has also recently introduced a fully customizable private catering, and has plans to launch newly designed outdoor seating by December.
Making everything in house, Bossy Kitchen has covered every aspect to assure their customers are getting high quality, nutritious and flavor meal. Aysha visits the market every morning to handpick the ingredients and ensures that everything is made from scratch daily. Aysha adds, “We don’t cut corners, Our Gnoochi pasta is hand-rolled fresh instead of being store brought, the burger buns come out of the oven first thing every morning.
What you see on your plate was made fresh today, no exceptions. Local ingredients such as Kale and Sweet Potato come from local farms straight to the restaurant”. Mohammed creates the drinks and explains that the juices served at Bossy Kitchen are fresh and cold pressed without any added sugar, all to preserve the benefits and flavor of the fruit. Among the wide selection of delectable desserts, the Vegan Quinoa Blondie is naturally sweetened, Gluten free and packs a serious amount of protein. Aysha however is a firm believer that desserts are a delicacy and needs to be something we reward ourselves and indulge in from time to time. Amongst these ‘naughty’ treats include ‘The Fix’, comprised of swirled French toast loaded with cinnamon, Nutella, and topped with premium ice cream, caramel and chocolate shavings.
Bossy Kitchen also understands the importance of giving back to society and has come up with various ways to establish itself as a social enterprise. Setting up a ‘Plank of Kindness’ the customers are welcome to purchase charity meals and attach their receipts to the plank.
These donations and contributions are usually doubled by the owners themselves and donated to a given social cause. Some of the donations include making Bossy Chicken packages and personally distributing them to construction workers and those in need around the Kingdom or drives to support local cancer societies. Bossy Kitchen has also dedicated the glass front of the restaurant to up and coming local artists to promote their work. Providing them with water-based chalks, the artists have a whole month to display their work.
Having faced their share of challenges while setting up, Mohammed explains they were able to overcome them by being able to work off each other’s positive energies. “When ever I have difficulties on my end of the job, Aysha pulls me back up, and I hope that I do the same to her.” He enjoys motivating others, especially by sharing stories on his blog regarding personal experiences in business and fitness. He advises aspiring entrepreneurs to be committed entirely to the cause. “I’m not going to tell you to simply chase your dreams. You need to be willing to do the legwork not only when you’re excited about the project, but especially when you are faced with a situation and happen have zero motivation that day. This is the exact reason why we see gyms full on January 1st after new years resolutions, and then its empty by February. You need to want it even when you don’t ‘feel like it’.” The Duo are very active and add a personal touch to their social media channels. “If all we did was post food on social media we would be nothing but a marketing machine. We try to have fun and present our brand in a light and relatable manner using pop culture references, and sometimes pranking each other live on Snapchat.”
Although being open for less then a year, Bossy Kitchen has managed to garner various awards. Aysha won Chef Wolfgang’s Mystery Box Challenge during his visit to Bahrain, and Bossy Kitchen has recently received the Highly Commended Award for Best Café by Timeout Magazine during the Timeout 2015 Restaurant Awards. Aysha concludes, “We both quit our previous careers to pursue this full time. We put in over sixteen or more hours daily. Although our opening hours are short we spend the entire day making everything from scratch. It took us over nine months to build the restaurant itself, so we treat it as if it was our own child. We are humbled by the response, and hope more people make decisions towards conscious eating and are inspired by our story, as we are motivated by their feedback and positive energy. ”
For more information:
Dinner Monday-Friday: 6-10pm
Saturday Brunch: 11am-4pm, Sunday closed
(00973) 3339 7433
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