Oven Fresh

By Sonya Rehman

“Masoom Alam wanted to open a franchise of ‘Masooms’ in Lahore”, Farida Zaidi tells me before proceeding, “And around that time we were looking at starting a franchise too.”

So in 2003, ‘Masooms’ – a much loved, local, coffee house/bakery – introduced itself to the Lahori palate.

With trained cooks, Farida tells me that much has changed over the years since 2003. “At the time, initially, we had only four people in the kitchen and two in the shop…it took an immense amount of hard work as I would often have to buy the groceries and deliver them myself to and from the shops and the bakery.”

But over the years, ‘Masooms’ truly has carved a name for itself – especially given the fact that new coffee houses have managed to spring up by the dozen in Lahore. And that, Farida states, was slightly worrisome in the beginning. But the ‘Masooms’ customer base has remained pretty consistent, since they “never compromise on quality.”

That holds quite true. In Lahore with the surplus of cafes and restaurants, many filter out because they wind up not being able to remain very steady vis-à-vis the quality of their food.

And that’s why the food business is always so very ‘touch and go’. You lose out once, and you’re out of the game. But ‘Masooms’, nestled in the basement of a building smack on Lahore’s busy MM Alam Road (the hub of the city’s eateries), sees students, business executives, young couples and journalists come and go amidst tiny, misty clouds of fresh coffee, warm patties and soft, chubby brownies.

“You know, at times we’ve gone for weeks without making a particular item – like our blueberry and strawberry cheesecakes for example”, Farida says, “and that’s because one or two of the ingredients (that we use in our cheesecakes) haven’t been available in the market. We have suffered in that way, but if the ingredient isn’t obtainable in the bazaar – we will hold up making the item till it is.”

Since the launch of ‘Masooms’ back in 2003, Farida in her soft-spoken way agrees that the road has not been without its fair share of bumps and downslides. But she remains pragmatic, having taken these very challenges within her stride – remaining undeterred and evermore resilient.

Things look far better now than how they used to be – with far more cooks and managers administering the daily output, but Farida stresses that she still makes it a point to oversee the shop’s productivity at every step of the way.

They say behind every successful man is a woman, but in this case – behind every successful bakery, there’s got to be a meticulous woman!

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