We recently met with owner and founder of SoHo bakery and all-day diner Baked, Zahir Mohamed, to hear more about his South African background, move to Hong Kong and plans for the future.
How long have you been in F&B?
With nearly half a decade of experience operating Baked in Cape Town (there are three Baked stores operating in South Africa), I decided to leave what I had created and start all over again from scratch in Hong Kong. My goal is to bring real artisanal food culture by providing fresh and well-prepared dishes to this city.
What was the inspiration behind Baked?
I am a sixth-generation artisan baker from South Africa. Since I was young, I was mesmerised by how my grandmother crafts and bakes and, most importantly, how she takes care of her loved ones through baking. It is my grandmother who inspired me that cooking and baking can be a way of life. Every dish at Baked streams from a nostalgic moment in my life, from childhood to now.
For example, at breakfast we have a dish called Gravy Train (market chicken liver in spicy peri-peri sauce, poached egg and coriander with sourdough pan-fried in garlic butter). As a young boy, my grandmother would make chicken livers for me, which she fried in butter, thyme and garlic, and would serve it to me with a fried egg and sourdough, hoping to nourish me with a good source of protein. I created this dish so that every time I ate this, I felt like I was sitting in my family home with my grandparents, enjoying every bite.
At night, we have That Time in Ramadan. It is a dish that reminds me so much of the many things that would be on the table at iftar. My grandmother would be in the kitchen all day, every day from the morning, preparing a feast for dinner. Growing up in my family home was hard in Ramadan, because as a kid I would always get so hungry, I would end up eating before iftar. Those were the days of naughtiness and innocence. I put this dish together as a reminder of the simplicity and joy of my childhood. Slow-roasted madras lamb, labneh yoghurt, flaky, buttery roti – it is 100% comforting eating as a child or as an adult.
Why did you choose Hong Kong for your first overseas venture?
Baked in Hong Kong is not the first Baked. After opening Baked in Cape Town for 4.5 years, I saw there is a limitation on how much I can do in South Africa; it is still a place that is growing. To step out of my comfort zone and seek greater depth in development, I decided to leave behind my success, closing Baked in Cape Town in March 2017, and came to Hong Kong to start all over from scratch. In 2017, starting from the bottom, with a real passion for food, I worked extremely hard to work my way up. With clear strategies in mind, I managed to work effectively and achieve my goal. Baked was opened 1.5 years after I came to Hong Kong. Being in Hong Kong has shown me there is so much more in the world – it matured me. Hong Kong is a place for a challenge, and it is also a place that offers opportunities if you are ready!
Do you plan to expand?
From a hole-in-the-wall brunch spot, we recently started to open for dinner as well. To keep our diners safe and fulfilled at the same time, we also started to do takeout. We are currently working on our delivery service as we want to make sure food is sent to customers in the right way. If you would like to order takeout, do hit us up by calling/WhatsApping us on 5530 3525.
What are the signature dishes?
There is no one single signature dish at Baked as every dish is full of emotion and stories and truly unique. All the dishes are created to make our diners feel like eating at home, which is full of nostalgia and comfort.
For the daytime menu, we have Oh My God (mushrooms on sourdough – sautéed portobello mushrooms cooked in mozzarella, cream and black truffle paste with poached egg and rocket). The dish lives up to its name as you can literally hear people enjoying this dish and saying OMG. A lot of people do worry about not finishing it, but bit after bit, they will impress themselves until the dish is clean.
In addition to our dishes, we do have some signature drinks. Our coffee is brewed with our own blend of coffee, Baked Beans, roasted by ROASTWORK – a speciality espresso blend made of Colombian Medellin, Brazilian Mogiana, Guatemala Huehuetenango SHB and Sumatran Mandheling PWN, three times hand-picked. The medium-dark roast brings an extra lush and creamy body to the espresso, with a sweet and long-lasting aftertaste.
Our beer, Sunbaked, is a collaboration with Carbon Brews. It’s pale ale brewed with American hops that impart aromas of lemon rind, pine needles and jasmine. The bitterness is well supported by the malts, which provide a balanced overall structure to the beer. It has a moderate body with a very dry and crisp finish.
Baked, 14D–F Elgin Street, SoHo, Central, 2885 2121
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