A story of true persistence and passion, Zahir Mohamed from the Baked cafes shares his story of flunking high school, moving away from home, following his dream and making it a reality.
Originally from Port Elizabeth, 28-year-old Zahir was raised by his grandparents and decided to move out after he failed matric. He moved down to Cape Town after working in Johannesburg for a while in corporate. He worked in retail for a year and then moved into the food industry as floor manager for Knead Bakery. Thereafter he applied for a position in procurement at Brandhouse.
“I had absolutely no experience in that field whatsoever but I was determined to be in a corporate job. I had no qualifications to justify why I should get the job but I managed to speak my way in”.
With the job his, Zahir grew quickly within the company and at the end of 2012, made the decision to start his own business.
- What is Baked Bistro and what do you specialise in?
Baked is a Bakery Café. We specialize in Baking artisan bread and pastry, we make hearty breakfast and lunch, fresh juices, great coffee and always a lekker vibe. We are based in Regent Street, Seapoint and Long Street, Cape Town.
A few days after resigning, he found a location for his business in the suburb of Bakoven. With no money to start with, he trawled the streets of Woodstock, asking wood cutters to help him furnish his store and got turned down until his last stop.
“ I almost lost hope and walked into this one shop next to the woodstock exchange and this guy was a massive congolese guy called Francois. I said to him ‘Hi, I’ve walked around all day being turned away by people’. He said ‘why is that?’ I said, ‘well you see, I have a dream of starting a bakery cafe in a really upmarket neighbourhood but I have no money to pay for tables and chairs upfront but if he built me tables and chairs I would display his work and pay him R500 a week’. He agreed and I was so happy!”
- How did you get into the food industry? What inspires the type of food you produce?
I am incredibly passionate about food and baking and always have been, since a little boy growing up in my grandmother’s kitchen in Korsten, back in Port Elizabeth. After failing matric, I decided to get out of PE and explore, which I did. The desire to create beautiful flavour and texture just grew on me. I’m dedicated and committed to my brand and growing in being better at my craft every single day. All types of food inspire me; I’m generally inspired by the understanding of how to cook, a single component and extract the best flavour and texture out of it. And then infusing other components and bringing them together. It’s such a beautiful process and experience at the same time. It excites the shit out of me. haha
He opened up shop in February 2013, overwhelmed by the amount of people that came to see the new place.
“It was a disaster. I had so many people in my space I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I look back now and laugh. It wasn’t funny then”.
It took more than a year of ups and downs to eventually establish the cafe and Baked became known for the best breakfast, coffee and almond croissants in Cape Town. He says it brought a community of people together and it was beautiful.
When asked how he separates Baked from it’s competitors, he states that he is not competing. He’s main objective is making the spaces as comfortable, homely with great food, drink and service to appreciate.
- We heard you’re planning something new… Tell us about it.
It is my latest project; literally my dream come true! To have a café Bar in the City. It officially opens up on the 25th Feb. After four years of being in business, I was quite specific about this one. It is very close to me and I am so excited for it!
“I came to Cape Town for love!”
- How does Baked contribute to the culture of Cape Town?
I feel that my cafes resonates authenticity, warmth and heartiness. It is a brand that has grown organically and is the epitome of what you come to an eatery for FOOD and DRINK. It is what I pay a lot of attention to.
- What were the design inspirations that went into the Baked Bistro’s interiors?
I believe in individuality, so all of the spaces I have opened and plan to open with have a different look and feel, different menu. The ethos of my brand has a bigger vision than food. The neighbourhoods my cafes are situated in are what inspires the look, feel and menu.
- What can we expect from the new place?
This is a city bar café. It is an extension of a young owned Baked brand. A different offering to Sea Point. The stores run as a cafe during the week and also offer Happy Hour and a Cocktail Hour.
There are currently two branches:
Baked Bistro: 219 Long Street, Cape Town
Baked on Regent: 98 Regent Road, Sea Point, Cape Town