Luma Makhlouf's empowering supper club in Dubai
Entrepreneur establishes series of female-only dinners to inspire and build a community
SHE’S THE CO-founder of UAE favourites Maiz Tacos, Good Burger and Luma’s Cakes which dictates food has always been central to this business person’s success. Moving to Dubai in 2009 to enroll in culinary school, 12 years later Palestinian entrepreneur and chef Luma Makhlouf is looking to pass on the knowledge gleaned from her experience and build a community of women with A Woman’s Table, a monthly supper club inviting ladies to come armed with their stories to discuss around the table in an effort to share and learn.
Makhlouf, who has so far hosted two intimate invite-only events at her own house, creates the menu based on dishes that have shaped her life with all items stemming from her heritage. Set to expand over the coming weeks, the foodie is currently looking at different locations in order to invite more female business owners, creatives and women who are making their mark in industry.
What gave you the idea to set up a supper club? How do you decide whom to invite?
I wanted to set this up because I felt there was nothing like it in the UAE and there should be. There should be a place where women can come relax, share, and get to know each other. The supper club can be our own little space, that can help grow and nurture our community. We want to feel free to speak about our struggles and our achievements and most importantly learning from one another.
You’ve based the meals on your Palestinian heritage; do you feel your background has helped you achieve all you have in business?
Certainly! That is what got me into cooking in the first place. My mum and grandmothers are amazingly talented home cooks, and their Arabic food is still my biggest craving. When I started to cook, Arabic cuisine was what I gravitated towards, as it contains so much depth, flavours and different methods of cooking. It also has a lot of passion, culture and beautiful stories, which is important when learning how to grow your own business.
What’s a typical menu for one of these nights?
I create all the dishes myself and begin prepping days in advance. I find it so therapeutic to cook and prep a menu especially for such astonishing women. The dishes range from my grandma’s favourite maneesh to my mum’s killer kofta!
How do you believe conditions for women in business have improved during your years in industry? What still needs to change?
I think there definitely needs to be more women in commercial kitchens and there is always room to improve to ensure they have the chance to apply to and obtain those roles. It all starts with the culture of the kitchen and the growth programmes put in place. At Maiz Tacos, if our front-of-house staff show an interest in cooking or kitchen roles they have the opportunity to fully train and support in the kitchen whenever they like or need to. I think that is so empowering and allows your team to understand the real culture you are trying to achieve.
Now you’re moving around for the next dates, what venues interest you and why?
I love open spaces that allow us a chance to get creative and for our guests to feel comfortable. Spaces like Alserkal or even a quiet little café around Dubai would do just fine! The point is to create a unique experience that will make everyone feel welcome, but also share a bit of my story and Palestinian culture.
What made you go into the food industry?
I worked in restaurants since I was 14. I dreamed of being a chef (although I didn’t study that in university), and my mum has been cooking up storms since I was able to understand her magic. I eventually did study culinary arts in Dubai, but soon realised I did not want to work in commercial kitchens. I went back to my day job and when the time came, I took the plunge and launched a food truck. I took it very slow to get it right now we have three growing brands we operate and work towards the expansion of every day.
What changes have you made in the last 12 months as a result of the global situation?
We learnt a lot during this last year. We made quick moves that sustained our business and we learnt to pivot and grow our community. With regards to A Woman’s Table, this year has taught me to slow down, and focus on meaningful projects, which is how this supper club was born.
What do you believe the next year will bring?
There are so many impactful and exciting things happening in our country. I am excited to be a part of it and grow this supper club, hosting bigger community events that are inclusive and allow people to join and learn. I also have a few brands in the pipeline.
Luma’s message to aspiring female entrepreneurs
“Raise your voice. Ask for help, drown out the noise and insecurities. Intern at restaurants in the region, and work on expanding your network. Also, be patient, know that these things take time: research research, research, and know tha is getting you steps and miles closer to your goals!”