T.K. Khaleel The Baker's Tale

A sweet beginning is in store for the acclaimed master baker as he rolls out 100 outlets of Artisan Bakers in the GCC

By Kushmita Bose

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Published: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 10:57 AM

Last updated: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 3:13 PM

When a skilled baker reaches the level of executive chef in any establishment, the role quickly becomes not only about culinary skills, but also leadership skills. The ability to lead, inspire and mentor a brigade of staff in the heated kitchen environment is vital for any successful executive chef. A living proof to this statement can be attributed to T. K. Khaleel, Managing Director at Artisan Bakers.

T.K. Khaleel  receives the prestigious Arab Franchise ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from Dr. Eesa Mohammed Bastaki, President of the University of Dubai.
T.K. Khaleel receives the prestigious Arab Franchise ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from Dr. Eesa Mohammed Bastaki, President of the University of Dubai.

Under his skilled hands, Artisan Bakers has come to demonstrate and aggressively perfect, the commitment of having fun, sharing liberally with others, building robust and stimulating bakeries, baking exceptional quality bread, pastries and cakes, and cheerfully serving its customers. The brand’s success comes from a strong commitment to sustain the legacy and integrity of the Artisan Baker brand with its emphasis on the customer experience, and the promise of handcrafted incredible tasting products, made with freshly-milled whole grains unified with pure and simple ingredients.

Khaleel embodies this truth, hailed not just for his handling of ingredients, but his place in the kitchen, with his colleagues describing him as ‘an inspiration’. Emerging from a modest background in India to building a solid business in a foreign land, his story has all the trappings of a blockbuster movie.

Known as a trendsetter in the baking industry, Khaleel strikes the perfect balance between age-old techniques in baking along with the latest advancements from every part of the globe. His commitment to his work reflects in his products — which truly are unparalleled in quality, creativity and variety. After 40 successful years in the baking industry, Khaleel is all set for a fresh beginning, a new adventure. Channelling 40 years of experience, tricks of the trade and success, Khaleel will be adopting the franchise route and rolling out 100 outlets of Artisan Bakers throughout the GCC region.

Khaleel started his career as a baker 40 years back, his passion and ambitions leading him to become a leader in the baking industry internationally.

Khaleel’s Vision for Artisan Bakers

Artisan Bakers is powered by the inexhaustible passion of Khaleel and his team. Each pastry, each loaf of bread, each creation and invention holds the investment of immense thought, skill and effort. With Artisan Bakers, Khaleel aims to outdo his previous achievements and raise the bar in the industry.

Today, the company has a strong presence in the UAE and Qatar. With a workforce that is 800-employee strong, world-class manufacturing amenities and a rapidly growing retail division through ventures and partnerships, there is no looking back for Khaleel.

His vision is to make Artisan Bakers the epitome of excellence in the industry — and to transform this venture into a global leader in total bakery solutions. He plans to steer this enterprise ahead with a focus on customer satisfaction, creating a healthy workplace environment and building a dependable, known brand that tirelessly strives for innovation.

Artisanal baking is a niche style of baking that has been adopted and elevated for centuries. For an artisan baker, baking something is nothing short of creating art. Using the simplest of ingredients such as flour, yeast, water and salt, artisanal bakers dedicate time, patience and effort to create everything by hand. This philosophy has been imbibed in Artisan Bakers, where Khaleel’s handpicked team produces each creation with attention to detail, quality, tradition and authenticity.

As the demand for premium quality food products — organic, healthy and vegan - has tremendously increased, Artisan Bakers finds a competitive edge in the market. As the company pays significant attention to high-quality raw materials, and organic produce and concurrently utilises traditional and modern baking methods, it is set to make its mark in the market and the hearts of consumers. This growth has been projected at a CAGR of 5.6 per cent from 2021-2030.

Khaleel also reiterated that his company is planning to launch a new line of baked goods, featuring 25 products, ranging from organic bread and sugar-free pastries. These products adhere to the standard of artisan bakery products, which tend to be healthier and full of proteins, antioxidants, dietary fibre, etc.

Khaleel’s Legacy at Bakemart

Artisan Bakers is not Khaleel’s first company. He began his journey with baking and business approximately 30 years back. Along with rolling out fresh cakes, pastries and bread, Khaleel introduced and elevated the frozen bakery products range, which includes a wide array of bakery products; from frozen bread and cakes to pastries. This segment is considered to be a rapidly expanding one as the demand for convenience in food products that are ready-to-bake or ready-to-thaw has considerably risen. With benefits including convenience for bakers and a longer shelf life, this segment became a phenomenal success, all thanks to Khaleel’s foresight.

According to Khaleel, the secret of Bakemart’s success lies in a shared passion to achieve perfection in all the products, prioritising customer satisfaction, all while having fun and adding creativity to each day and product.

In 2021, Bakemart was acquired by Almarai Group — a giant in food and beverage manufacturing and distribution. The deal, worth SR95.5 million ($25.5 million), is a step forwarding in realising Khaleel’s vision of expanding Bakemart and his legacy throughout the world. “We look forward to this deal as one of the stepping stones towards our successful journey in establishing an innovative global bakery brand by expanding our presence to more countries.

A Tale of Sourdough and Success

Khaleel stays in close touch with the latest techniques and advancements from every part of the globe. Over the years he has taken part in numerous exhibitions, conferences and training workshops the world over. When questioned about what aspect of baking fascinated him the most, Khaleel immediately responded with ‘sourdough’. “We have added it to our ingredients. The taste, the aroma and the shelf life are fascinating. If you want a golden croissant, use some sourdough, the same for a baguette,” he said.

Khaleel’s tryst with sourdough led to a proud moment and an interesting anecdote, which he readily shared. In 2013, The Puratos Sourdough Library, the world’s only sourdough library in the world, commended Khaleel’s work by adding a sourdough he developed into its collection. Located in the village of St Vith, 87 miles southeast of Brussels, Puratos Sourdough Library is home to the world’s most extensive collection of sourdough starters.

The sourdough starters have to be a minimum of 10 years old –Khaleel’s sourdough starter is a 16-year-old sample. The recipe for the starter is a culmination of his passion for baking good bread. Today, it is Exhibit No. 128 in the library. Khaleel also added that he is the only Asian to be awarded this honour – which is generally dominated by European bakers. This award not only celebrates his commitment to his craft but also signals the advent of Asian recognition in the baking industry.

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