UAE: Meet the chef who can't taste her own creations

Aisha has celiac disease, meaning she cannot eat gluten

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Fri 22 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 24 Dec 2023, 3:03 PM

Chef Aisha Doty AlHusseiny is known to create magic in the kitchen with her chocolate techniques and baking skills. However, she cannot taste any of her delectable pastry creations. “As a celiac, I cannot eat gluten,” she said, speaking to Khaleej Times. “But I am lucky because my husband and my two sons are my biggest critics. Especially my husband. He is very honest and direct. His comments help me improve as a chef and perfect my recipes.”

Celiac disease is a digestive disease that hurts a person’s small intestine. The only treatment for it is to stop the intake of gluten.

A walk into the chef’s establishment, Golden Ribbon Chocolates, will give people an inkling of how versatile her skills are. Serving up high quality Belgian chocolates with homemade fillings that are a fusion of French- Arabic flavours, American baked goods, French pastries and more, Chef Aisha brings her passion for fresh, organic ingredients to everything she brings.

The team
The team

However, her journey to becoming the celebrated chef that she is was fraught with challenges. From surviving breast cancer to learning how to cook after being diagnosed as a celiac to juggling the demands of raising a young family, it took several years for Aisha to be able to pursue her own dreams.

The girl who liked to bake

Growing up in rural Ohio, Aisha’s fondest memories were of assisting her grandmother to bake wedding cakes. “We had no bakeries there,” she recalled. “Everyone made everything at home. So my grandmother never charged people for the grand cakes she made. It was a passion for her. She would do it for church charities and cancer societies.”

At the time, little Aisha had her own tool - a needle that she would twirl along the cake as her grandmother decorated it. This would give the cake the grand look that it had. Her mother, a pharmacist, was also a passionate baker, but when Aisha wanted to pursue baking as a career, she objected to it.

“Sitting in the counselor’s office, my mother said that she would not tolerate her daughter working in another person’s kitchen,” she said. “So I picked English and became a teacher. That is where I met my husband.”

After marrying her Emirati husband, Mustafa Mohamad AlHusseiny, Aisha moved to the UAE where she spent the next almost two decades raising her family.

Challenges

During her time in the UAE, one of her biggest challenges came when her youngest son was just two months old - she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I was incredibly lucky because I had great doctors and a support system,” she said. “My husband and his family supported me while I focused on getting better. I listened to every single thing the doctors told me to do.”

While recovering from cancer, Aisha found out that she had celiac disease. At a time when gluten-free was almost unheard of, she had to go back into the kitchen to experiment. “It was like I had to relearn cooking,” she said. “I was putting basmati rice in a coffee machine and making flour. I had to redo all my recipes to make it gluten free.”

Soon, friends started going to her for advice on eating healthy and she started baking for people. But it wasn’t until after the Covid pandemic - when her sons were well into their 20s - that she took up baking professionally. “I did a chocolate course and came back with some gorgeous chocolate,” she said. “My husband, who is in the F&B business, tasted it and said we can sell this. At the same time, a chef who I knew encouraged me to get my pastry degree.”

Aisha and her family
Aisha and her family

Now, Golden Ribbon Chocolates is like a family business. “I am the baker and my husband is the taster,” she said. “My son does all the photography and marketing. I am working nearly 10 to 12 hours every day for 6 days a week. It is a lot but I love it. My family has been very supportive. They always have a hot dinner ready for me when I come back after a tiring day at work.”

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