She was 23 years old when she received her certificate in culinary arts from Leith’s School of Food & Wine in London. The six-week long course was focused on culinary and baking basics that Thoraya was looking for to provide her with the knowledge and the skillset to further pursue her passion. “I didn’t want a nine-to-five desk job as a graphic designer, so after two years I decided I wanted a new career which incorporated my love of food.” Upon returning to Jordan, Thoraya, who is interested in healthy food, realised that other people like her had very limited options in the country. She set out to introduce a range of healthy desserts that looked beautiful and tasted even better – and so Bia Bakes was created. “London’s multicultural and widely creative environment offered great inspiration and opened my eyes to many possibilities that I could implement back in Amman.”
When Thoraya looks back at the early days of Bia Bakes, she remembers a time when only one or two orders a week would come in. Today, she is inundated with orders year-round and has to turn away clients due to fully booked days. Developing a unique menu and a discernible style was challenging. Thoraya admits that reaching that point of perfection needs practice, patience and a series of trial and error. Every recipe must be tested, and measurements altered to suit the ingredients available in Jordan and the local tastes, “My favourites are tahini, molasses and of course dates,” Thoraya says. In addition to creating original desserts, Thoraya has put a healthy spin on many traditional favourites in the region such as ma’amoul and the Iraqi kleicha to make these authentic delicacies available to people with varied dietary requirements. Bia Bake’s aesthetic appeal doesn’t stop at the food itself; the treats are beautifully packaged and the instagram page is mouthwatering. “I was able to put my graphics design background to good use when creating the packaging and branding materials” Thoraya states proudly. She relied mostly on social media platforms and word of mouth as a marketing tool.
It was not until early 2017 that Thoraya’s culinary delights became the talk of the town. “In Amman there is a strong sense of community and tremendous support to local businesses and aspiring individuals. This has helped build my customer base and spread the word about Bia Bakes.” As her popularity grew, Thoraya was approached by several cafés around Amman to incorporate her desserts into their menu. “It’s a niche product and correct product placement is of high importance. “The cafés that feature my products must be aligned with Bia Bakes’ values; local, healthy and natural.” Location is important, which is why Al-Weibdeh neighborhood is an excellent home for Bia Bakes products. One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods has become the hub of art and culture in Amman. Its buzz and hipster-like coffee shops and restaurants are frequented by many Bia Bakes customers. A successful partnership was formed with Manara Arts & Culture. “It felt like the perfect match. The place is packed with all sorts of people who come to work, read, gather with friends or just to enjoy a quiet time and embrace the breathtaking views from its terrace. We share the same profile of customers; health conscious individuals.” Thoraya tells me. At Manara, the menu is seasonal with a display offers a variety of Bia Bakes items. “Pecan Bars, Matcha cheesecake and Tahini Banoffee Pies are in high demand and are always available, but a different selection of other bakes is offered on a day-to-day basis.”
The journey so far has been full of challenges. “Finding quality ingredients consistently was not easy and I often found myself changing suppliers and brands. It took some time, but I was fortunate to find local suppliers who know exactly what I am looking for, which has lifted a weight off my shoulders. I have a close relationship with my vendors and I can always rely on them.”
Since starting as a small home kitchen, Bia Bakes has flourished to become one of the most favoured brands in Amman, with a fast-growing clientele of loyal customers who she considers to be the wider family of Bia Bakes. Her mission serves to provide honest, clean and healthy alternatives for all. However, the goal does not stop there as she aspires to reach regional and international markets with Bia Bakes. Thoraya is currently working on an e-book that will give people all around the world a chance to recreate some of her top recipes and will be available for purchase on the Bia Bakes website soon. “Hopefully this is just the beginning of a long and successful journey for Bia Bakes!”
Pictures credit of Bia Bakes.