From Tech Communications to Baker Extraordinaire:
Entrepreneur Brings Yemenite-Israeli Cooking to Silicon Valley
March 15, 2019
Words and Photography By:
Dalit Gvirtzman and Shlomit Sem-Ackerman at ICC@JCC
From the moment you meet her, you can’t help but love her. Her smile and optimism are infectious; and her passion is palpable. After all, that's how it is; when people do what they love, it's just that obvious! And, what Doreet loves most of all, is to prepare food for others; the kind of food that she grew up with as a child. Food with a taste of home and the smell of longing. Food that caresses the stomach and one’s soul from within.
The brainchild behind The Ma’lawah Bar, this nacsent entrepreneur is married with three children and lives in Santa Clara, CA. Until a few months ago, Doreet worked long hours in tech, only to realize that the time was ripe to live out her life-long dream! The Ma’lawah Bar was born as a home-based business offering a variety of Yemenite-Israeli baked goods with exotic-sounding names like Ma’lawah, Jachnun, Lachuch, Kubaneh and Basbousa. What ties them all together is an insistence on creating food that’s ALWAYS made by hand with love.
“I am American born first and foremost, but when I look in the mirror I can’t help but see a Yemenite-Israeli as well.” Her parents arrived in New York after the Six-Day War, with their eldest daughter. Soon after, and to make ends meet, their father set up a boat business on Long Island. But that in no way altered their ability to keep the traditional customs of the old country alive. Doreet remembers learning to prepare traditional Yemenite dishes as a little girl. She would look forward to the Sabbath and holiday meals, standing attentively alongside her mother as they together prepared soups and kebabs, Jachnun and Ma’lawah. “Even then I sensed how togetherness was created through cooking and baking -- that our family’s values were literally folded into the food!” At 18, Doreet decided to study in Israel and embark on a period of self-discovery. She also took this time to take baking more seriously, perfecting authentic recipes passed down by her grandparents and great-grandparents. She studied how other Yemenite families prepared their family’s recipes, and combined the best of techniques she witnessed first-hand.
During her years in Israel, Doreet learned to feel good about herself – accepting those things that made her feel too American when living in Israel and too Israeli when living state side. In the end, though, it was the food that did it. “When I was baking and cooking, back then and now, I found that I stopped worrying about whether I was being too polite for some or too bold for others; all of those worries melted away. With my hands I found that I could combine ingredients that feed the soul and bring us together with family and friends. ” A powerful realization indeed.
A substitute teacher, a private English teacher, a dance teacher, a graphic artist, a communications manager, Doreet’s early career took many twists and turns, but she still found a way to express her creativity by cooking and baking as a hobby. Then, after more than 10 years as a communications tech manager in Northern California, Doreet could literally see that it was time for a change. “In the last couple of years, especially, I would have these images of a house, a kitchen and a family pop into my head at random moments throughout the day.” Convinced this was a sign and encouraged by her family, Doreet walked away from her “safe” managerial position once and for all in July of 2018, and then wasted no time designing a logo, tagline and business card for what would become the launch of The Ma’lawah Bar. With a business license in hand, she began perfecting her recipes, seeking critical input from friends and family who tried her many variations of Ma’lawah, Jachnun, Kubaneh, Lachuch, and Basbousa (semolina cake), until she was satisfied they were perfect.
“Right now, I do everything myself – even the deliveries.” Doreet hopes that when she knocks on her customers’ doors, they’ll feel as if they’ve received a gift. “This has been a labor of love in the truest sense of the word; it’s a lot of work, but it’s also a privilege. My baking is meant to honor the generations of women who came before me, who fed their families and friends with loving hands. As long as I keep making authentic food, I know I can make people happy.”
Currently, Doreet is working on perfecting her soups and creating gluten-free offerings that maintain their authentic flavor. She also provides catering services to organizations and companies holding small and medium-sized events.
To order and learn more:
The Ma’lawah Bar