March issue 2009

By | Food | Life Style | People | Profile | Published 15 years ago

“Masoom Alam wanted to open a franchise of Masooms in Lahore,” Farida Zaidi tells me before proceeding, “And around that time I was looking at starting a franchise too.”

So in 2003, Masooms — a much-loved coffee house/bakery — introduced itself to the Lahori palate.

With trained cooks, Farida tells me that much has changed over the years since 2003. “At the time, we had only four people in the kitchen and two in the shop … It took an immense amount of hard work as I would often have to buy the groceries and deliver them myself to and from the shops and the bakery.”

But over the years, Masooms truly has carved a name for itself — especially given the fact that new coffee houses have managed to spring up by the dozen in Lahore. And that, Farida states, was slightly worrisome in the beginning. But Masooms’ customer base has remained pretty consistent, since the café “never compromises on quality.”

That holds quite true. In Lahore, with the surplus of cafés and restaurants, many filter out because they wind up not being able to remain very steady vis-à-vis the quality of their food.

And that’s why the food business is always so very ‘touch and go.’ You lose out once, and you’re out of the game. But Masooms, nestled in the basement of a building smack on Lahore’s busy M.M. Alam Road (the hub of the city’s eateries), sees students, business executives, young couples and journalists come and go amidst tiny, misty clouds of fresh coffee, warm patties and soft brownies.

“You know, at times we’ve gone for weeks without making a particular item — like our blueberry and strawberry cheesecakes for example,” says Farida, “And that’s because one or two of the ingredients (that we use in our cheesecakes) haven’t been available in the market. We have suffered in that way, but if the ingredient isn’t obtainable in the bazaar, we will hold up making the item till it is.”

Since the launch of Masooms back in 2003, Farida, in her soft-spoken way agrees that the road has not been without its fair share of bumps and downslides. But she remains pragmatic, having taken these very challenges within her stride — remaining undeterred and evermore resilient.

Things look far better now than how they used to — with far more cooks and managers administering the daily output. However, Farida stresses that she still makes it a point to oversee the shop’s productivity at every step of the way.

They say behind every successful man is a woman, but in this case, behind every successful bakery, there’s got to be a meticulous woman!