Your name and what do you do?
My name is Salima Tahir Sheikh Said Ahmed and I am a chef, entrepreneur, wife and mother of two.
Tell us more about Flames Deli and Grill?
Having moved from Canada, I was eager to venture into the culinary industry in Mombasa. After spending over a year in research, I discovered that there was a niche for gourmet burgers. Thus, I opened Flames in October 2013. Over the years, I slowly introduced more items to up my menu.
Do you think Mombasa has embraced gourmet Fast Food?
The eating environment in Mombasa has significantly changed over the years. People have embraced new foods and are more open to new culinary ideas. This is a direct result of exposure to different cuisines by means of social media tools and more people being well-travelled. Therefore, I think Mombasa has embraced gourmet fast food very well.
Where did you study culinary skills?
I did my culinary training at George Brown Culinary School in Toronto Canada. I honed my culinary skills at Hotel Intercontinental Toronto and Rose Reisman Catering before moving to Kenya.
There are so many restaurants in Mombasa, how do you stay in the business?
It’s very important to have an edge especially where there are so many restaurants around. The key to our success is delivering a friendly service, a great menu selection that fits our brand, new and seasonal offerings that create excitement for our customers, and an appreciation for the customer’s business. Personal touches like having me stop by a table to assure quality, can leave a lasting impression and help to make an emotional connection with customers and instill loyalty.
Flames Deli and Grill is the first to introduce Freakshakes, tell us about Freakshakes?
We proudly introduced Freakshakes, an Australian invention, to Kenya early of last year. Freakshakes are over-the-top milkshakes that are stacked with whipped cream, wedges of cake, sprinkles of cookies, candy, wafers and drizzles of syrup. I have five flavours in my menu now: Death by chocolate, snickers, cookies ‘n’ crème, nutella and peanut butter & jelly. My favourite is “Death by chocolate”. It’s a chocolate milkshake with a brownie and drizzle of chocolate syrup, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, chocolate brownies and toasted marshmallows.
What does it take to be a culinary chef?
Being a culinary chef is not something for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of passion, hard work, dedication, patience and creativity to succeed. You have to love what you do if you are to last in this industry.
How do you balance between your family and your business?
I find it very important to have time at the restaurant and time with my family and myself. I create a balance between these so that nothing suffers. Effective time management skills help. I have also invested in a strong and talented team to run my restaurant the same way I would when I am not there.
Do you plan to expand Flames Deli and Grill to other cities in Kenya?
We do have plans to open in Nairobi in the near future. Nairobi is the culinary capital of Kenya because of the large number of expats, the rise of the Kenyan middle class there and social media explosion. I believe I will do very well there.
First and foremost, I want to thank Allah for giving me strength. I could never be what I am today without His blessings. I also want to thank my Dad for believing in me and providing me with the financial resources in opening flames. I also couldn’t be here without the loving support of my husband, kids, family and friends. Last but not least, I do thank and appreciate the hard work and dedication by my employees. They play a huge role in the day to day running of my restaurant.
Some advice for people thinking of venturing into the culinary industry. Research, research and research. Do not open a restaurant blindly without proper research. Secondly, it takes time to build a brand and this is true to restaurants too. Do not expect unrealistic goals. Give your restaurant some time to build its name and the sky should be the limit.