by Iyath Adam
This week, we sat down with Aminath Uswa “Ami” of Chefmies Tribe, who specialises in healthy meal plans – weekly and monthly lunch & dinner packs! Read on to find out more about how Ami started her culinary journey, her meal packs, and what she has in store for the future!
Lonumedhu: As usual, first of all, tell us a little bit about yourself and your food/cooking journey. How did you get here?
Ami: I was not a very studious person, but my parents wanted me to go study abroad, but I didn’t really want to. At the time, my older sister was getting ready to do her Master’s degree, and she told me that she wouldn’t go unless I went as well. So, I told her to choose a course for me and apply, and if I get placement, I will study it. Even then, I used to experiment in the kitchen a lot, and I guess she knew me better than anyone, so she applied for a culinary course in Malaysia. When I started the course, and learnt the basics of cooking, I got really interested in it. Back then I used to make different dishes and put it on my Instagram page.
After I finished studying, and came back to Male’, I started baking first. I didn’t actually like it though. I prefer hot cooking. Maybe because my mum was a baker, and since I was little, I used to do icing work. So that’s why I wasn’t really working towards promoting or expanding the business.
Even at the time, my friends and family would ask me to do healthy meal plans as a business. But I didn’t really want to do it as a page, I had bigger dreams. Then the pandemic happened, and I thought that meal plans are something I could do from home. And maybe, starting as a page would be okay for the moment. Bigger dreams also have to start from a small place, right? So, I changed the name of my already existing Instagram page and Chefmies Tribe was born.
Lonumedhu: What made you decide to go into healthy food?
Ami: When I was in Malaysia, a person very near and dear to me became ill. During that time, I started gearing towards healthy food; adding a healthier spin to food to help the person, and so they could enjoy it as well.
I started experimenting and replacing the usual ingredients in the foods we eat with healthier alternatives. Even then, I was putting photos up on my personal Instagram page, and sharing my creations. So that’s how my interest started.
And I think Maldivians have very unique taste buds; the usual healthy, boiled veggies and chicken is not something we enjoy. So, I thought I would make food based on our culture but healthier. I want to show people that healthy food is yummy, and you can enjoy it with the same taste.
Lonumedhu: How did you decide on the name “Chefmies Tribe.” Is it a reference to your family or customers?
Ami: I might be the face everyone sees on Chefmies Tribe. Yet I have an entire tribe behind me continuously pushing me without fail.
One inspiration was my younger sister. She would always be there to motivate me. Even when I was baking, she would be the one who would write the names on the cakes and help me. And my husband handles all the backstage work and equally contributes to make sure that Chefmies Tribe only does better every day.
So that’s how “tribe” was chosen, to represent my community. And I’m Ami, so Chef Ami – Chefmies Tribe.
Lonumedhu: What does your typical day look like?
Ami: My menu goes up on Thursdays, which is also when I start taking orders for the week. Friday is my day off. On Saturday I start to prep for the orders. These days, I am taking limited orders but before, I used to have days with 50 packs per day also. Some weeks, depending on my menu, by Friday all the order slots might be full. Other weeks, it might take a bit longer to reach the order limit.
I always start early in the morning, after Fajr prayers, I’ll have breakfast and prep and make the food. By 11:30 am, I make sure that all lunch packs are out for delivery. After that, I take a break and start dinner prep after Asr prayers. Dinner is a bit smaller, portion-wise, compared to lunch. So, by 5:30 pm I like to have all dinner packs out for delivery. Night-time is free, but if I have some food prep I need to do beforehand for the next day, I do that during the night.
Lonumedhu: I think your weekly and monthly lunch & dinner packs are a very convenient way to have food sorted for those of us with busy schedules. How has the response been to it?
Ami: The response has been great! Most of my monthly clients are regulars. I have people who have tried the weekly menu, and then go ahead and commit to the monthly plan.
Lonumedhu: How often does your menu change? Do you rotate them or is it always a different combination of dishes?
Ami: I have weekly menus. Sometimes, I take breaks in between and put-up new menus. Before my last break, I used to have six menus which I rotated every week.
Lonumedhu: Do you take individual orders?
Ami: My main focus is people who chose the meal plans, rather than individual orders. But depending on the dish and my order limit, I do take orders mid-week also.
Lonumedhu: What do you think about when developing new menus/dishes?
Ami: Most of the time, I look at dishes which are hyped and then I try to make some changes to it. For example, for us Maldivians, we usually really like garudhiya (fish soup), rihaakuru dhiya (rihaakuru soup) and banbukeyo baiy (breadfruit rice) and all that. And breadfruit usually makes people bloated, so what I did was, instead of using breadfruit in rice, I replaced that with pumpkin. And for the classic masbaiy, I changed the rice to couscous, but made it with the same flavours. For spaghetti, I replace the pasta with zoodles (zucchini noodles) but in the same spaghetti sauce.
What I focus on is creating healthy and balanced food with carbs, proteins, and vegetables. Everything is measured. I also calculate calories roughly, but it’s not very specific. If there is someone who wants to know, I do tell them though.
Lonumedhu: I know that you introduced frozen short eats last Ramadan. Do you have anything like that planned for this Ramadan as well?
Ami: I’m not sure whether I will be releasing anything new this time. But I’ll most probably be releasing frozen oats roshi (Maldivian flatbread). It was a big hit last Ramadan as well. I’m not very sure about short eats, maybe I will release one type of healthy short eat. This Ramadan, I will be on break, so meal plans will not be available then.
Lonumedhu: What do you see next for Chefmies Tribe? What are your hopes and plans for the future?
Ami: We hope to open a restaurant at the end of the year in Hulhumale’, and that is what I’m focused on right now. The restaurant will include what I am currently doing, but in a different way. Desserts, short eats, meal plans – everything will be included, so that clients can eat healthily as well.
I feel that through the page, my reach is limited. But at a restaurant, more people can come and enjoy and try our food. And I won’t be limited by space as well.
Lonumedhu: Anything else you want to add before we end the interview?
Ami: I want to thank my family – my husband, my sisters, my parents. They have been involved from the very beginning, have always been my biggest strength and been there for every milestone. Alhamdhulillah. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to each and every one who has had my back and supported Chefmies Tribe.
Lonumedhu: Thank you so much for your time, Ami. Hope to see your restaurant and new menu soon. We wish you wonderful times ahead!