by Iyath Adam
For our interview article this time, we have a chat with pastry chef, Fathimath Rauna (Noone) who runs the small business/dessert shop, Lezzetli by Noone.
We discuss how she got into baking, her small business journey and how she defines indulgence through her desserts.
Read on for more!
Lonumedhu: First things first, tell us about yourself. Have you always been interested in pastry making?
Noone: I’ve been in the kitchen since I was very little, and I also watch a lot of food programmes. But it wasn’t until I participated in a cake baking and decorating course that I got hooked into it. And I was never a very studious person; it was always very hands-on and creative stuff that grabbed my attention, so it seemed like a natural direction to go in.
So, I looked for courses and decided on one in Taylor’s University, Malaysia. The knowledge that I gained from there and my internship at Marriott, that really cemented the idea in my head that I wanted to go into pastry making. Before that, I just had a general liking for baking.
Lonumedhu: How did ‘Lezzetli by Noone’ come about?
Noone: ‘Lezzetli’ means delicious in Turkish. And it seemed a very appropriate name to call a dessert business, haha.
I was never interested in working in resorts or even in Male’ as a chef. My interest was always to operate a home-based small business. First, I started by selling different flavoured cakes – pandan, rose and chocolate – and then I made pastries with caramel and nuts.
But I wanted to make more chocolate-flavoured desserts and rich, classic stuff – like cheesecake – that everyone loves and that’s how I re-invented. I’ve always been interested in making flavoured ganache. During my studies, we made chocolate bonbons which has different flavoured ganache like Thai milk tea, yuzu, strawberry in them. This really left a big impression on me. So, for my menu, I have dacquoise bites and brownies, topped with different ganache flavours.
After joining SME Hub, I started making cheesecake, carrot cake and some of my own dishes with dark chocolate and cream cheese combinations. I’ve also recently made my own Black Forest cake and tarts – blueberry and dark chocolate. I like to use different, bold combinations that go really well together.
Lonumedhu: What did you focus on when coming up with your menu?
Noone: Flavour. I wanted to create richer, indulgent, complex desserts, something that people will come back for again and again. And because that’s what I like eating too.
That’s why my menu is now mainly focused on using different types of chocolate. You can make any flavour combinations you want with chocolate, and it will elevate other flavours and automatically make the dessert more indulgent. It’s a very versatile ingredient! Another thing that’s very important for me is texture. I always like to have a crunchy element in my desserts. I feel like it adds that extra oomph.
So, my desserts usually follow this set template – cake layer, chocolate layer and crunchy layer – and I just incorporate different flavours into that.
Lonumedhu: Is there a sweet treat that you’ve always wanted to try making, but haven’t had the chance to yet? Perhaps a different flavour combination?
Noone: Yes, there is a flavour that I would really like to work with – yuzu. It’s a sort of lemon-y, orange-y citrus fruit and it goes really well with white chocolate and mint flavours. But yuzu is really expensive and hard to get here so I don’t really have the chance to work with it now.
Lonumedhu: What’s your experience been like as a small business owner?
Noone: Running a small business is very unpredictable, and it’s hard to rely on it. It’s especially hard because of the type of desserts I make – the production cost is very expensive, and you simply can’t make tiny portions of so many layers.
I actually didn’t really enjoy running this business until I started operating in SME Hub. There, I have a steady stream of customers and I don’t really waste food. As a for order home business, if you make a particular ganache and if nobody orders that flavour, then it goes to waste. But at SME Hub, everything sells quite well. It’s reliable and I’m able to experiment with different things.
I recently started selling drinks, and I’ve been really enjoying making coffee-based products. Coffee is also very versatile. You can couple it with fruits and nuts to make delicious products! For example, our Monkey Latte has been the top-selling drink for the past week. It has a caramelised banana flavour that goes really well with coffee. I didn’t realise how much I’d love this barista side of me until I started doing this, and I’m hoping to have multiple drinks like this that are different and tantalising.
But the best part for me is dealing with customers and their feedback. I really enjoy serving them, which is why I’m reluctant to hire someone else for the job too, haha. I really want to thank my customers – especially my regulars – they are the best and I couldn’t do this without them!
Lonumedhu: What’s your view on the current pastry and dessert scene in the Maldives?
Noone: To have a good quality dessert, you need a good quality pastry chef and I think it’s hard to convince restaurants and cafés to invest in that. The main thing is still savoury food, and dessert is more like an afterthought. But I think slowly in the past decade it has been changing and desserts are shining more with people going to places just to try desserts as well. Like Palato Frosty’s for their Belgian chocolate waffle or Zeeba’s Café’s Basque cheesecake and cinnamon roll. These are people that I really admire because I want to have a café where desserts really shine too.
And although desserts have been about sugar cakes for a long time here, I think people are being now more experimentative and making these classic desserts that people all around the world love. So, it’s slowly changing and definitely looking good!
Lonumedhu: Are traditional Maldivian dessert flavours something that you would consider incorporating into your menu?
Noone: Yup, I would definitely want to try that. I’ve actually been wanting to make a huni hakuru tart, which is something I really like. But it can be hard to get a steady supply of the ingredients needed at consistent prices, which makes it difficult to have on my menu.
Lonumedhu: Before we wrap up, what’s your vision for the future? What’s next for ‘Lezzetli by Noone’?
Noone: That’s a very tricky question. I always answer it by saying that I dream of opening a café one day. It seems like the right answer, haha. But the actual answer is that I’m not a very ambitious person. I’m very family oriented and I want to do something that I could do from home as well. But in all honesty, I would really love having my own space someday. But for now, this is going really well and I’m very happy.
Lonumedhu: We’re so glad to hear that! Thank you so much for giving us some time, and good luck with your shop, Noone.