Sunday Times

Sweet success expands with passion for petit fours

Director Teddy Zaki is the creative mind of the Just Teddy bakery


Tell me about the Maison du petit four expansion at your Just Teddy bakery in Hyde Park, Johannesbu­rg.

The Maison du petit four is the creative and production epicentre for our brand. It is an area where we make all of our ideas and dreams into a reality.

What would you order if you were a customer at the Maison du petit four?

Our petits fours [fondant fancy cakes] are a must. These petit delights are a signature offering of our brand that took time, patience and some tears to perfect, and we hope that we have created the ultimate version now.

They bring back childhood memories of birthday parties and family celebratio­ns where they were always on the table.

From their vibrant colours and delectable flavours to their dainty silhouette, they really are a mouthful of pure joy.

How did lockdown affect your work?

Lockdown literally killed off our existing habits and work routine. However, on the flipside of that, it allowed us to rethink our brand and strategy. A new, more organised Just Teddy was born. We set a goal, and, with the help of our fabulous staff, my family and I poured our heart and soul into every meal we served or pastry we baked to try to set ourselves apart from the competitio­n.

What big mistake in the kitchen has taught you an important lesson?

Never be complacent and think you know everything. Something simple by design with basic ingredient­s can turn out be the most technical and temperamen­tal bake.

Make any new item three times to make sure that every kink has been ironed out because a fluke of a masterpiec­e on the first attempt can easily turn out to be a disaster at the dinner party.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

The tangibilit­y of everything we do. The atmosphere of the restaurant on busy days that flows naturally into the bakery and into the patisserie, creating a natural high that is absorbed into the bakes — we believe this adds the unmistakab­le flavour of love to our products. Working with family — and our staff are considered an extension of it — makes it even more special.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

A baker, because I have always loved and appreciate­d the craft. The influence and culture that my Lebanese family created for me really inspired this. I grew up in a household where food and celebratio­n were synonymous, where each special day or holiday was marked with a special meal or cake. This fuelled a passion that was always there. It was my destiny to follow the career path I have!

What advice do you have for young people about working in a restaurant?

Practise, practise, practise — and when you’re done, practise one more time for good luck! Passion is also an essential ingredient if you want to succeed in this industry. Without it, don’t bother, because it’s passion that will get you out of bed at 4am and keep you going until much, much later when the floors are mopped and the morning’s pastries have been shaped and are ready to prove for the next day, when it all starts again.

 ?? Picture: Supplied ?? Teddy Zaki in his bakery Just Teddy in Hyde Park, Johannesbu­rg.
Picture: Supplied Teddy Zaki in his bakery Just Teddy in Hyde Park, Johannesbu­rg.

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