Chef Abdullah Q+A

Bonjour! Meet Chef Abdullah (pictured) and his wife Chef Mahmuda, the geniuses behind Cafe Ganache and the first Kronut Food Truck (@Sugarrmann) We are so thrilled to announce we will be stocking their fabulous AND vegan croissants!

They have created the impossible, a buttery delicious croissant that is 100% vegan. This croissant has everything you adore about a traditional croissant: crunchy flakey layers, toasted crisp edges and a lighter than air texture while being vegan! You have to taste to believe how incredible these are. Starting Friday, we will have these in store at our NoDa location! Scroll down to read our Q+A with Chef Abdullah!

Q: How did you get your start in the food/restaurant industry? How long have you been in business?

A: I met a Chef named Frenchy, He was doing a pulled and blown sugar demonstration.  He was cooking sugar and making centerpieces by treating the sugar much like glass.  Over time I began working with Frenchy. Helping him with his demonstrations. From there he helped me secure a job in a hotel scratch bakery.  After a year in the hotel, Frenchy suggested I go to culinary school, which I did.  I have been in business twenty plus years.

Q: As a decorated and respected Chef, what advice would you give to newcomers to the food/restaurant industry? Can you describe being an educator at Johnson and Wales?

A: Master everything in the craft but specialize and be known for one thing.  For example, If newcomer decides they want to be a chef, learn every station in the kitchen and maybe you pick the study of wine as your area of specialization.  Now you have a approach to the craft that will help insure a enriching journey. 

 My experience at Johnson & Wales was indescribable.  My experience at Johnson & Wales provided me with lessons and tool that I use every day, one of my absolute favorite classes as a student was food science.  There is no way to describe what it is like when a student of 10 years prior calls you to say, “Chef, Thank you!”

As a student and a faculty member I had the opportunity to compete from a regional to a national level.  Competing allowed me to take what I had learned in the classroom and work  place and test myself against my colloquies on a national level.  How to work…, “Wow,” how do you move around the kitchen with the most efficiency with the goal of being as productive as your knowledge and skill will allow.  This was one of my most valuable lessons learned at Johnson & Wales.  

The culinary I.Q.is off the charts.  When you walk down the halls of the Providence campus, you literally hear the languages of the world.  There are chefs from all over the world that are experts in all disciplines of the craft.  If you didn’t know something or wanted to pick their brain, there were always several chefs ready and willing to help.  I have chefs still today that I worked with in Providence that I still call.  All of these experiences together make for one of the most phenomenal environments to teach and learn.  As an educator I was able to pull from all of the jewels of this amazing culinary environment to share life long culinary lessons with my students. Humbling experience!

Q: You created the impossible: a delicious vegan croissant. What can you tell us about that process? What prompted you to start making vegan items? 

A: The process for creating the Vegan Croissant starts with the belief and commitment that it can be done.  With that said the technique of making croissant were standard and we mainly concentrated on the ingredients and their function in the baking process. So first we identified the ingredients in the croissant that were not plant based and animal based.  Fort example, butter.  We had to find a suitable, plant based replacement for the butter.  The same is true with the eggs and milk.  From this point you make croissants as much as you can, each time taking notes, pictures, etc. while following the scientific method.  the Because you have different ingredients everything will be affected.  This might mean you have to change from bread flour to all-purpose flour, etc.  Then you proof and bake, compare and take notes, all the time being careful not to think you’re the boss.

People have approached me for years to do Vegan baking.  At that time I was just trying to learn how to bake.  Recently I agreed to do a Vegan wedding.  It was such a good experience I decided to stay with it.  As I got into it, I started to see that there was a huge need for high quality vegan pastries and desserts.  So here I am.

Q: What is the origin story of your famous handle: Sugarrmann? 

A: Following the idea that newcomers should be of the mind to master everything and specialize one thing, I chose sugar art as the disciple that I would specialize in.  At Johnson & Wales, Providence campus sugar art was an important part of the curriculum.  There were student competitions as well as professional level competitions.  I did sugar work as part of my center piece at every event.  I eventually become known for blowing horses. Pegasus’s, people riding them, stuff like that.  So that is where sugarrmann comes from.

Q: Tell us about your experience being a Food Network Champion? 

 A: I would say the Food Network Championships tested all of the knowledge and experience I had accumulated in my life.  It was without doubt one of the most intense educational experience of my life.  This is where I understood what it means to work in the kitchen and be effective, efficient and do it with speed and style.  When they talk about organization, I have never been so organized in my life.  Let me tell you a quick lesson about following instructions that I learned from competition. We had to submit a computer-generated diagram of the cake that we were making.  I mislabeled two of the layers of the cake on the diagram.  It cost me a half a point.  I lost the coveted “Best Cake” award because of that mistake.  The commitment to practice was insane.  Every weekend for a year the team practice under competition conditions., every weekend. 

The first year I won the Bread and Pasty Championships, Chef Ciril Hitz was my partner.  The second time I won the same competition Master Chef Peemoeller was my partner.  Each of these Chefs are world re-noun in this field.  I saw greatness in both these men and credit winning to their skill, knowledge, experience and patience with me.  Overall, the experience was “Awe Inspiring.” I learned as much from this experience as I learned from all of my experiences combined.  Equally important, I learned a lot about myself.

Q: Besides Amélie’s, where can people find your scrumptious products?

A: 6 The Hobbyist, Percantile Creamery, Oh My Soul, Nostalgia Hallow and Freidays.

Q: What 5 things at home pastry chefs need in their kitchen?

A: Home pastry chefs should have a five-quart mixer, ruler, scale, cake rings of assorted sizes, and a cell phone.

Q: Where can folks learn more about your upcoming projects? 

A: To learn more about my upcoming projects follow me on Instagram @sugarrmann

Q: What are your favorite flavor combinations?

A: Favorite flavor combinations are rosewater and pistachio, cranberry orange, apple cinnamon, blueberry lemon, and chocolate is great with everything.

Q: Lastly, where would you go on your dream vacation?

A: I would love to take a working vacation to Paris, Italy and Spain to taste artisan bread/pastries and taste wine.

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