Hong Kong Madame - English

Entrepreneurs of Hong Kong – Zahir, Founder of Baked Restaurant Group

February 15th 2021

by Aude Camus
“Oh My God”, that’s what people say when they try Baked’s signature dish: sauteed portobello mushrooms cooked in mozzarella, cream and black truffle pate, served on homemade sourdough with a poached egg and rocket. A hole in the wall, as described by its founder, Baked is one of the few places where people would queue even though it’s been open for a few years now. And that’s all thanks to the homemade sourdough. Can you believe it? I had to understand what’s so special about this sourdough and decided to seat with Zahir Mohamed, Baked Restaurant Group ’s founder, at his newly opened Middle-Eastern restaurant, Acme, to discuss his rise to fame on the local culinary scene and exciting projects for the next few months.   
Hey Zahir. Thanks for meeting me here today at Acme! Shall we start with introducing you to our readers?

Entrepreneurs of Hong Kong – Zahir, Founder of Baked Restaurant Group
Sure! I’m the founder of Baked Restaurant Group, a local restaurant group behind two SoHo’s venues: Baked and Acme. Born and raised in Port Elizabeth (SA), in a family of artisan bakers, I moved to Hong Kong in 2017 with nothing much in my pocket but a jar of sourdough starter.  At that time it felt like it was time for me to try something new. I had some personal issues I wanted to leave behind and although I didn’t know much of Hong Kong , I’ve heard about the city incredible energy and thought that was exactly what I needed. I wasn’t disappointed! 
Hong Kong is such a fascinating city. It was everything I was expecting for, and more. It challenged me in a way I was never challenged before. Think about it, nobody wanted to hire me. It gave me an opportunity to focus on myself and try and discover who I really was. I had no choice, it really was sink or swim. So I swam and a year later I was opening Baked. 
I’m particularly proud of Baked because it’s a place I entirely built by myself. It’s a hole in the wall and everybody was telling me “you are never gonna make money with that place”. Who does breakfast all day? But I couldn’t care less about what they were saying.  I know it was what I was supposed to do and I just did it with my guts. And the more guts and passion I was putting into it, the more responsive people were. I started to draw attention.

What’s pretty amazing is that people were, and still are, going crazy with your sourdough. Why is that so? 

Entrepreneurs of Hong Kong – Zahir, Founder of Baked Restaurant Group
Because it’s not just sourdough. It’s an emotional experience. You know what? When you are making bread, you have to imagine you are making love. It requires excitement and passion. I feel my bread and I know how to move, how to work my dough to make it work. This is how I was taught to make bread by my grand-mother and this how I train my bakers. I believe in emotions, not in science. 

But Acme here is very different from Baked. Can you tell me more about it?

Entrepreneurs of Hong Kong – Zahir, Founder of Baked Restaurant Group
Yes Acme is very different from Baked but just like Baked it’s a tribute to who I am. Baked is an homage to my family of artisan-bakers and Acme an homage to my Egyptian heritage. The Middle-Eastern food we serve at Acme is what I grew up around. Again it’s a matter of emotions. I don’t open a concept because it’s trendy or because another restaurants group have it, I open concepts because they resonate with me.

Speaking of opening concepts, are they any new openings in the pipe?
Yes! My next opening are keeping me busy those days. I’m working on a restaurant opening, something different again again as I am not keen on duplicating my existing concepts and more interested in developing new experiences, but also an experiential supermarket concept on HK Island..

Weathering the current storm with trying to find opportunities is your strategy, am I correct?
Yes. This is a time to be resilient and cease opportunities so that you can shape a better future for your industry. Yes it is risky to make big plans at the moment, I am not gonna lie. But what can I say, I love to live on the edge.  And I am really excited for the future. 


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