Hanadi Asad opened her bakery Asali Desserts and Café after three of her Muslim neighbors suffered a fatal hate crime.
Trigger Warning: Mentions of gun violence, Islamophobia, hate crimes against Muslims
In 2015, tragedy struck Hanadi Asad's majority Muslim community. Three of her community members were shot dead by their white neighbor. At the time, the Palestinian woman engaged her passion for baking through a side business, catering weddings and other events. In fact, she had catered the victims' wedding just a few weeks prior. When she heard the unfortunate news, Asad was completely shaken and realized just how short life was. So, mustering up every ounce of courage she had, the baker finally opened Asali, her own dessert studio and café. Her business is now thriving and Asad has become a role model to members of her community, Good Morning America reports.
"I got a call about a shooting of some young kids, I had just done their wedding a few weeks before," Asad recalled in an interview with the news outlet. "I was very upset [and] confused. It shook our community. It really shook everybody. They were such amazing kids. Just bright, had so much going for them. After that happened, I kind of started to say, 'You know, life's too short.' We're never guaranteed anything. And I wanted to teach my kids to go after what they want, to be strong."
The baker explained that as a Muslim woman who wears the hijab, she is very visible. Despite this, she did not want fear to stop her from doing anything. She affirmed, "I wanted my kids to know that. So, that was a big turning point for me, to say, 'You know what? I'm not afraid anymore. I'm not afraid of failure. I'm not afraid of anybody. I'm gonna go after it.' And that's what we did." Asad opened her bakery, Asali Desserts and Café, in the year 2015 after quitting her stable day job. For 15 years, she had worked in the pharmaceutical industry, but she decided it was time to finally take the plunge and do what she loves.
Four years later, Asad was able to open her brick-and-mortar store. Since then, she has seen the café grow to new and once unimaginable heights. "I like when I see the café full of, you know, customers, and you look around and it's everybody from all over almost," she shared. "Like, you hear so many different languages and see so many different people. When we did the desserts, I think of flavors sometimes people don't reocgnize but they hear and they get kind of scared. So I like to put it in, it's kind of like tricking my kids, tricking my customers to try something new."
Asad borrows heavily from her Palestinian heritage when she is crafting her delicacies. The baker said, "One of our most popular items is our baklava cheesecake." Her tiramisu is also very popular; she puts her own twist on the dessert by using Turkish coffee rather than espresso. She is also very hands-on with the café, something she picked up from her grandmother. "Working with my hands has always been something that even my grandmother on my mother's side had pointed out to my mom when we had visited [Palestine] in the summer," she shared. "I was always in with whatever she was doing and everything of course is made from scratch, and I just wanted to get my hands into everything." Now, Asad is confident that no matter where the future takes her family, Asali Desserts and Café will always be there. She asserted, "My oldest will sometimes tell me, like, 'Does it feel real? Like, you did this.' I look at where I am today in the café and I'm just like, 'Wow.' I am proud."