Sharing something more than just recipes
Interview with Asel Kurmanaliyeva, an IG influencer, photographer, author and, previously, a bakery owner from Kazakhstan.
Asel, it would be great to start off with simple questions such as your background and story before you became a culinary connoisseur. I know you studied foreign languages during your undergraduate studies and, initially, cooking was just a hobby for you. Who was your primary mentor and influencer in learning the intricacies of dessert making and how did it turn into your primary passion?
I was born and raised in Kazakhstan, in the heart of Central Asia. Before my culinary passion turned into a professional activity, I worked for several years in the national company «Kazakhstan Temir Zholy» as a deputy head of the Foreign Policy Department, just after I graduated from the undergraduate and graduate programs in the field of foreign languages and international relations. Despite my workload and foreign trips to different countries, I spent time baking delicious cakes at home. After marriage, this love grew even stronger since my husband adored my pastries. In addition, we often used to welcome guests in our home. I always cooked a variety of dishes and pastries for them. Each time, empty plates, compliments from the guests and gratitude from my husband, inspired me for new achievements.
You have written in your blog about your bakery in Kazakhstan. It was the first pastry shop to make authentic croissants! However, going from one’s passion to owning a business with employees is neither an easy nor an intuitive process. What were the main challenges in owning that bakery? Would you do it again?
As I mentioned before, the idea to open a bakery actually came from one of my guests. With some savings, strong baking skills, positive attitude and support from my husband, I decided to launch my own bakery. We invited a professional baker from Germany, who had an experience of running his own successful business for 30 years.
While managing my business, I had to handle a lot of chores or issues on a daily basis. For me the most difficult part of managing a business was hiring the employees. In fact, our bakery worked two shifts. The problem was that sometimes some employees would suddenly leave right before opening the bakery. Other issues included not conscientiously counting income everyday, there were unfortunately also thefts.
I definitely want to open my own bakery, where I would serve delicious pastries and desserts. But the question of hiring workers is an issue that makes me think twice before doing so. To name other challenges, assortment planning, quality control during the production cycles and the lack of necessary skills.
From what I know, when you first moved to the US, your family settled in Texas. Just recently you moved to North Carolina. Why did your family decide to move?
I came to the US with my husband who was pursuing his studies. He took the ESL classes at the University of Texas. Later on, we moved to North Carolina, where my husband was admitted to Duke University and did his masters degree.
What gets you excited every day? What are some of the happiest moments from your time in Kazakhstan or the US?
Happiness, I think, is a state of mind and moment. I try to always live in the moment. Rejoice at the little things. My students’ successes, followers appreciation, my husband’s jokes, the joy of children all this makes me happy every day. I’m living such a great life. I have a really loving and carrying family. I do the things I like most. Definitely I can say that I’m happy every day.
We have a lot of happy memories. If I had to pick only one, the first thing that comes to my mind is Kamila’s last birthday. We spend 3 days celebrating it in 3 different cities. We played, we went to the library, did shopping, eat delicious food and sang a lot of songs.
How did you decide to focus on your blog and learn photography skills? What motivates you to continue writing on Instagram and even organizing free webinars as well as master classes?
I always liked to take pictures of people. In 2014, my husband, knowing my passion for photography, decided to surprise me and bought me a professional camera to capture the best moments of our stay in the US. The process of photographing was very fascinating. As a result, my skills significantly improved. Later, I began to share recipes at the request of readers and smoothly my blog about family values began to take on a new and such a tasty direction.
I didn’t want just to share the recipes as is, I wanted followers to understand the process and know the basics about baking. So, I started to share not the recipes itself but also my knowledge. With the growth of followers in Instagram, the number of people wishing to study has increased. On one of our visits to Kazakhstan, they insisted on conducting a master class on baking. I really wanted to share my knowledge. Thanks to the master classes, I realized that I am good at teaching and presenting material. At the same time, the results of the master classes participants encouraged me to record a full course about puff pastry and yeast dough. Not only amateurs come to training, but also professionals who have their own businesses. Online classes were a great success. After classes participants achieved their initial goal to bake perfect croissants and deal with different types of dough. Bakery owners enlarge not only their knowledge but also the product range.
My desire to educate all my followers all over the world end up with creating YouTube channel (AselStyleBreakfast), trilingual recipe site. As well as courses and marathons.
All above mentioned attempts to be helpful brings me such a joy. And every successful result of my students and followers motives me to do more.
Not only your blog is amazing, but so are your books. What has inspired you to write your first book? What was your main goal in doing so?
The mission of my IG account is to simplify a complicated process, to make the recipes easy and clear that everyone can spend as little time as possible in the kitchen while getting superior results compared to expectations. Together with that, I always wanted to have a cookbook with easy recipes that lead to great results. Not only a few recipe that you can refer but the whole book full of working, successful recipes. A book that could be used daily. The book that will ease every woman’s dilemma what to cook. (I was in that list as well).
This idea was somewhere far away in my consciousness. When the proposal came to write a book from the publisher, the whole puzzle took shape. So I started the work on the book. I am glad that the book to this day continues to help all readers to believe in themselves, try new things, get acquainted with different techniques and delight relatives.
Bakery business, blog, photography, books. What’s next on your mind?
I started to work on my second book.
So the first book was all about simply, easy recipes as well as a few time consuming recipes for professionals.
The second book will take the reader in totally to a different direction. It’s going to focus on the difficult recipes that most of my followers cannot overpower (like croissants, eclairs etc.) but dream so badly about. Along with that I’m preparing really interesting and unexpected surprise that I believe my followers will love.