Hummingbird Bakery founder Tarek Malouf, of Hoxton, made MBE in Queen's Birthday Honours
PUBLISHED: 06:00 17 June 2017
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Hummingbird Bakery founder Tarek Malouf has lived in Hoxton on and off for 14 years and has seen the area change 'radically' in that time. Now he's been made an MBE. He tells Ramzy Alwakeel his story.
You wouldn’t know it from the accent, but Hummingbird Bakery founder Tarek Malouf – made MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours – grew up in London.
That drawl, picked up at the American School in St John’s Wood where he was educated, isn’t the only transatlantic thing about Hoxton man Tarek.
Hummingbird’s business plan was to bring US-style cupcakes and desserts to London, where back in 2002 the words “red velvet” generally referred to upholstery rather than food.
Today he’s delighted if a little surprised to be recognised by the Queen for services to baking – not least because he started his career in TV.
"There are still independent shops here and I like the different types of people – it’s not bland like other bits of town have become over the past five years"
“I kind of stumbled into it,” he told the Gazette. “I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but I can’t say I grew up with a passion to bake.”
It was his sister who suggested he open a “fun cake shop” in the capital as an alternative to supermarkets and French patisseries. Fast-forward to 2017 and elaborate cupcakes are a common sight in the high street, something that could well be Tarek’s doing.
Born to Lebanese parents who emigrated after war broke out, he grew up in Mayfair but moved to Hackney in 2003. It’s somewhere he’s proud to call home.
“There’s so much going on,” he said. “I’ve seen Hackney change radically, but the diversity of residents and types of food are just amazing.
“There are still independent shops here and I like the different types of people – it’s not bland like other bits of town have become over the past five years.
“South Kensington, where one of my shops is, is so bland – it looks pristine, like a movie set.”
Today he runs six branches with a staff of 120, selling some 20 varieties of cake. “It’s always felt a bit like drowning,” he laughed. “I mean that positively.
“Once one emergency is over another one begins.”
But his “emergencies” don’t sound that bad – meringue frosting that deflated after being on display, cakes designed for boys that no one bought – and he admits they keep things interesting.
“It’s quite rare to be in the same job for 15 years,” he said.