It was American chef du jour Tom Colicchio who discovered the banker now baker Umber Ahmad. And almost at once, with his backing, she has opened a bakery like no other in the city.
Ahmad wasn’t always in the kitchen. She built a Wall Street career, left that to pursue her own world, and created her brand online to great success—plus gained some serious Williams-Sonoma love. Colicchio, the entrepreneur of all entrepreneurs in the food world, had been a client of Ahmad’s global brand consultancy. He then heard through the proverbial grapevine that Ahmad baked for friends to relieve work stress, and so he dutifully asked for some samples—and their mazedar captivated him. Mah-Ze-Dahr is the first brand in Colicchio’s new “Colicchio Discoveries” platform; a collection of ideas, brands and emerging food enterprises that he hand-picks and then mentors.
So what is this “Mah-Ze-Dahr” she speaks of? In Urdu, the word “mazedar” defines the taste essence of food, the flavor and magic that make it delicious. Something a little, I don’t know, inexplicable really. And that is how the space and its magic feels—it doesn’t need words, just a sensation. “I want people to walk away and say, ‘there’s a mazedar about this place,’” Ahmad smiles.
And so, after establishing herself (and, of course, after winning over Colicchio’s ardor for her food), she felt it was time to open a brick and mortar establishment. New York was ready.
“When I was a girl, my mother would ask me to close my eyes and tell her what I tasted in food. It would always evoke a very beautiful place or experience,” shares Ahmad. “I want someone to have that moment every time they indulge in one of my pastries.” And so it made sense that she had to give her cult followers a place to come get their fix.
“It’s about creating memories, savoring moments and giving people the space to step back from New York into a sublime, brief encounter they can cherish for the rest of the day,” says Ahmad. The space itself, split into three rooms, has LaRosa glass cases from Italy filled with treats, a giant dove gray sofa and espresso drinks served from a La Marzocco machine while Parisian smoked-glass panels back bronze shelves. All oozing some seriously undeniable glamor. A much more chic Willy Wonka factory of delights all coming together in this landmarked brownstone, which you may have passed a million times before.
Think pastries, cakes, cookies and some. Like the “Mah-Ze-Dar bar” (where oatmeal meets brown sugar with pecans plus chocolate bits, all bathed in brown butter salted caramel sauce), “Devil in Ganache” (a two-layered chocolate cake; say no more) and her variance on “Choux” (a whisper-thin puff of pâte à choux pastry enveloped in a delicate sugar cookie crust and filled with decadent vanilla pastry cream). And now, please exhale.
Photos courtesy of Mah–Ze–Dahr Bakery.