Ottawa born and raised Mohammed El-Karaouni is Founder and Operations Manager of Al Deewan Halal Bakery, a richly appetizing restaurant boasting authentic Lebanese flavours—something Mohammed says Toronto lacked. Located in Scarborough, Al Deewan Bakery was inspired by Ottawa’s exuberant Lebanese community and restaurants and aims to give the authenticity of back home; to make others feel like they’re in Lebanon when at the bakery.
Mohammed’s bakery dream couldn’t have been complete without the 6000 pounds open-flame oven he had imported to Toronto from his Lebanon trip. This oven is crucial to making authentic manakeesh. While it’s usually common to create manakeesh in a pizza oven, which emits heat from one direction, this open-flame oven offers the real deal—the flames on both sides evenly heat up the manakeesh into a warm, soft bread.
I watch as Abou Rami, Paramount Middle Eastern Kitchen’s original baker for 35 years, lays two manakeesh on a big wooden spoon and slides it into the oven. He pulls it out after they’ve cooked.
Mohammed then cuts them using a pizza cutter, places them in a paper bag and hands them to a waiting customer. His most sold food item is, unsurprisingly, the zaatar manakeesh. The soft, warm, cheesy bread melts in your mouth. Other manakeesh options include muhammara with cheese, and a zestier option, tomato sauce and cheese manakeesh.
The bakery offers free unlimited tea and a lot of samples for new customers and sees many regulars outside of the Lebanese community.
Here’s a kicker—Mohammed isn’t just an entrepreneur, he’s been a member of Toronto Police service for 13 years with. He plans to open a second bakery location in Mississauga.
1415 Kennedy Rd #9, Scarborough
ON M1P 2L6