Established in 2018, Fonithoshi has provided scrumptious content for foodie followers online who have diligently followed her page since it's very first post.
Though mostly known for her Cinnamon Rolls, Aminath Rukhsa Ahmed's love for confectioneries go beyond a tray of 'Cinnamon-Yum'! The story of how she arrived at the precipice of pastries is a rather unique tale. One set in motion during her days in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.
When I decided to meet up with Rukhsa, I signed up not only to meet the young chef behind the brand, but also to catch up with an old friend.
I met the young business owner in her home, right beside her kitchen, to discuss her love for cinnamon rolls, the broader arts of culinary and the steps she took in order to get to the point she is at today.
To start off, I asked Rukhsa a little about how she viewed herself and what inspired her.
Describing herself she said, "Well, I am a mom of two kids who got inspired to cook during my time as a medical student."
"I believe I discovered my true passion on a rather colorful journey of learning about food through books and experiencing it in real life as well."
"I'm mostly inspired by a collection of cooking shows and cookbooks. One of my current favourite shows is Netflix's 'Chef's Table'. As for books, some of my favourites have been penned by noteworthy chefs to the likes of Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey and Zoe Francois."
According to the young chef, one of her first memories preparing food by herself was making eggs for her little sister.
"It had to be really perfect. She liked soft boiled eggs and I was a nine year old trying to nail breakfast."
"Adding to the task, my sister was extremely critical of the consistency of the egg," she said, snickering to herself.
She went on to explain how being so determined in the kitchen then, may have helped her figure out the gist of kitchen-work, even at a very young age.
"Second to my sister's soft boiled egg request was a grade school classmate of mine who used to come over to my house and ask me to make pan-grilled sausages all the time."
Bursting into laughter she pointed at me - "That was you, remember?"
I joined the chuckling, and together we walked through fond memories of being classmates; with me realising how well practiced Rukhsa was inside the kitchen even then.
Reminiscing about the kitchen in her childhood home, she spoke of her all-time favourite home cooked dish.
"I really love my mom's Deviled Fish. That has to be, by far, one of the most delicious specials I have ever had."
"Another definite favourite has got to be the unbeatable combination of 'kulhimas' and 'huniroshi'."
Sharing the same sentiments towards the combination, I segued to find out if through this love for food was how she discovered her innate talent of culinary arts.
Confessing that she never used to understand that choosing the culinary arts as a profession was even possible, Rukhsa said that it was only after she left for medical school that she came to realise that cooking was something which brought her a lot of joy - and that perhaps, there was a future in it.
"From when I was in first grade, I was always encouraged to pursue a career in medicine. So I grew up wanting to be a doctor."
"And I was genuinely interested in the field until I went to medical school and finally realised it wasn't really something I aspired to be, but rather a dream of my parents that I tried to fulfill."
Tell us more about your time in med-school, did you consciously practice cooking with the intention of improving your skills?
"I was very young when I left to Russia for my higher studies. I must have been around sixteen years old, which is also why I decided to live with my cousin, also pursuing her studies in Nizhny Novgorod," said Rukhsa.
"The thing was, she didn't know how to cook at all. So I took on the duty of cooking. while she would be in charge of washing the dishes."
"My cooking, apparently, grew to gain a bit of a following. My cousin had told her other local friends and before I knew it, during the weekends I was cooking for some of the Maldivian girls living there."
"I used to do all the cooking and they would always praise me for it and encourage me to cook more."
Do you have any favourite food from your time in Russia? Any cuisine that you took a liking to?
"To be honest I didn't really go out during my time there. It just wasn't my scene."
"First, there was a language barrier. The only time I would go out would be to shop for groceries. I was very much a homebody during my first year."
In detailing her very 'indoors-y' life in Russia, she told me of a café she occasionally visited that served a decadent, thick hot chocolate that she greatly enjoyed.
"Aside from that, I had a lot of McDonalds because that was one of the few things I knew how to order in Russian," she explained as she smiled to herself reminiscing about her Nizhny days.
"As I said before, I assimilated neither to the culture nor the weather very well. I returned home after I completed pre-med, and the first year."
Narrating forward from her days in medical school, she told me, "Another reason I returned home was to get married, after which I became really content with the life I had with my husband and just didn't want to go back to Russia. Cold and gloomy Russia."
"Fortunately, around the same time, our government put into place regulations stipulating that all doctors should have A level passes, and not just pre-med, if they wished to practice medicine in the Maldives. So even if I had continued my program in Russia, I wouldn't have been able to practice here afterwards."
"So I decided to do my A levels in Australia and join my husband in Adelaide."
"At this time I first got access to premium ingredients, sparking a fire in me. I was elated to discover how good my culinary skills were and that found I actually made food really well."
She expounded her time in Australia detailing some of her favourite food places, of which the first was an Indian restaurant near her home. She credited them to providing the best Indian food she has ever had and joyously recalled buying their Cheese and Tandoori Naans almost everyday.
Describing a pancake house that she frequented Rukhsa said, "The café had really good steak and potatoes. Whenever I wanted to celebrate any occasion, I would just go there and splurge on food."
"Shortly after I had completed my A levels, I learned that the Russian University I studied at had opened a new campus in Malabe, Sri Lanka. So I made arrangements to resume my studies in Sri Lanka from where I left off; still unwilling to completely give up on my parents dream."
I take it that the shift from Russia to Australia was rather a drastic move in itself, how did you adjust to the vast difference of Adelaide and Malabe?
"Well, there I had almost no complaints about the food. Even the cafeteria at my university served authentic Sri Lankan food - noodles for breakfast, green mango curry and all that Ceylonese goodness. It was all really amazing. Sri Lankan food is something I have always loved."
"My time in Sri Lanka was extremely pleasant. My classmates were very friendly since the beginning, which is why I felt it important to keep in touch with them,” she said expressing a friendly smile-cum-laughter.
The tone of Rukhsa's voice lowered, indicating an exercise of caution as she moved to explain how her transition had come about.
During her time in Sri Lanka she became pregnant with her first child which, unfortunately, brought forth a spell of constant illnesses that prevented her from attending classes regularly. Upon the advice of her course coordinator, she took a break, with plans to rejoin a few weeks post-labor.
Rukhsa’s bundle of joy however, came into the world a little prematurely, which sadly, riddled him with complications in his lungs as well as severe bouts of Jaundice. The undivided attention her son required prompted her to extend her hiatus further and during that time she finally managed to express her doubts about med school to her parents.
How did they react?
"My mom didn't take too kindly to the news but my father took it surprisingly well. At the end of the day, I think they just wanted me to be able to fend for myself."
"I want to thank my husband immensely for encouraging me so much throughout my journey from medicine to culinary arts. He saw how miserable I had become and gave me the support I needed to help me wholly open up to my passion for cooking."
A little shaken up reliving old memories of a complicated period, Rukhsa extended her story with, "My time away from work and studies went on to even after the birth of my second child. I wanted to wait until it was easier to take care of them both."
"Afterward, when I was considering going back to school, I wanted to go abroad and study culinary arts properly. Eventually I decided to pursue a local program having faith that I could get a well 'seasoned' education here as well."
Rukhsa detailed her time at Maldives National University, where she completed both the Culinary Arts course as well as Patisserie.
"Another thank you is in order to my husband for being the very supportive man that he is. He worked out his schedule to help out with the kids so that I will be able to attend classes. I wouldn't have been able to do it without him."
Did the love you found at culinary school inspire you to establish Fonithoshi?
Smiling ear-to-ear she explained, "Yes. As part of our assignments we were required to photograph the meals we prepared during classes. We had to write about what we cooked, what went wrong and how we would improve the dish. So I just decided to gather all the photos I took and upload it on a separate account."
"The name 'Fonithoshi' came about because cinnamon is my favourite spice and Cinnamon Rolls was something I often prepared. It is one ingredient that can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. I liked the idea of that."
Tell me about the success of your business Fonithoshi. What has the company been up to this past year?
"It has been almost a year and I have accumulated close to 3000 followers. I think it's a good amount to reach just by oneself. I'm extremely humbled and ecstatic that people have taken such an interest in what I make."
"I have also held a one day pop-up market in my garage, at which I provided fifteen different food items. We catered to this year's "Fannuge Dharin" as well."
Explaining unhurriedly, the process of her everyday orders, Rukhsa described how she began with custom orders and soon realized she wasn’t able to cater pastries on an individual basis.
"I can't simply make ONE cinnamon roll, that's not ideal. So whenever I would bake, I'd cut up the remaining half of the tray and post it to the ‘Fonithoshi’ social media accounts, letting people know it was up for grabs."
How does that process work, ‘up-for-grabs’?
"Basically, I let my followers know that I have currently cooked or baked something and that it is available for purchase. I generally specify the remaining number of pax so that the customer can decide how many they want and when they can pick it up."
Nearing the end of our discussion, Rukhsa spoke about Fonithoshi's future and how she wishes to grow towards operating out of her own café. Smiling hopefully, she expressed excitement for her little sister to return home post graduate, as she too is securing an education in the field of Culinary Arts.
Speaking candidly about her plans, she noted a solid 'thank you' which she owed to her customer base, telling me, "I shared my story on instagram and was rewarded with messages about how it gave some of them the courage to express their love for the culinary arts despite being in another field. It was very humbling to have inspired them."
"And for people interested in the field, if you truly know what you want to do and keep doing, don’t wait - start up a small business or an Instagram page or anything. I stumbled through a lot, though I knew what I loved doing."
"My advice is not wait too long. Especially not as long as I did."
"I'm on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter under 'Fonithoshi' - Instagram being the most active. It's the easiest way for me to upload pictures and interact with people at the same time. Most of my customers place their orders on instagram. I'm just a DM away."
With that, I hugged her a friendly goodbye as she hurriedly stepped into the kitchen to prepare dinner for her family.
Thanking her on my way out, I assured her that I too will soon 'slide into her DMs' and place an order for one of her delicious Cinnamons Rolls.