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Local Chef Khadijah Muhammad Makes the Cut in Statewide Food Contest

With a culinary background and successful mail-order bakery business, Khadijah Muhammad wanted to find a new outlet for her bold flavors.

With a culinary school background and a successful mail-order bakery business, Khadijah Muhammad wanted to stretch her talents and find an outlet for her love for bold flavors, local ingredients and healthy eating.

“I’ve been doing the sauces since 2018, but I started a cookie bakery business online in 2014,” she said. “I kind of do a little bit of both now.”

Flavor of Georgia

Muhammad’s efforts paid off recently, as she was named a finalist in the 2024 Flavor of Georgia food product contest in the condiments, sauces and seasonings category.

Although she didn’t take home the grand prize or win first place in her category, the Peachtree Corners-based business was recognized for its “amazing flavor from freshly roasted, Georgia-grown garlic and shallots,” according to the contest’s website.

Her company, Habeeb’s Gourmet Sauces, was among the 36 finalists from 139 entrants in the annual contest organized by the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES).

Since 2007, CAES has highlighted innovative, market-ready or commercially available food products—all developed right here in Georgia.

Besides showcasing the great local products of the state, the contests often get an economic boost. According to the college, on average, participation in the Flavor of Georgia contest increased the sales for finalists by about 21%.

Muhammad knows the value of free publicity. She entered the contest in 2019 with a different product.

“It was a honey braise sauce,” she said. “It’s similar to teriyaki but better.”

She was a finalist that year as well. The positive feedback from judges and the general public proved she was on the right track.

Pivoting during the pandemic

During COVID, she tried to transition away from the baking business, but being cooped up at home made her customers want the cakes and cookies from Kay’s Cookery that much more.

She included an option to add personal notes to gift orders, and that special touch really resonated with consumers during that tough time.

Although COVID was a time of boom or bust for many food businesses, Muhammad found herself somewhere in the middle. She said if she’d promoted it more, her business might have been more successful, but with minimal marketing, it was too lucrative to just shut down.

“So now I have sister businesses,” she said.

Building a legacy

Besides locally sourcing healthy food, Muhammad was glad that she was able to put her dad’s name on the sauces business. Bottled products can also grow larger than baked goods because they have a long shelf life and can be shipped farther away.

“It just made more sense,” she said. I could bottle something up and have it on the shelf. I could ship it to more places than the desserts.”

Right now, Muhammad is using the Department of Agriculture Shared Kitchen at Unity Atlanta Church. The reasonable rental rates and top-notch facility allow her to grow both businesses at her own pace.

“I’m growing something healthy, helping people make better eating choices,” she said. “The flavor is better, and I’m kind of also educating them about local [ingredients] and being more sustainable, too.” Habeeb’s Gourmet Sauces are also available through Amazon.

Photos courtesy of chef Khadijah Muhammad.

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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