My UAE: A good Gossip with Shayma Nawaf Fawwaz
Shayma Nawaf Fawwaz’s earliest memories involve afternoons spent in the kitchen.
“I remember making chocolate-chip cookies from scratch with my sisters,” she says. “We would take turns [over] who got to scrape the cookie dough off the bowl, and we would also huddle around the kitchen counter patiently waiting for the cookies to cool off before we could devour them.”
Fawwaz has never lost her love of food, and always had it in mind to start an Emirati-inspired food business. “We are always hosting or inviting people to our majlis or houses. We never come empty-handed, and the host always provides fabulous food,” she says.
A few years ago, she opened the gourmet outlet Gossip Cafe and Desserts, while also working as the vice president of health care at Mubadala Development Company in Abu Dhabi.
“I was getting so many requests from my family, friends and even their families to create desserts and edible gifts,” she says. “I also saw people were sharing the food and desserts that I had made, so that really inspired me to create something that could be shared.”
Fawwaz now runs cafe branches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, and employs 100 staff, with ventures in catering, events and style collaborations.
“Whether I’m dining at a restaurant, travelling or trying new experiences, I’m thinking about Gossip – new ingredients, dishes, catering options,” she adds.
Gossip was a diversion from the health-care industry, where her speciality is genetics. She holds a doctorate in the subject from George Washington University (GWU) in the United States, an executive master’s from the London Business School and a degree in biology from GWU.
But for now she’s mainly focused on sharing Gossip with the world. “I think I have done well, but I always strive to do better, “ she says. “I would love to take Gossip international, and be seen as an Emirati brand in that market.”
What book are you currently reading?
At the moment I am reading Bloomberg by Bloomberg. I’m always interested in business and how people reached their success – the struggles they had to overcome.
What’s your most prized possession?
My business. I created it from scratch – the interior, the colour scheme, the menu. It is my self-portrait; my self-reflection of what I like, from food and interiors to art to fashion.
What are your favourite travel destinations?
For summer, I would say that Los Angeles and London are never a bad idea. For the cooler months, New York and Paris.
What attraction would you suggest travellers visit when in the UAE?
The Galleria mall in the capital. It is the perfect place to window-shop all the luxury brands while stopping for high tea or brunch.
What are your favourite dishes to cook for others?
Chocolate fondant and mushroom asparagus risotto from scratch. These two dishes have such a wow factor – they are not something that you can create by opening a can or a box, so I love my guests’ reaction, especially when they take the first bite.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
In this life, you get what you think you deserve. If you think you are only worth a certain amount, you will only get that – life is the best teacher.
What music do you currently have on repeat?
Depends on my mood – anything from jazz, Arabic, traditional Arabic, pop... anything that is trending, really.
What do you enjoy doing in your downtime?
Working out. It’s the best way to de-stress. It’s the time I truly have for myself, when the rest of the world fades away, and I can relax and focus.
What’s your favourite meal of the day?
Breakfast. It is so true when they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day – it fuels you for what the day has for you. I love our Mexican casserole breakfast.
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