Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 27 September 2020

Jessica Kahawaty on launching a Dubai food delivery concept with her mother: 'We are so excited about sharing our home recipes'

Mama Rita will be delivering healthy, home-cooked meals across Dubai

Jessica Kahawaty (left) and her mother Rita have teamed up to launch food delivery concept Mama Rita in Dubai. Supplied
Jessica Kahawaty (left) and her mother Rita have teamed up to launch food delivery concept Mama Rita in Dubai. Supplied

Already a lawyer, humanitarian, model and social media star, it feels like there’s little Jessica Kahawaty can’t do. And she’s adding another feather to her cap with the launch of a food venture – although she’s had a helping hand from her mother with this one.

The influencer, who lives in Dubai, has joined forces with her mother Rita, a former model, to launch delivery concept Mama Rita. From Monday, September 14, Mama Rita will be delivering healthy, home-cooked meals to an area covering approximately 80 per cent of Dubai, with plans to expand to the rest of the UAE in the future.

The menu is international, reflecting the many ethnicities in Dubai, including Arabic, Italian, African, Venezuelan, Russian and French-inspired dishes. On the menu, you can expect items like a simple beetroot hummus, served with cucumber and carrot sticks, a vegan salad selection, basic pesto pasta, peanut butter chicken (a dish inspired by Rita’s aunt who lived in Africa) and Rita’s homemade shawarma, made with beef marinated overnight. Desserts include favourites like kanafeh or Mama’s special carrot cake.

A taste of home

The menu features healthy, home-made food that are family favourites - like beetroot hummus. Supplied
The menu features healthy, home-made family favourites - like beetroot hummus. Supplied

While many of the dishes may seem like contemporary offerings, they’re actually favourites that have been passed down generations. It was Rita’s mother, Nahil, who instilled in her a love for cooking, and taught her how to prepare many of these signature dishes, to which Rita has added her own touch over the years. It is in recognition of this talent, as well as a desire to share this food with the rest of the world, that the mother-daughter duo launched Mama Rita.

“This is what I eat at home and what my mother has cooked for us growing up,” says Jessica. “When I moved to Dubai from Australia six years ago, I found a huge gap in home-cooked delivery concepts that are healthy, clean, tasty and affordable. I missed my mother's food. I would dream of her pastas, salads, her rice stews and her delicious cakes."

Some of her personal favourites include her mother's molokhia, the beetroot hummus and the pesto pasta.

The menu is international and includes cuisines such as Arabic, Italian, African, Venezuelan, Russian and French. Supplied
The menu is international and includes cuisines such as Arabic, Italian, African, Venezuelan, Russian and French. Supplied

“There were many concepts that popped up but there wasn’t anything that I absolutely loved. I’ve always wanted to share my mother's food with the world, and her friends and family who taste it have been saying the same. This gap in the market coupled with our passion for food was the perfect opportunity to start Mama Rita. We’re so excited to be sharing our home recipes with the people of this city,” she adds.

For Rita, this is a brand born to provide home-cooked options to Dubai’s busy residents. “We are foodies in the family and whenever we have visited Dubai we have loved exploring different restaurants and delivery places. I did see a gap for home-cooked food that many young people love and miss. Many are here without their families so it’s important to give them a piece of home,” she says.

Focus on health and freshness

Much of the food at Mama Rita is made with health in mind. Other than the variety of vegetarian and vegan options, customers can expect hormone-free chicken, meat from Brazil and Australia, and premium fresh fruits and vegetables. The prices are competitive, with starters under Dh20 and mains in the Dh30 to Dh50 range.

Blueberry cake by Mama Rita. Supplied 
Blueberry cake by Mama Rita. Supplied

Meanwhile, a delivery-only concept has been chosen to reach as many people as possible, says Rita. “Starting a physical restaurant wouldn't allow us to pass on prices that are democratic and accessible to all,” she says.

Being a delivery-only concept also allows for greater growth potential, adds Jessica. “In an ever-changing world and with things shifting digitally, I chose delivery-only in order to be scalable and reachable to more foodies. Having a background in fashion and a strong presence internationally, I wanted to start something in Dubai but have the opportunity to grow into other countries. This is much easier without a physical restaurant as it can expand into different kitchens worldwide.

“Taking into consideration the current pandemic, delivery-only was also the right path to encourage people to order at home, at the office, alone or with family,” she adds.

Updated: September 15, 2020 11:11 AM

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