Recently the Real Housewives of Abu Dhabi were invited to attend a baking class at St. Regis Saadiyat. Well who turns down an invitation to eat cake….at St. Regis….on Saadiyat? Not this pregnant mama. I thought I was going to a baking class with a premier chef but what I got was so much more.
Enter Manuela Kjeilen. Housewife, baker, blogger, entrepreneur extraordinaire and the most down-to-earth person you will ever meet. Mother of 5 – yes that’s right – 5. That right there, in itself, is enough to earn anyone’s respect. She was spending time in Abu Dhabi teaching baking classes at Maison Sucre Bakery.
We did an initial meet and greet where she told us a bit about herself. I had looked at her blog beforehand which is 1950’s retro Housewife with pictures of delicious cupcakes, cakes, brownies. It’s all very sugar and spice and everything nice. I was expecting her back story to match.
I was wrong. Her story has all the makings of an inspirational Hollywood film or at a minimum an Original Lifetime movie. Her life changed when her husband had a stroke. It was all so shocking. He wasn’t able to work, she wasn’t working, stress on everyone in family, mounting debt, 5 kids still at home, not knowing what to expect next. You get the idea. There were days when Manuela would be sitting on the couch, eating potato chips, watching Oprah, feeling depressed – Okay ladies, let’s be honest – I think we all have been there at some point in our lives.
She knew things had to change. She started baking on daily basis just to cheer up the mood around the house for her family. She had started a Facebook page and posted pictures of her cakes which grew in popularity quite quickly. She wasn’t trying to sell the cakes, just posting the pictures. The page was very popular and someone told her she should start a blog and share her recipes. That is what she did. She hasn’t looked back since.
She gives credit to Oprah for inspiring her to follow her passion – baking. She also gives credit to her husband and family for supporting her decision. After listing her accomplishments (which include an award winning blog, best selling books, product line, brand collaborations, clothing line, upcoming television show) it was hard to believe that this all began with a blog just 4 years ago.
The group of us then moved into the Library where we shared a remarkable high tea. Manuela and her daughter were both so easy to talk to – it was if we all were old friends. In an time where shameless self promotion seems to be the norm, it was so nice to meet someone so accomplished yet humble and friendly. It was amazing to find out that despite her hectic schedule with traveling, baking, blogging, writing a new book, filming a show that she was still doing it on her own with the help of her children. No outside help. Her daughter works as her assistant and her son assists with the photography. Everyone in family pitches in some sort of way. It is a real family affair.
Manuela is very matter- of- fact about her success. Her business advice is to work hard, always follow your instincts and treat people as you would like to be treated. This was evident in the way she was treating everyone around her. I am SO SO SO glad I went to the St. Regis that day. We are exposed to motivational quotes on a daily basis – You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be Great; You become what you believe; Nothing will work unless you do – the list goes on and on. We are always told that we can accomplish whatever we put our minds to. I left there feeling so inspired and motivated by this amazing woman. Why? Because she was an example of what we all can produce. We can all achieve our dreams but we have to take that step in the right direction.
We did eventually get to do our baking class but I will save that for another day when I try to recreate Manuela’s delicious cheesecake. In the meantime take a look at Manuela’s Facebook page and her website. You will not be disappointed.