Sharing the Havana Experience! Table Talks with Lykael Ahye
The beaches are finally reopened and many Trinis are heading down to Maracas Bay for a refreshing bath and their first bite of long-awaited freshly made bake and shark. Lykael Ahye, owner of Havana Bake and Shark (formerly known as Mona’s Bake and Shark) is ready to welcome all hungry Trinis back for the beach’s signature dish. Lykael’s family have been frying up bake and shark for over 50 years along the Maracas shore, treating beach-goers to delicious local cuisine. Despite the challenges of 2020 affecting many small food businesses, Lykael is motivated now more than ever to continue her family legacy of excellent bake and shark with Trinidad and Tobago. Propa Eats sat down with Lykael to hear her story, goals and aspirations as she pushes forward as a young successful entrepreneur.
1) Who are you and tell me about yourself?
Hi, I am Lykael Ahye, I am a believer in Christ, a wife and a mom. I would describe myself as motivated and self-managed in the areas I really want to succeed in.
2) How did you start making bake and shark?
Oh, this is a funny story. Since I knew myself, my Grandmother (Mona John) has been selling Bake & Shark on Maracas beach. My mother (Cheryl- Ann John) would often assist her and sometimes take me along to help. Boy, oh boy, I was never happy about it and I always remember telling myself that I do not want to ever sell Bake and Shark when I grow up. As fate would have it, twenty plus years later, I am now here and very excited about the journey ahead. Just a little backstory, Havana Bake and Shark was formerly known as Mona s Bake and Shark and has been on Maracas Beach for over 50 years. Back in January of 2020 the business was rebranded, and the team expanded to include my mother, myself and my husband (Daniel Ahye).
3) Describe what is the perfect bake and shark.
The perfect bake and shark to me is a bake that’s not oily or too thick, soft with a little crunch. The shark seasoned using my grandmother’s recipe which incorporates some of our fresh local seasonings.
4) What are your favourite dressings for bake and shark?
My personal favourite dressings may not seem typical to bake and shark lovers. I like to relish in the sweetness of well-seasoned shark, so for me all I need is a bit of pepper sauce. If I had to add other toppings it would be garlic sauce followed by a little cabbage slaw.
5) How do you feel about the beaches reopening?
We are looking forward to it. It was certainly a growing experience pivoting towards delivery during the closure of the beaches, but now we are excited for the new normal and the journey ahead.
6) You can invite three people over for lunch, dead or alive. Who are they?
Probably my late paternal grandmother who passed away almost 10 years ago. Jim Rohn (deceased) has done much in the area of self-development and his work has served to be very impactful in my life. Lastly, Farah Merhi, an interior decorator whom I admire. Interior decorating is one of my personal passions.
7) What’s your greatest accomplishment in your career?
Personally, I would say being able to carry on the legacy of my grandmother s business coupled with helping my mom fulfill her dream. I never saw this as something I would be so passionate about doing but it seems like everything I did previously led me to this moment.
8) Describe the biggest challenge in your career thus far.
Oh, that’s easy – Covid-19. Even though it is a re-brand it’s still a new business to my husband and myself so it was definitely challenging. But we trust in a God bigger than ourselves, so we are simply happy to be here post-covid.
9) What motivates you to persist in the competitive restaurant industry?
This business is so much more to me because it’s my grandmother s legacy. She was one of the first six vendors on Maracas beach. Over the years I have seen how hard my grandmother and mom fought to keep this business alive and I am fueled by passion to continue in their footsteps.
10) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I hope to be a part of a beautiful team of persons who loves sharing the Havana experience with locals and foreigners alike.
12) Any advice for up and coming chefs?
I think this advice would work for anyone. No matter what your dreams or goals are in life, you need to push forward beyond the nay Sayers. I personally think most dreams die before they are even born because we are afraid of what others may think. Once you can overcome that hurdle, have clearly defined goals, and put in the work – why can’t you succeed? Always remember life is super short so do not take it too seriously. One of my favourite quotes is You don t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great Zig Ziglar. Start and see where the journey takes you.