Asel Abu-Alshaeer. Owner of Shehed Bakery

We discuss today with Asel Abu-Alshaeer. Asel is the owner of Shehed Bakery.

Asel, please start by telling us about Shehed Bakery and its products.

Shehed Bakery’s mission is to share the Iraqi culture, heritage, and lifestyle with all the curious minds in the U.S. and the world. We aim to teach others by introducing Iraqi baking and publishing knowledge articles about the country.

What inspired you to start a bakery business selling authentic Iraqi products?

I was inspired by the genuine and welcomed interest from my friends and coworkers in learning about the people and cultural side of Iraq. They realize there is much to explore beyond what they see and hear on TV, and they want to learn it from someone born and raised there.

They often ask me about our traditions, food, and daily life, and I am always thrilled to tell them about it. After each conversation, I wished people could travel to Iraq and live the experience.

Then one day, I thought, why not leverage technology and create a virtual travel experience to Iraq? This spark started Shehed Bakery in 2021 and is the essence of our business. We bake iconic Iraqi-style pastries and write articles about the country’s life, culture, civilization, and heritage.

What has the reception to the bakery been like? Are your customers mainly from Iraq, or are they from different backgrounds?

Our customers are very diverse and come from different backgrounds. The reception to Shehed Bakery was well beyond my expectations. Customers expressed how much they love our flavors in many ways, including coming back for more.

I saw the impressed faces of our customers the moment they took a bite of our Madgooga; or when they noticed the low sugar amount per serving in other products. I heard shouts in the market just a few minutes after I sold a pack of our Baklava “this is the best Baklava ever!” I received thanks and compliments from many customers for making such flavors available in the market.

Many people only know about Iraq from what they see on the news or read online. How different are the country, culture, and people compared to what is reported?

Given that Iraq has been a war zone for decades, the TV coverage mainly focuses on the war part of life in Iraq. However, despite the tough times that Iraqis went through, they always found a way to live their lives regardless of the issues within the country.

Women and men continued to go to schools and universities and accomplish at work even during the most uncertain and challenging times. Iraqis continued to celebrate holidays and happy events and entertained themselves with movies, food, shopping, and international travel. The streets are full of life and energy till late at night, crowded with cars and pedestrians roaming the beautifully designed buildings and brightly lit venues. Iraq is proof that people can still enjoy life even when they have to cope with challenging times.

Asel, you sell your handmade products at the Chicago Artisan Market and online, recently on Amazon. Are there plans for a store for customers to visit in the future?

Opening a physical store is part of our plans. We aspire to provide our customers with more than just tasty food but a captivating experience that they add to their favorite memories.

Explain the difference between Iraqi pastries and sweets from other countries.

Most Iraqi pastries and sweets feature healthier ingredients such as sesame, dates, nuts, and cardamom, all of which provide exciting and unique flavors that are not commonly available in the market.

Most Iraqi pastries also have longer shelf life without preservatives or refrigeration. For example, when Iraqis prepared for lockdown during the war, Date Kleicha was among the things that Iraqis prepared in sufficient quantities. This is because it can last for months stored at room temperature and is a reliable food source when you cannot use refrigeration. Of course, this unusual time triggered unusual food backup strategies. It does not mean that Date Kleicha or any other Iraqi pastries can be used or considered as a substitute for food or a source of nutrition.

Tell us about the pastries and goodies you make. What can customers purchase from Shehed Bakery?

Of the wide selection of Iraqi pastries and sweets available to choose from, at Shehed Bakery, we selected a thoughtfully curated collection of the most popular and loved sweets in Iraq. We currently have 5 products: Madgooga energy ball, a 120-year-old recipe made of just two ingredients (dates and sesame butter “tahini”).

The Date Kleicha is a crispy cookie filled with dates and flavored with cardamom. The Khfefy, a savory cracker, is flavored with cardamom. The Barazuk is a crisp, buttery cookie with sesame and pistachios. The Walnut Baklava captured the hearts and cravings of customers.

Asel Abu-Alshaeer

Do you have a favorite pastry or sweet you make?

I have many favorite sweets and pastries. My favorite is Flour Halawa (Taheen Halawa), made of sauteed flour with a bit of sugar that turns into a soft, chewy, indulging layer garnished with almonds.

What is one item from the Shehed Bakery everyone should try? 

This is a tough question that most customers ask after sampling our treats “I love them all; which one do you think I should buy?” and I respond, “I hand-picked them all because I love them all too.”

For Baklava fans, I recommend Baklava. Our customers love its texture and mild sweetness. For coffee lovers, I recommend Barazuk. The blend of ingredients brings out the coffee flavors. For cardamom and dates fans, I recommend Date Kleicha; and I recommend Madgooga for our friends who seek vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free sweets.

Asel, what are the plans for the future with Shehed Bakery and yourself? Are there plans to expand the business or to try new areas? 

We aspire to make Shehed Bakery a recognized brand for Middle Eastern bakeries nationally and internationally in the long run. We are expanding into more online sales channels. Our plan for the next couple of years is to expand into physical chain stores. Eventually, we will open our physical store that provides a differentiated and memorable customer experience. Adding more variety to our product collection is also part of our future growth plan.

Choose two of your favorite quotes and write them here

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often” – Winston Churchill

“If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary” – Jim Rohn

If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?

People worldwide still suffer from a lack of clean water, sanitary environment, nutrition, and education. If I could change one thing, I would help every human being to have access to these essentials.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to thank our customers who have supported our business and mission to date. I appreciate their welcomed curiosity about the culture and people of Iraq. At Shehed Bakery, I look forward to sharing more and more about the heritage, culture, and life of my country of origin.

To know more about Asel Abu-Alshaeer and Shehed Bakery, please visit




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