Mr. Malak’s Sweet Tradition Continues

Near the corner of Bank and Cameron, nestled between the Rite-Way Driving School and Atlantica Fine Jewelery, something sweet is waiting for you. Actually, quite a lot of treats are ready to tantalize your taste buds! The icing on the cake, so to speak, is that on most days, you can have these delectable delicacies served with a smile by Mr. Malak himself! He continues an over 60 year tradition of fine pastry, cake and gelato making established in his homeland of Lebanon.

Originally set to pursue a life in medicine, Malak soon discovered it was not for him. He wanted to help people in a different way, one that made them smile while eating his food. Leaving one career path he set out on another that would take him around his home country as well as France and Italy to study various culinary arts he’d apply at his first pastry shop in Tripoli, Lebanon called “Le Triade”. His skills would not go unrecognized as the shop became one of the most popular in the country.

As it did for many, the war in Lebanon took nearly everything from the Malak family and fearing for the safety of what he had left, his wife and children, the Malaks immigrated to Canada. Of course, he still had his skills and recipes tucked safely inside his head and with the help of his brother he built a 20×20 shed behind their new home and began work once again. He’d get up early, bake and then drive everything he had made that morning downtown and sell the pastries from the trunk of his car. With hard work, dedication and a tasty product he would earn enough money to open a shop again and, 20 years later, Malak’s Pastry (1216 Bank Street) continues to satisfy Ottawa’s sweet tooth.

It continues to be a family business. His wife designs and decorates the cakes and his sons have been part of the business for as long as they can remember recently expanding the shop to include a new cool new treats. With Malak & Sons, the brothers have taken the well crafted tradition and friendly business acumen taught to them by their father and applied it to gelato and sorbet.

“Our dad is very excited about the expansion and his inputs are definitely our greatest asset. His philosophy has always been quality over profit which is one of the reasons our products are so unique,” Issa Malak tells Ottawa Life.

He knows that many places in the city make artisanal gelato and sorbets but he feels none produce the product with the same quality and love that they put into their work.

With over 30 flavors to sample, the brothers say every one of them receives the care and craft that ensures a top quality taste. They also pride themselves on adding a Mediterranean twist from their homeland with unique options like Saffron or Ashta. With such a legacy set by their father, quality is paramount to the two as they grow their new business.

Issa relays how it is important for them to select “the highest quality material and creating hand crafted delicacies without thinking about profits.”

They hand press all the lemons for the lemon sorbet, the gelato is made with 100% real pasteurized milk and they use only natural and fresh organic fruits. You won’t find a single artificial flavor in the mix.

“We’re very health oriented and so our products on average have 30% fewer calories, 60% less fat and 30% less sugar than American ice cream.”

The brother’s will be at this weekend’s Dessertfest with their lemon, mango and strawberry sorbets as well as caramel, cappuccino, chocolate and hazelnut gelato samplings. You can also see them featuring their Ashta and Saffron (one of the world’s most expensive spices) flavors in the unique desert contest. The festival runs from June 9-11 at the Aberdeen Pavilion with tickets available online.

When asked how their father feels seeing his sons take such pride and initiative in continuing the business he brought with him to Canada many years ago, Issa says he couldn’t be more proud.

“Our father is over 70 now. He has worked all his life for his family and friends. He is always giving and never thinking about himself. The fact that we are continuing his legacy makes him so happy. Since we’re expanding this business hopefully soon enough he won’t have to work anymore which is our main goal in this expansion.”

Photos by Andre Gagne