Take 5 with... Eli from Mayse Artisan Bakery!
“Kasia… What are we gonna do this Friday?”
”The same as every Friday, Maria… We’re gonna take over the world! I mean, publish a short interview with a cool & conscious change-maker of course…”
This week: Eli from Mayse Artisan Bakery!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from, and what about Hong Kong makes it special and makes you stay?
I was born in Latvia into a family of musicians, but I have lived around the world for almost 12 years now. I have been traveling all over the globe since I was 10 years old. As it is now I consider myself a citizen of the world. Because of my travels and heritage I can’t call myself solely Latvian to be honest as there are many nationalities running in my blood, like Russian, Polish, German and even Mongolian. London played a huge part in my life because I lived there for 7 years. In London I experienced so many ups and downs, learned a lot about myself, and met some amazing people along the way. I am also highly grateful that I got an opportunity to study art in London and got my bachelors degree. I visited Hong Kong 9 years ago for the first time and I fell in love with the place instantly. There was something about it that kept bringing me back. I continued coming here every year to visit my dad and it became harder to go back every time, until one day I just decided to stay for good.
Best decision ever! There is something in the air here, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is very special.
2. What's important to you, and how do these values affect your professional choices?
What’s important to me? Well…. it is a tricky one as there are so many things that are highly important to me, but if I need to break it down and talk about the core of it all I would say family. To me family is so much more than just my direct family, it is also my extended family and friends who I have been through thick and thin with over the years. The people who I trust the most and can always relay on, no matter what the situation. To me, for someone to be considered family there has to be trust, loyalty, honesty and friendship, without it even someone directly related to you can be a total stranger. If we are talking about my professional decisions I try to apply my core values to every person and business I work with. To successfully work with other people outside your close circle there has to be trust between both parties and with trust comes honesty, loyalty and also with time friendships can develop. My professional decisions are always led by the things I believe in and think are right for me, my family and everyone else involved, while at the same time staying true to my values and what is important to me. As a family-run business we each have our own role within the bakery and without one another it just wouldn’t work. I strongly believe that every role is as important as the next and should never be looked over or undervalued. When it comes to baking my dad is the master baker, which is one of the most important roles as without bread there can’t be any bakery, right? At the same time, there are things that I do on a daily basis, which my dad wouldn’t be able to do, like marketing, PR, product research, events and many more including baking desserts and pizzas. The bakery as it is today wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for everyone involved and the skills every person contributes to the daily running of it all. In the end, it all comes down to the fact that if we didn’t have the respect for each other, trust, capability to be totally honest with one another, loyalty and friendship - Mayse would have always been just a crazy idea.
3. Tell us about Mayse - how and why did it start? Maybe you can share with us some thoughts on the average Hong Kong diet?
It all started with a search for healthy, flavour-filled bread. When my father moved to Hong Kong 9 years ago he was on the lookout for bread that his body could tolerate, as he was having severe allergic reactions to the bread here. The bread here is baked using bleached flour, instant yeast and numerous chemicals, which are all extremely bad for your health! It doesn’t fill you up, so you keep over eating and on top of that it has barely any flavour to it. Because of this, when I visited my dad, I always brought some real bread with me, because for a Latvian not to fulfil their daily bread intake is pretty much a disaster on a grand scale. We have many traditions, but bread is a huge part of our culture and diet, it is almost seen as sacred back at home. When I moved to Hong Kong 3,5 years ago I got my dad a book full of bread baking recipes for Christmas, which laid the foundation Mayse. When I look back at it, it was probably the best present I could have gotten my dad considering where that present has lead us to today. We started with dense rye bread, barely anyone in Hong Kong had heard of such a thing, especially in our village. However it quickly grew on people, the demand for the bread was getting higher by the day, which lead us to this crazy idea to open an artisan bakery. No chemicals, 100% plant based and only sourdough is what we decided to go with and that’s how Mayse Artisan Bakery came to be. I think Hong Kong’s healthy living and sustainable market has grown tremendously since I moved here. When I first arrived, there was such little choice when it came to vegan and healthy food - not to mention sustainable living. I have been so excited to see all the progress, new vegan, sustainable and healthy living businesses popping up around Hong Kong in the last 3,5 years! It is amazing to be part of this quickly growing trend and also to contribute in the education of people in Hong Kong about healthy eating, living and sustainability. Hong Kong still has a long way to go, but it is on the right path.
4. Who are your personal heroes?
I spent some time thinking about this one and every time I came back to this question I always came back to the same person… So I think it is only fair that I name them as my hero... who is most definitely my mum! I have always had her as my hero! I remember even back in school when I needed to do essays on people who inspire me, it was always my mum who I wrote about. She is a very strong person, she has always had this determination and willpower no matter what she was facing. She was very open and honest with me when I was a kid and still is to this day. I had all the freedoms I could possibly want, sometimes I thought maybe a bit too much, but then again - I never got in trouble and it made me into the person I am today. Because of all the trust she put into me, I didn’t want to let her down. She has always been so generous towards me, my brother and now my own family, she will never say no to anything. We went through some quite hard times when I was kid, but I never felt like I missed out on anything, she always managed to give me everything I could have possibly wanted. She made sure I never stood out amongst other children, as you know kids can be quite cruel when you are different or come from a struggling background. I also have to mention what a talented musician she is! The way she loves her cello and the music she plays is admirable! She still plays everyday even if it is just for a short little while. I always watched her play with so much passion and love wishing that one day I would find something that I will be as passionate about as she is about her music. So there we go - my mum is and always will be my hero as she has given me the determination and strength to become who I am right now.
5. What other interesting projects are you working on?
I have so many things I want to do, I don’t even know where to start or even find time for it all! I have been trying to import Latvian beer to Hong Kong, because it is as good as our bread is ha ha! And some reed straws…but I decided that it can wait for now. I have been so busy with the bakery and being a mum that I have very little time for anything else at the moment as I think my family and bakery deserves my full attention right now. Even my art is something I have very little time to spend on even though I love to paint so much. I do have a project that I’m working on with my best friend, but it is based in London at the moment. We will soon be launching a company called Basik. Basik is a sustainable clothing company with my paintings printed on them. Each design represents some of the problems our planet is facing, like bees dying out, animal farming, plastic oceans etc. We want to be able to educate people about all that is going on around us, but in a fun and eye catching way. We will also donate a portion of the money from each garment purchased towards various charities, which deal with the problems we are trying to highlight and talk about. So that’s pretty exciting! Also I am planning to open a little art workspace, that people will be able to rent for parties, events and gatherings with cocktails, foodie bits and various themes to choose from. Regards F&B - I want our bread to be more accessible, therefore I am working on expanding our contacts and locations where our bread is sold in HK. Definitely more pizza pop ups coming soon!