Utah is known for its beautiful mountain ranges, and well, mostly for being a conservative state. When it comes to cuisine, Utah doesn’t boast of a diversity matching that of New York or California, yet one delicious delicacy has managed to win the hearts and stomachs of locals and tourists alike – baklava.
Though baklava may hail from Greece, it has become an indispensable part of Utah’s food culture. And one non-Greek black woman, Rita Magalde, has built a thriving baklava business in Utah that has won over the locals and even impressed well-known chefs throughout the country.
As an black woman from the South, people are often curious how a non-Greek woman of color built a thriving national baklava business based out of Utah of all places. The answer to this well-founded question will most likely surprise you.
In the middle of the 2003 holiday season, with a young son and another baby coming any minute, Sherrita “Rita” Magalde’s husband told her what he wanted for Christmas: a divorce. The next several months took her through the depths of despair. As rough as it was, when she finally emerged, she knew what she had to do—pull herself together, take responsibility for her part in a marriage that didn’t work, and forgive both her ex-husband and herself.
As Rita worked on herself, she posed a question to herself, “What can I offer the world that no one else can?” As she contemplated this question, she thought of her passions, which included cooking, traveling, foreign cultures, entrepreneurship, and, of course, her first love…baking. Rita has been passionate about baking, and her obsession with perfecting the art of making baklava started while working at a Greek-owned restaurant in high school and college.
She fell in love with the flaky layers of phyllo, the rich syrup, and the nutty filling that melted in her mouth. She instantly knew she had to make the same as the taste was nothing like she had ever had before. As those memories came flooding back, she realized…instead of focusing on the loss of her marriage, she needed to reinvent herself by following her decades-long passion of bringing joy and delight to people with the sweet taste of baklava. Hence, the birth of Sheer Ambrosia.
Rita began with the Traditional Honey Walnut and later experimenting with various recipes and techniques, taking inspiration from Greek style baklava. It didn’t take long to get the right mix of flavors and proportions for her unique recipe. She spent countless hours perfecting her craft, working in a kitchen by herself, building her expertise and business. Her dedication to her craft eventually paid off, and she became the go-to person for authentic baklava in the region.
As her business took off, Rita knew it was time to expand. She took on staff and trained them in operations. She began supplying her baklava to local Crown Burgers chains and stores around the state, and her business went from strength to strength.
Beginning May 27th, you’ll be able to catch her and the Sheer Ambrosia team at the Ogden Farmers Market where hundreds of people shop for some of the best in goods.
To learn more about Sheer Ambrosia or to order, go to https://sheerambrosiabakery.com