Kamal the Inventor is at it again.
Kamal Grant, the Atlanta entrepreneur and owner of Sublime Doughnuts, has hatched a new project that is certain to redefine the bakery experience for consumers.
Convenient and colorful packages of Magic Middles are now selling online direct to consumers. Sold under the Kamal’s Kitchen brand, these delicious chocolate-filled shortbread cookies come individually wrapped in a 9-count package.
“I thought about, how can I jump into this world? It’s hard to launch new products,” said Grant, recalling how America’s love for nostalgia helped drive his decision.
Grant, himself, loved Keebler brand Magic Middles cookies as a young person in the early 1990s. Buzzfeed once called the cookie a top treat of the ‘90s, and there are still websites devoted to the cause of bringing back Magic Middles.
Then Grant discovered something that opened the door for the entire project. Keebler had discontinued the Magic Middles brand. Grant went through the arduous process of filing a trademark on the Magic Middles name. Thus, Magic Middles under the Kamal’s Kitchen brand was born.
Now he had to figure out the best avenues to sell them.
“I’ve set up an online store, direct to consumer. People can buy it on Amazon,” said Grant, who continues to sell his famous donuts at two Sublime Doughnuts stores in Atlanta and two kiosks inside Mercedes Benz stadium.
Earlier, Grant, an accomplished U.S. Navy veteran and pastry chef from Atlanta, announced an exciting crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to support the relaunch of his delicious brand of cookies, Magic Middles.
“My name is Kamal Grant and I'm a pastry chef, a Navy veteran, a business owner, and a lover of sweet treats and nostalgic snacks. And my current business venture is to bring back one of my favorite snacks from my childhood... Magic Middles.
“Magic Middles is a nostalgic snack that I first fell in love with when my Grandmother first made a version of them for me as a kid. It's a shortbread cookie filled with ooey-gooey chocolatey goodness in the center that was so memorable. As I grew older, I found them made by Keebler on store shelves, but then they were discontinued. As a pastry chef and entrepreneur, I've made it my mission to bring this nostalgic snack back. I didn't know when and I didn't know how, but I knew one day I'd fulfill the mission at hand and get those delicious cookies back in hand. And to everyone's delight, the time is now!
“I successfully bought the trademark and own the rights to Magic Middles and am happy to say that I've partnered with a manufacturing company, I've updated the recipe, and they are in production and on their way back to delight our tastebuds and satisfy those sweet cravings.”
Grant set up a website to support the new product and offer online sales, in addition to other avenues. The product is selling online now. He is open to other possibilities for selling these innovative cookies.
“Cookies really have a renaissance right now,” he said. “This is a cookie I always loved as a kid.”
One of the reasons he discovered it had been discontinued was that Magic Middles had required a challenging production process.
Diving down into his baking science knowledge, he discovered the manufacturing process of the cookie involved a coextrusion process; the filling goes inside prebake. Not a lot of cookie plants perform this process, Grant said.
Ultimately, he worked hard to find a cookie manufacturer that could meet these specific needs.
“Now I am ready to bring them back and let people know,” Grant said earlier this year. “I think they taste just as good and maybe better.”
Looking ahead, the idea is that the tasty cookie shell can serve as a vessel for any number of flavors beyond the original “chocolatey” filling.
“I can venture out and get into fun fillings,” he says. “Nostalgia is really big.”
The making of an inventor
As the creative mind behind Sublime Brands’ distinctive doughnut and bakeshop concept, Grant demonstrates a love for baking and bringing smiles to customers’ faces that can only be described as awe-inspiring. “I realized at a very young age that sweets make people happy, and that’s what I wanted to do with my life,” recalls Grant.
When an executive from Dunkin Donuts visited Grant’s high school foodservice class and discussed his trips to the doughnut research and development lab to taste the experimental treats, it sounded pretty sweet. After graduating, Grant joined the Navy and used his enlistment as an opportunity to pursue his dream of becoming a world-class baker. Serving as a baker among the E4 – 3rd Class Petty Officers on the USS John Young, Grant’s cinnamon rolls quickly gained the praise of his shipmates.
In addition to an opportunity to bake, his travels with the Navy also exposed him to international culinary treats and exotic flavor and texture combinations. Singapore’s ice cream sandwiches made with multi-colored bread and sweet red bean soup, Australia’s malt chocolate beverages and Dubai’s shawarma and rosewater forever changed Grant’s approach to baking. “While traveling around the world in the Navy, I learned that pastries weren’t just about baking; they also represented culinary art,” says Grant.
Through his travels, Grant learned how to listen to what people liked or disliked and made sure to incorporate those learnings into his formulas.
The Navy not only gave Grant an opportunity to bake (and on a large scale), but his travels around the world exposed him to international culinary treats that combined flavors and textures that he had not been accustomed to in the U.S.
“While overseas, I experienced a lot of different cultures and learned new techniques. I realized it’s not just about the flavors, it’s about textures and other elements that make a baked treat memorable. My international travels with the Navy taught me how to be a good baker and pastry chef and inspired many of my recipes today by allowing me to better understand different aspects of what made products good,” Grant says.
His time in the U.S. Navy has influenced how he runs his business today.
“For example, when we were in Singapore, we watched local bakers make ice cream sandwiches using bread instead of cookies like we do in America. That gave me the idea for our doughnut ice cream sandwiches at Sublime Doughnuts. I realized using sweet bread, like doughnuts, for ice cream sandwiches is just as delicious while also being something new for our customers to experience.”
This newfound artistic appreciation led him to enroll in the Culinary Institute of America, where he focused on high-end desserts, plate presentation, classical techniques and the flavors and textures of award-winning chefs. During his time at the Institute, Grant interned with renowned pastry chef Keegan Gerhard at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. Upon graduating, he refined his skills at the American Institute of Baking, where he focused on the science behind baking. Grant put these skills to use at his first job as a supervisor at the Flowers Baking Company, learning the value of “high volume, high quality” production.
Before long, Grant’s desire to create (and a fortuitous errand to purchase doughnuts) led him to notice a rental sign for an empty shop in Atlanta that would soon become his culinary vision, known since 2008 as Sublime Doughnuts.
“At Sublime, we present flavors and textures from around the world on a doughnut canvas,” he says with a smile.
In 2008, a quick stop to purchase doughnuts one day in Atlanta led him to notice a for-lease sign for an empty shop. Grant knew it was his time to act, and not long after he opened Sublime Doughnuts. Over a decade later, Grant’s business has flourished into one of the most inventive doughnut shops in the country and one that can be credited with leading the gourmet doughnut trend that is currently sweeping the nation.
Grant offers advice for his fellow veterans who are looking to rejoin civilian life and even start their own businesses.
“If you’re a veteran looking to start a business, or any aspiring entrepreneur, my advice is to just do it. Don’t hesitate – go out there and put a business plan together. Once you have a solid business plan in place and you’re on the right track, start looking into business loans and working with your bank,” Grants says.