Roald Dahl’s masterpiece Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and the subsequent 1971 film based upon it) undoubtedly created some of the most bonkers sweets of all time. Which one of us didn’t grow up wishing we had our very own shop full of everlasting gobstoppers, luminous lollies, lick-able wallpaper and magic chewing gum? So we were delighted to introduce the co-founder of Dubai candy store Fuzziwig’s, Dr Rana Batterjee, to seven-year-old Liel (who has her own sweet shop business plan well mapped out) for a memorable morning of the sort of experimenting even Wonka himself would have approved of.
“This is the menu I designed for my own candy store,” Liel explains to Batterjee, as they make their way to the entrance of Fuzziwig’s, a place that can only be described as a mesmerising space of treat-filled wonder with practically every sweet under the sun to smell, taste, touch, try and bag up to take home with you.
Mum-of-three Batterjee and her co-founder husband, Mazen Omair, are clearly as passionate about the history of confectionery as the sweets themselves and we learned so much about the stories behind some of the world’s most famous brands in just a couple of hours.
Did you know that Tunnock’s caramel wafers were actually a favourite childhood treat of expats growing up in the Middle East decades ago as it was one of the first chocolate bars to be imported into Saudi Arabia in the early 1970s? And that our Arab neighbour still accounts for around half of the company’s exports? Nope? Neither did we! Anyway, we digress (but isn’t it utterly fascinating?).
“My husband has wanted to run a candy store for as long as I can remember,” Batterjee reveals. “And we saw Fuzziwig’s, which is actually a US franchise, as the perfect way to launch this unique, hands-on candy experience here in Dubai. We want our customers to taste everything, to ask questions, to try something new and really enjoy and take their time in our stores.”
Less than ten minutes in, and Liel is being prepped with disposable gloves and a hairnet to slip behind the glass and join Fuzziwig’s chief caramel maker to dip and roll her very first caramel and chocolate-coated apples. And she can hardly contain her excitement.
“Wow!” she exclaims, leaning over the enormous vat of freshly-spun, gooey caramel, producing the sort of dreamy smell you want to bottle, take home with you and pipe around the house.
“She’s so precise, she doesn’t rush, she’s really very good,” Batterjee observes, as we watch Liel carefully dip the first apple into the hot caramel sauce, lay it out onto the greaseproof paper and layer with colourful sprinkles. She’s keen to have a go with the melted milk chocolate next (our mouths are well and truly watering by this stage) and rolls this one in mini M&Ms. Fine work.
Next up, it’s the FuzziSundae station, where Batterjee helps Liel select some goodies from the dazzling pick ’n’ mix display to add to ice cream made with Fuzziwig’s own secret recipe. Liel tops her sundae with lashings of caramel sauce and then asks everyone to give it a try. It’s gorgeous!
“Liel is honesty so serious about owning her own sweet shop,” her mum, Lavita, explains. “She has already designed how it will look inside, put together her menu and is even determined to stock healthy treats made with wholesome ingredients. It’s all her own imagination so this is an absolute dream come true for her.”
Before we wrap up the mentoring session, Batterjee asks Liel if she’s serious about her dream. “Yes, of course!” Liel replies, clutching her almost-melting FuzziSundae.
“Okay then, keep in touch,” Banajee replies. “I think we might have our first Dubai franchisee right here!” she laughs, as Liel waves goodbye with her prized intellectual property (the candy store menu), an impressive sugar haul and a whole load of new ideas for her future business venture.