Name: Jaleesa Al Kassem
Where do you live? Bloomfield, NJ — Brookside.
When did you move there? September 2016. We had just bought our first house one month before our wedding. ☺
Where did you grow up? Spanish Harlem (NYC). Born and raised.
How do you make a living? OR What is your everyday passion?
I am a pastry chef by trade, currently specializing in cake decorating for special occasion cakes at Sweet Memories by Jaleesa, or SMJ Cakes. About 3 years ago I discovered that teaching is a new love and passion of mine. I have started to provide public and private classes, both online and in-person. (When outside becomes legal again!)
Right now I’m working together with other local bakeries to offer a Quarantine Sweet Box which helps local businesses and makes sure to keep things sweet at home.
Coffee, tea or … ?
Coffee, but only in the morning! However, I drink tea all throughout the day. I can never resist a good chai tea latte or green tea latte.
What’s your idea of a perfect weekend day?
My husband and I are both pastry chefs, and because of that we rarely spend full days together or even meals, except for Sunday. Sunday mornings became my favorite because it was the only day we were all together for a hot delicious breakfast. We either made authentic pain perdue, waffles, or pancakes with bacon and sometimes eggs. Our son loves our Sunday breakfasts. A perfect weekend would be an extension of that Sunday, because after breakfast my husband usually has to go to work for the rest of the day. After the breakfast we would get dressed and try a new local coffee shop, maybe go to the park for our son or a trip to the mall to look at the stores. Then we would come home, watch a movie, and eat a light homecooked dinner.
What’s your favorite local restaurant?
Cuban Pete’s and La Gringa tacos. I love the Bahama Coconut Fish at Cuban Pete’s and the Shrimp Tostadas or Fried Cod Tacos with horchata at La Gringa.
What’s on your nightstand?
A framed picture of me holding my niece when she was a few months old, a box of Kleenex, and a glass of water.
What are you listening to?
Anything besides country music, haha. I’m a R&B kind of girl.
What are your current indulgences?
Oh, man. I recently tried cookie butter from Trader Joe’s, but the crunchy one, omg. That, and my obsession with soft warm pretzels and cheddar popcorn.
What talent you would most like to have?
This was really hard to think of. But I narrowed it down to being able to sing.
What’s the worst-kept (or best-kept!) secret about the area?
In Clifton, Barry’s Bagels. It reminds me of my New York bagels! I usually get egg salad on an un-toasted everything bagel
Growing up on the west side of Harlem there was a very tiny Jamaican spot on 145th street that sold beef patties with coco bread. It was so small; you could most certainly miss it walking by. There wasn’t even space for a seat. It was really narrow to walk in, maybe it could hold five people standing up, and that was it. They had the BEST beef patties, sometimes I would order a few with cheese. I’m a pescatarian now, but back then I was also so surprised that there was never a line out the door. I used to go every weekend in high school.
What do you hope they say about you at your funeral?
I hope at my funeral they will say I was a good mom and someone who was always there for her friends and family. Someone who supported them and installed strength with a huge heart. That my love and passion will always remain.