Located in Louisville, Kentucky, Najla’s is a specialty food company focusing on hand-crafted pastries, cookies, muffins, snack foods, savory protein bowls, breakfast wraps & sandwiches and serves local and regional coffee cafes, restaurants and specialty food stores nationwide. Najla’s is a USDA/FDA/Kentucky Department of Agriculture certificated facility, comprised of 17 talented bakers and artisans.
The foundation of Najla’s love of food was laid long ago as she gathered around the table with her huge extended family, for a huge Lebanese meal after church every Sunday. After lunch, Najla, her sisters and her cousins would wander out to Baba’s garden in search of fresh quince or Italian plums, and her passion for nutrition took root.
Food was always treated with respect in her family. Najla (who shares her grandmother’s name) and her sisters would learn how to preserve and cook the traditional Lebanese dishes with their Nana. While rolling grape leaves filled with rice and lamb, around her huge kitchen table, Nana would talk to her grandchildren about the old country, growing up in the Depression and the importance of simple preparations, conserving food and how everything can be fixed around the dinner table. Food and family were sacred.
Najla’s traditions were truly nurtured at home with her mom and four sisters. Her Mom and Dad cooked everything from scratch and taught everyone how to cook and bake. Najla’s mom was so calm despite having 5 girls running around the kitchen. Najla learned to bake side by side with her Mom when she was really little. She catered her first party when she was just 14!
In 1986 she graduated from Binghamton University in upstate New York. She had planned on becoming a doctor like her father, but she followed her heart instead. In the spring of 1987, at the age of 22, she opened White Pillars Inn bed and breakfast in the Catskills. The White Pillars Inn was where Najla really fell in love with all aspects of hospitality. Helping people feel at home was her calling. She opened a restaurant at the Inn the following year. Guests would inquire about her doing events for them and her catering business was formed a year later.
Najla married in 1994, sold the Inn and moved back to Binghamton to do catering full-time. Her infamous bottomless cookie jar at the Inn was the inspiration for her first product line – frozen cookie dough you can bake at home. Wegmans was her first customer. She started Najla’s Cookies, and promptly started winning awards and receiving national acclaim. Her products have been featured in Food & Wine, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, and on Good Morning America. She has also won multiple awards from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade and the National Association of Women Business Owners.
In 2006, Najla and her husband relocated to Louisville, Kentucky for a new opportunity. Najla’s Cookies has prospered in Louisville, and now her products are featured in markets and coffee houses around the region. She has also maintained a national footprint, and her cookies are shipped to gourmet stores and customers nationwide. As her Louisville business boomed, Najla expanded her product line beyond just cookies and Najla’s Cookies evolved into Najla’s Specialty Foods.
Now Najla and her team of 17 talented bakers and artisans create more than 1,000 hand-crafted items daily. In 2018, the company became a USDA and FDA certified facility which led to growth of a popular savory line including breakfast wraps and protein bowls. Even though there have been new additions, Najla’s cookies continue to be a foundation of her business.
Throughout her successes, Najla has always been dedicated to nourishing the body as well as the soul, and she has held tight to her values of human life over shelf life. She may not be the same girl wandering through the garden, but she is still always seeking something fresh and new to make her food spectacular.