Amanda Saab is not easily defined. You could call her a baker, but for every tantalizing photo she posts of a buttercream-frosted sheet cake or iced cinnamon rolls, there’s a savory entrée executed with the same level of mastery that goes into her sweet treats. On her Instagram page, where Saab, 31, shares recipes from her blog, Amanda’s Plate, with more than 30,000 followers, a serving of creamy tiramisu is posted just behind elote topped with crushed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. She delivered crab cakes that celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay called “magical” on season six of the hit Fox series MasterChef, and stunned judges on Food Network’s Big Time Bake earlier this year with her Caraway and Orange-Spiced Sugar Cookies.
You could also call her an entrepreneur. In 2017, the self-taught baker and chef founded Butter Bear Shop, a pop-up bakery specializing in American pastries with Middle Eastern flavors inspired by her Lebanese heritage. The same year, she garnered attention from media outlets including the Today show for “Dinner With Your Muslim Neighbor,” a dinner series she created to bring people of different religious and cultural backgrounds together for conversation over a hot meal. And in 2018, while Butter Bear settled into a Livonia brick-and-mortar, Saab filmed Chef in Hijab, a video series documenting her journey through Asia to taste “some of the best halal eats in places where they are almost impossible to find.”
You could even call Saab an activist. Where many food bloggers have just recently started to explore the role social justice plays in the food realm, Saab has, since her earliest days of blogging, consistently used her platform to bring awareness to matters of race, culture, gender, and religion. Last year she participated in a bake sale fundraiser for Planned Parenthood of Michigan, and earlier this summer, she joined Baker’s Against Racism, a national bake sale benefitting efforts to end systemic racism.
“It’s my responsibility as an influencer to speak on these issues,” says Saab, who earned a master’s degree in social work from Wayne State University and works full-time as an opportunity manager in the civil rights department for the City of Detroit. “You’re always told to be clear with your messaging to monetize your platform, and I think that’s why people are more hesitant to share certain things. But at the same time, I have this internal dialogue that if brands are going to see my advocacy posts and not want to work with me, I don’t think I want to work with them either. This is just what feels right.” In July, Saab joined The Food and Wellness Equity Collective, a new platform that unites content creators to amplify the voices of women and bloggers of color.
Of all the things she might be called, it was ultimately a name her family members gave her as a child that inspired the name for Butter Bear Shop, which closed its doors in January. “My nickname growing up was ‘Manda Panda Bear,’ and butter makes everything better, so Butter Bear Shop just flowed for me,” she says.
When she eventually opens a new bakery concept, though, Saab says she’ll likely operate under a new business name. She confesses that her haste in choosing a name caused her to overlook the similarity to a fantasy beverage thought up by J.K. Rowling.
“The name was tricky,” she says. “So many people associate it with butterbeer from the Harry Potter series.”