Layla Ali-Ahmad, the founder of Beach City Food Tours, lost her six-year battle with breast cancer on March 19. Although she grew up in Irvine, Layla found true connection in Long Beach, where she moved after college.
“She loved the walkability, the urban feel, the people, and the food scene,” said Samara Ali-Ahmad, Layla’s mom. “It became her home.”
Food was an integral aspect of Layla’s life. She enjoyed watching her grandmother cook Lebanese meals during her childhood and consciously worked to expand her palate in college.
“She loved cooking and trying new things and going out to eat with her friends,” Samara said. “Food was her passion.”
During her 20s, Layla grew disenchanted with engineering work and dreamed of opening a food-based business in Long Beach. On a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, she took a memorable food tour and decided to create one of her own.
Despite a daunting diagnosis of Stage III breast cancer, Layla dove into learning about the industry. She took a workshop in Chicago and sought detailed knowledge from business coaches and experts in the field.
In September 2016, Layla launched Beach City Food Tours in Long Beach. The three-hour interactive experience allowed patrons to experience some of the highlights of downtown dining. From flaming saganaki cheese at George’s Greek Café to pie at the Pie Bar, customers enjoyed strolling and sampling some of Long Beach’s best bites.
The concept proved popular with locals and out-of-town visitors and Yelp was flooded with five-star reviews. In October 2018, Layla expanded her Beach City offerings to include a downtown Cocktail Tour.
Unfortunately, her illness also expanded, with Stage IV cancer metastasizing to her bones and liver.
“Layla loved her business and had incredible strength of character,” Samara said. “Even in her condition, she kept running her business to the last day, working on payroll on her phone.”
“She battled her cancer bravely for six years, never giving up, and had so much more to do for her beloved Long Beach,” said friend and business associate Terri Henry.
In the words of Beach City Tour Guide Cassidy Liston, “she made every aspect of her business about people and that’s what made her successful. People wanted to know Layla and be around her.”
Fellow guide Lisa Mendoza agreed, noting that Layla’s love for Long Beach was reflected in everything she did.
“Anytime we would walk into a restaurant,” Mendoza said, “the chefs and staff would ask about her, send love, and then mention how great she is.”