Hot Bread Kitchen Bakes with Soul & Trains Women for Life
photo: Jennifer May

Hot Bread Kitchen Bakes with Soul & Trains Women for Life

Katy Morris

Jessamyn Rodriguez and the community of bakers at East Harlem based Hot Bread Kitchen have given a whole new meaning to the phrase “breaking bread.”

The bakery is a unique non-profit social enterprise – one that unites cultures, bakes breadwinners and forges a delicious path to success for low-income, foreign-born women. And for conscious consumers who value the stories behind our food, their culturally rich breads are soulfully satisfying. 

challah baking at Hot Bread Kitchen
Challah baking; Photo: Jennifer May

Since 2008, Hot Bread Kitchen has not only brought fresh ethnic breads to the NYC food scene, they’ve created a strong and supportive pipeline of culinary entrepreneurs through their Bakers in Training and HBK Incubates programs, creating an unrivaled trifecta that is changing the face of the food industry in the most delicious and meaningful ways.

Their communal incubator for striving culinary entrepreneurs (including our favorite booze-infused ice cream maker, Tipsy Scoop, who graduated this spring!) offers minorities the opportunity to grow an idea to an enterprise. We’ll definitely keep an eye on these emerging artisanal ethnic food businesses and keep you in the loop.

Hot Bread Kitchen founder Jessamyn Rodriguez
Jessamyn Rodriguez; photo: Jennifer May

Ms. Rodriguez, a banker turned baker and avid social rights activist, attributes her love of baking, as well as her powerful commitment to social justice, to her Jewish family roots. Her great-grandfather ran a bakery in Toronto and she recalls kneading and braiding challah with her mother (a teacher and Civil Rights Movement activist) every Friday, a symbolic pre-Shabbat ritual that helped seed the inspiration for Hot Bread Kitchen.

Jessamyn Rodriguez; photo: Evan Sung

After spending years specializing in immigration policy with the UN and learning about the vast problems faced by immigrant communities today, she gave into her entrepreneurial craving and launched Hot Bread Kitchen out of her Brooklyn apartment in 2008.

Today, business is booming and breads are baking in their new space, Almacen at La Marqueta, a city-owned public marketplace that pays homage to the building’s rich cultural history and now serves as a type of UN of the baking world.

The variety of breads on offer (over 75!) mirror the ethnic diversity of the HBK team, They include Moroccan M’smen Flatbread, Nixtimal Corn Tortillas, Persian Nan-e Qandi, Armenian Kosher Salt Lavash Crackers, Challah and a multitude of others, all made with simple, locally sourced ingredients and infused with a powerful peek into the people and places that handcraft them.

Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook
Photo: Jennifer May

These family-cherished heirloom recipes, illuminating photos and intriguing profiles culminate in The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking From Around the World. 

The introduction is the perfect hook, “The secret sauce at Hot Bread Kitchen,” Rodriguez writes, “is that the very women we train inspire the artisan breads we bake every day.” We love how she pairs the breads with complementary recipes, like the best Rueben sandwiches for their New Yorker Rye and traditional kreplach to use in classic Jewish-style chicken soup. She also weaves in stories of her Jewish heritage with recipes like matzo and gefilte fish, inspired by her Polish great-grandmother.

Bialys; photo: Jennifer May

With spring in full bloom, it’s the perfect time to visit Hot Bread Kitchen at NYC Greenmarkets if you’re in the area (check out the schedule here) or head over to HBK Almacen in Spanish Harlem (link below). You can also stop by their website to buy products directly (yes, they ship nationwide) or find a store near you in Connecticut or New York. 

Check back with us later this week to get HBK’s delectable mini cheddar cheese bialys recipe, just in time for Shavuot!

Hot Bread Kitchen Almacen

Store Hours: Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm; closed Saturday and Sunday
Location: La Marqueta, 1590 Park Avenue (at East 115th Street)
Subway Directions: The 6 train to the 116th Street stop
Phone: 212.369.3331

Note: Hot Bread Kitchen is not a kosher bakery.  Their cookbook is mostly kosher and their challah is dairy-free.

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