HOT BREAD KITCHEN

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGES: EVAN SUNG

The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook is the embodiment of the vision Jessamyn had for a United Nations of bread. The stories of the women who have baked for us are richly woven throughout, with recipes for the breads we bake at Hot Bread Kitchen that they've inspired, as well as recipes for foods that women around the world serve with bread.

Allegra Ben-Amotz

Recent diet fads have vilified bread. This is not entirely without reason – most of the bread that we find in the supermarket is "dead" bread: overprocessed and lacking nutrition.

Part of what makes Hot Bread Kitchen so remarkable, however, is that its dynamic breads are alive. Tearing into a loaf of nan-e barbari, a Persian flatbread studded with sesame seeds, I am reminded of just why "to break bread" is the embodiment of connection. HBK's blue corn tortillas and almond-flecked babkas return me to the kitchens of my childhood. This bread is baked for sharing, for celebration, for real nourishment.

But what also makes HBK "living" is that it's an organization committed to feeding consumer and producer alike. Through its relationship with small farmers and its Bakers in Training program, Hot Bread Kitchen nurtures the multiple networks that connect loamy soil to thriving culinary careers and sustainable farms to the preservation of vital recipes.

Hot Bread Kitchen recently published a beautiful cookbook sure to inspire shared suppers with beloved friends. As winter sinks into the East Coast, there's no better time to learn to bake bread. We talked to HBK's Marketing and Events Manager, Allegra Ben-Amotz, about Hot Bread Kitchen's creative vision, delicious recipes, and passion for empowering aspiring bakers and recent immigrants.

 

Loam is about the idea that creativity and sustainability can exist in symbiosis. How does HBK embody this idea?
We produce over 70 different types of bread, many of which are inspired by the women we train. We are constantly adding new multi-ethnic breads to our line - sometimes based on what our retail or wholesale clients (chefs, specialty supermarket buyers, online outlets) are asking for, sometimes based on staff brainstorms or strokes of inspiration, and sometimes based on tasting something one of the women who works or trains at Hot Bread Kitchen bakes at home for her family.

We strive to operate as sustainably as possible, buying local grains, honey, eggs, dairy, vegetables and organic yellow corn. Our products are all made without preservatives, artificial flavors or colors.

At 2pm every day, our retail storefront, Hot Bread Almacen, offers our bread to East Harlem residents and visitors at a "pay what you can" rate, and if any product is left over at the end of the day, it gets donated to local food pantries.

At Hot Bread Kitchen, we sell the bread we bake to pay for the high quality training we offer. The goal, for us as a social enterprise, has always been to operate as a business and to be self sustaining.

What's an average day like at HBK?
Every day at Hot Bread Kitchen, our trainees and staff mix nearly a ton of dough that gets shaped into thousands of loaves of bread, which is delivered to our Greenmarket locations, 30+ restaurant clients, and specialty supermarkets like Whole Foods across the tristate area, or shipped nationally via our ecommerce site.

Every day, we provide one-on-one business support, financial advising and workshops on topics like food safety to members of HBK Incubates, our commercial kitchen incubator for start-up food businesses. 

We rent kitchen space to entrepreneurs making everything from Ghanian salty snacks to healthy kids meals.

We provide three shifts of paid on-the-job training and offer English, bakery math and science, and professional development classes to our Bakers in Training, who are also paid for their time in the classroom.

We host corporate volunteer groups to teach them about social enterprise.
We do a whole lot in a day at Hot Bread Kitchen!

How did the HBK cookbook come into fruition?
Jessamyn knew she wanted to write The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook before even launching the social enterprise.  When she had the idea for Hot Bread, she immediately started drafting the introduction in her head--before she had baked her first loaf of bread.

Soon after, she spoke with a literary agent who advised her to do something before writing about it.  So she grew a really unique kind of bakery, and finally, more than 9 months pregnant with her son and five years into the business, signed with Clarkson Potter. 

The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook is the embodiment of the vision Jessamyn had for a United Nations of bread. The stories of the women who have baked for us are richly woven throughout, with recipes for the breads we bake at Hot Bread Kitchen that they've inspired, as well as recipes for foods that women around the world serve with bread.

 

How can we best support HBK's mission?

The best way to support Hot Bread Kitchen is to purchase our breads or our cookbook in greenmarkets, stores or online at hotbreadkitchen.org/shop, or make a dough-nation at hotbreadkitchen.org/support. Your support allows us to change the lives of more low-income women and men by empowering them to launch culinary careers.