Wholesale, Retail and Incubator Space
Hot Bread Kitchen
Food Start Up Help recently visited Hot Bread Kitchen, and met with Molly Crossin (Communications & Development Director) and CBO (Chief Bread Officer) Ben Hershberger for a tour. Hot Bread Kitchen is located in Spanish Harlem’s historic La Marqueta at 115th Street and Park Avenue, and is open Monday – Saturday 8 am – 6 pm. Visit their website, www.hotbreadkitchen.org to learn more about their artisan products, on-the-job training programs, and community events.
Kathryn: Hi Ben, I haven’t seen you since you were at Per Se. And now you’re here, in Hot Bread Kitchen! Molly, it’s nice to meet you! Can you tell us about Hot Bread Kitchen?
Molly: Our mission is to increase economic security for foreign born and low income people. We work with the community through: on-the-job training programs to work with our bakers and produce wholesale/retail breads, and also offer an incubator commercial kitchen space available for lease by entrepreneurs.
Kathryn: Ben, what are the differences from working in a traditional production kitchen and here, where you do production but also are a training program at the same time?
Ben: It’s challenging, but I love it. In the outside world, I had complete control over who was hired, and fired. Here, we work with people to figure out how we can train them for future, outside jobs. I figure out who’s best suited for what tasks. For instance, some people are excellent at shaping breads while others are really good at the actual baking of the product.
Jessie: I see that you have some great training/kitchen organization materials here for the trainees. How long do the trainees work, here at Hot Bread Kitchen?
Molly: There is no typical length of time. For some it’s a year, for others many years.
Kathryn: And besides the production facility, you also have a classroom. You have lots of great bread books here!
Molly: We do counseling, and English-language classes. It’s very one-on-one with each of our trainees. Someone is having a review right now, in fact.
Jeff: How often do you take on new trainees?
Ben: I’m evaluating one today. She’s working in the shaping room, and just came to me through our application process. So far, she’s picking it up well. I have to look at how someone “fits into the team,” and how quickly they can pick up a particular skill to determine if they are a good fit.
Right now, they are all shaping bialys.
Kathryn: I see spiral mixers, proofer/retarders and other bread making equipment I recognize, but I don’t recognize all the equipment! Can you tell us what’s new in the kitchen?
Ben: This is our tortilla production line. We just got a machine for the corn nixtamalization – which is the process to treat corn with lime to increase its nutritional content.
Jeff: Where do you source your ingredients?
Ben: We try to work with organic and local ingredients when I can. I am getting some of my corn and flours from western NY State. It’s good: the bakers learn how to interact with the dough and evaluate the hydration, because the flours vary between deliveries. They learn more that way, which is useful when they get outside jobs.
Jessie: Molly, can you tell us about the incubator kitchen facility?
Molly: We work with up to 50 clients at a time here, and offer incubator client workshops to help support them. The application process and rates is outlined on our website, www.hotbreadkitchen.org. In addition, we lease to a certain number of commercial clients; they have to be “up and running” before they can apply here, with a developed product and a bit of a customer base.
You can also take a virtual tour of the facility on the website.