If diehard feminists shudder at the thought of women in the kitchen, they haven’t visited Hot Bread Kitchen in New York City.
HBK is not just a bakery, it is Jessamyn Rodriquez’s innovative idea to help minority and low-income women find a path to supporting themselves and their families. And it’s not surprising that she sees the kitchen as a place of rising expectations because Jessamyn was the first woman hired as a baker at Chef Daniel Boulud’s renowned Manhattan Restaurant, Daniel.
Hot Bread Kitchen is a dual program of learning and entrepreneurship that comprises Project Launch and HBK Incubates.
Project Launch is Hot Bread Kitchen’s artisanal bread bakery that provides an intensive, paid training program for immigrant women who are passionate about food and eager to market their breads. The bakery specializes in producing authentic, multi-ethnic breads, many of which are inspired by these trainees and their home countries. In fact, the preservation of international baking traditions is part of Hot Bread Kitchen’s mission.
Since its inception, Hot Bread Kitchen has trained 45 women from 17 countries in commercial baking and also provided them with classes in English as a Second Language. Jessamyn aptly calls it “the United Nations of Bread.”
HBK Incubates is Hot Bread Kitchen’s newest business development program, designed to help start-up food businesses scale to sustainable enterprises. The program serves ambitious entrepreneurs who are ready to expand and offers them commercial kitchen space at Hot Bread Kitchen’s headquarters in East Harlem. This allows the food entrepreneurs to delay investing in building and equipping their own commercial kitchens while they prove their business concept and build sales.
The program also offers these aspiring entrepreneurs workshops on accounting, marketing, sales and product packaging.
To date, HBK Incubates has supported the growth of 63 small culinary ventures and created more than 30 jobs. And it now is able to offer financial assistance to low income food entrepreneurs wishing to enroll in the incubator program.
The sweet smell of success is already wafting from Hot Bread Kitchen.