Hot Bread Kitchen Helps Women Build Careers Out of Baking — And You Can Buy Their Delicious Creations Online
Home-baked goods taste so much better when they come with a dash of doing good. In the case of New York-based Hot Bread Kitchen, the bakery’s delicious breads from all around world come with a whole heap of love for the low-income and immigrant women who receive job training through the Kitchen's “Bakers in Training” program. They learn important job skills, such as English as a second language, conflict resolution, baking and pastry techniques, knife skills, and units of measurement, with the ultimate goal of launching careers in the male-dominated food industry. And guess what? It's supported through the sale of their amazing breads.
Hot Bread Kitchen was founded in 2007 by Jessamyn Rodriguez, and by 2015, had trained 82 women from 20 countries. Today, Hot Bread Kitchen has grown out of Rodriguez’s home kitchen and is now located in Harlem’s La Marqueta marketplace. The Hot Bread Kitchen website says they “place 100 percent of their graduates who seek employment in fair wage positions with access to benefits and opportunities for advancement.” The site also says that 85 percent of those graduates are still working after one year, and those graduates see an average pay increase of 77 percent compared to what they made before the program, according to CNN.
Karen Bornarth, the Bakers In Training program director, has seen firsthand this program's ability to change lives. She tells Bustle one of the program's alumnae "was able to move off public benefits [and] save money from every paycheck, which is really huge." Another woman who had graduated from the program had been incarcerated and struggled with sobriety; she has since celebrated a year's anniversary at her job and two years sober, Bornarth says. Graduates of the program go on to work at bakeries all over New York City, making careers in the male-dominated food industry more accessible to low-income women.
How is this work possible? Bakery sales and donations to the program fund their mission. In an interview with Upworthy, Rodriguez explained that the profits from the breads they bake help fund their training programs: "We help women who have skill and passion around the culinary arts become successful in the baking industry… [which results in] a line of multi-ethnic breads that we sell to help pay for a high quality training that includes math, English, and job skills."
Bornarth tells Bustle that customers can come to Hot Bread Kitchen to enjoy breads and pastries from all around the world, including items you won't find anywhere else. You can purchase collections like the New York Bread Box for $48, which contains onion and poppy seed bialys, a chocolate babka, a traditional challah and a loaf of rye, or a three-month bread subscription ($120) for someone you really love. You can also purchase a package of Moroccan m'smen, flatbreads from around the world, and other incredible baked goods you won't find anywhere else. "It's the sales of all our bread that really make our work possible," she says.
Apart from helping women find sustainable work, this training is incredibly valuable because, well, it's helping women break into a male-dominated industry. Though pastry is often referred to as the "pink dungeon," as historically it's been the most accessible area of the kitchen for women, only 7 percent of leading executive chefs are women, according to the Chicago Tribune. In the coming years, "We want to train more and more women and place them in different positions in the culinary industry," Bornarth says, specifying supervising and management positions as the next step. "It's kind of like the final frontier in the culinary industry," she says. In a male-dominated food industry, the team at Hot Bread Kitchen are putting their money where their mouths are by creating equal access to jobs for women — in a uniquely delicious way.