How many types of bread do you eat? There are hundreds of cultures in New York City, and there are breads made every day inspired by each of them. Often, the culture behind the bread is almost as important as eating the bread itself.
So Hot Bread Kitchen, incorporated in 2008 and located at 115th Street and Park Avenue in Harlem, is not just about making bread, it’s about empowering women, immigrants and minorities and giving them the opportunity to work in the specialty foods industry. CEO Jessamyn Rodriguez says that the different breads they make are inspired by the different countries from which the people who work there come. She said Hot Bread Kitchen seeks to “bread-ucate” the city.
Rodriguez, who baked professionally before starting Hot Bread Kitchen, said starting the business allowed her to combine her passions for women’s rights, immigration and, of course, food.
Currently, she said, her favorite bread is the “whole wheat challah–but they’re all good.”
Hot Bread Kitchen does so much more than bake bread. They have a large industrial kitchen space that can hold up to seven small food businesses at one time. The space is used by food entrepreneurs who are ready to start their own businesses, a part of the incubator program. The kitchen is open 24 hours to allow the businesses to operate at the times that are most convenient for them.
Hot Bread Kitchen originated in an incubator kitchen itself, in Long Island City, then moved out to its own facility at La Marqueta. “We are ourselves graduates of an incubator,” said Rodriguez.
The mission of the HBK Incubates program was explained as “to support the growth and sustainability of startup food businesses in New York City.” This is made possible by “offering commercial kitchen rental at sliding scale rates in addition to small business support. HBK Incubates strives to make business ownership more accessible to all New Yorkers; with this in mind, we strongly encourage women, minority or low-income food entrepreneurs to apply.”
The space is a very warm environment, and all of the different entrepreneurs each have different products. Community Liaison Beatrice Mieses-Hernandez said, “We have a lot of information, we share it with them and they share it with each other.” Mieses-Hernandez said that the main geographic focus of the company is Harlem, and that they are hope to further expand the already vast food culture of the neighborhood.
On top of all this, Hot Bread Kitchen is debuting a new program in the next few months called Low Income Food Entrepreneurs (LIFE), which will be part of the incubator program. LIFE “lowers the barriers to success for low-income food businesses. This program eliminates the startup costs of incorporation, insurance and licensing, which are necessary to sell food legally in New York City,” Mieses-Hernandez said.
Members of LIFE will be able to participate in English classes and business development workshops, among other things. Mieses-Hernandez said they are looking for “people that are ready to grow, people that already selling,” to join the program. Those interested should contact Mieses-Hernandez at (212) 369-3331. Space is limited.
As Hot Bread Kitchen continues to grow, Rodriguez says they are looking to expand to other cities. Rodriguez also shared that Hot Bread Kitchen is opening a retail store in La Marqueta, where they will sell the products made by their bakers and different businesses in the incubator program. It is set to open in late July.