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Jessamyn Rodriguez


I'm Jessica Harris. This is from scratch. My guest is Jessica. Chessmen Rodriguez the founder of hot bread kitchen. An organization that teaches immigrant women to bake the artisanal breads from their home country. Pop Red Kitchens ends. Ethnic breads are available at farmer's markets throughout New York City and at select grocery stores such as whole foods and dean deluca prior to hot bread. Kitchen Justin men held a range of jobs such as working on immigration issues that the UN and helping to launch a New York City Public School. She was also the first woman to be hired. As Baker Acre for chef Daniel deludes three star Michelin Restaurant Daniel Jesmyn launch hopper at kitchen from her apartment in Brooklyn. Welcome thank you so much for having me if I were to walk into hybrid kitchens bakery. Today what would I see. It is truly a hive of activity. You were in this really quirky Building underneath the Metro North tracks added one hundred fifteen th and park in Manhattan. It was ten thousand square feet of public market space. Space that We built out into a bakery an incubator so the first thing you'll notice when you walk into heartbreak kitchen is just thousands of pounds of dough being processed into hollows into an salmon into be all is into Persian. Brad's until all of these brides any Any time of day except for maybe three thirty. AM in the morning. There's bread on the table and women around the table making bread bread and baking bread. I often am so curious when I walk into a bakery anywhere in the city and I see these beautiful tarts send croissants syn cookies. I'm wondering who and where are they. Baking this your one example of where it's happening. It's a great question and you know what I would. I would say the question to wear their baking it. Unfortunately fewer and fewer of them are getting baked in the city. The price of real estate has has has left most bakeries kind of moving to New Jersey and moving out of the city And people are having to to really travel for those jobs so one of the. I think the real innovations of what we're doing is moving into a community with high density population and helping and high unemployment rate and helping to create a lot lot of jobs in that area. What are these women doing? Prior to getting trained by YOU NANCY MENDEZ was selling. DVD's in the subways before she came to heartbreak catch on live. Vanessa came with her husband. WHO's a manager at Burger King from Bangladesh and. Her story is really the interesting because when she came for her interview Her husband came with her and she didn't didn't really let her speak for herself and her English English was so limited that she didn't feel confident enough to speak and Nahla Finesse as one of the managers in the kitchen. Could you talk briefly about Your Post Program placement. The jobs that women get after range from bakeries in New York City to starting their own businesses to training outcomes the first is that women Start their own food businesses so A woman that we hired about two years ago named Fanny and she came in and learned how to bake once she was the bakery training program. We realized that she had been running a catering company out of her home kitchen so she was out of her home kitchen. Catering you know one hundred percent Ecuadorian and weddings and we Helped her formalize her catering business and she graduated to become A member of our incubator kitchen l'amour typical harass is seeking good management track positions in bakeries and food manufacturing facilities around the around the city. We have placed bakers at whole foods. We've placed bakers that means on Kaiser Danielle we placed bakers at other smaller caller bakeries. That people might not recognize it a little bit off the off the radar. Hot Bread kitchen is a a culmination of experiences that you had had and you had the seed for this idea kind of in your back pocket for almost a decade. What are some events that influenced your your starting each bouquet for instance? You lived in Guatemala where you would go every day with a a mother to a corn mill. Yeah it's it's it's funny so I spent some time when I was in college doing development work in Guatemala City was years later that I remember this experience but I was living with a family for a number of weeks only but I was fascinated by the process of soaking corn and grinding corn. So the the woman who was the mother of the house where I was living made fresh corn tortillas that were just tremendously delicious and we we every morning we would take the soaked corn and go to a community immunity Molino which is where they grind corn and bring home the fresh Masa we would make tortillas and you know at that point I would have never thought that it would end up running a Tortilla company ten years later but it somehow is like life. Experience that I- cataloged for this later entrepreneurial iteration nation you also interviewed at an organization called women world banking which also kind of Influenced this this endeavor. How so the the real idea for our kitchen? The real kernel of the idea for hopper kitchen came early on in my professional career. When I have just recently graduated from college I interviewed for a job in in New York City for women's world banking which is a phenomenal microfinance? Dance Institution And I didn't get that executive assistant job and but I told someone about and he heard women's world baking and for me that was vodka tive of kind of this this of an immigrant women's baking collective and I still have notes from back then and I. You know my early twenties self. I stood of started to think about what it would mean and got quickly intimidated and realized I didn't have what it would take to pull it off started this other career but kind of just I kept pulling experiences together and then In two thousand and six learnt how to bake it seems while you still had this thread of immigration in an interest in food you also had a strong social mission In your in your pursuits you worked at New York City Public School. You helped to launch one. Did you feel like you were kind of fumbling through your twenties or was it more of a very mindful adventure that you were on. We're somewhere in between. I ended up in graduate school and that felt very intentional. My degree is very specific. I really focused on immigration policy and I thought that I wanted to get got a job doing immigration policy and then the point of graduation I was like Oh God what does that mean and I just was not interested. Interesting are motivated to do that kind of work. which is when I made the switch into public education So I got involved in the school start up and I did that for four years so so while you were working at the Public School You clone yourself and also You got a master Baker certificate at the new school. When when did you decide to do that so I did that? In two thousand and six somebody said to me you know I had been talking about this idea for women's world baking for a long time and she said well you're not an immigration right and you're not a and you're not a Baker's why how. What do you have that you bring to this project so maybe realize I would need to learn how to bake and then the real I think game game changer in the trajectory of hybrid kitchen is that I landed this apprenticeship and the bakery or restaurant Danielle and my my first day at work I think it was really really telling because I loved being in the bakery? How did you land that apprenticeship which ultimately translated into a fulltime job where you were the first women hired in the bakery? My my boyfriend now husband my boyfriend. At the time. WHO's now my husband had been had worked in the front of House in Wine Service at Danielle and he introduced me to mark Fiorentino? Who is a benevolent wonderful human? Being who took pity on my week baking skills and and took me under his wing and taught me at that appoint everything I knew about baking and at what point during that that job. Were you feeling I'd like to go ahead and start this hybrid kitchen. Listen I only learned how to big start hopper kitchen. You seem very self directed and self starting. What were you like as a as a child? I know it's it's open ended by You know do you do you. Do you think that way about yourself. I don't think I have ever responded well to a lot of authority I think I. I think that that's been a threat to my life now. I have a three year old. And she's exactly the same way Now you wish you responded better to exactly exactly. You're from Canada from Canada. What did your parents do? My my parents were both educators. So father was a teacher. My mother's a professor. I think it home home. I knew that I had to follow rules. And they were supportive of creativity. And I understood that I have certain independent spirit. I started traveling. Relatively young young then in college spent time traveling alone through South America. Just kind of exploring Because I didn't find that university in university was necessarily worthwhile. Your grandmother Played an important role in what you're doing now kind of indirectly. How so yeah I attribute a lot of the personality piece to have very my my my paternal grandmother who factors very strongly in my life. You does. She lived close by when I was growing up in Toronto in Toronto And she was widowed in her thirty s and then became an insurance broker in the fifty s was very clear about what she wanted for her granddaughter and I was I was the only granddaughter and so she put you know I I think I took oh signals and translated into a certain kind of independence. Lettuce she make this. When I launched Hubbard kitchen all she could say was why you have a graduate graduate degree from Columbia? And you're gonNA open a bakery is like completely unfathomable to her and then in two thousand nine. We got a feature and food and wine magazine which was like this glorious Laureus piece about what we do and that was the first moment worship acknowledged that maybe this is a good idea. I'm just like a harass. You're listening sending two from scratch. My guest is just men. Rodriguez the founder of hot bread kitchen. A New York City based organization that focuses on utilizing the bread making skills that immigrant grant women have brought with them from their country of origin hybrid. Kitchens ethnic breads are available at some of the city's leading restaurants including Danny Meyer's gramercy tavern born and the restaurant at the Moma the Museum of Modern Art the women in the hopper kitchen program learn management English and other skills that they can carry with them to jobs upset larger bakeries or entrepreneurial baking ventures of their own. so you decide to leave Danielle and mark new your your intention from the inception. That's why who market took me into the program. Because he knew how hard it was to find good bakers and I was so he was really motivated to train me so that he could get this pipeline of well trained bakers it. was you know he's been Evelyn. But it was a little self serving and you started hyper opry kitchen out of your Brooklyn apartment. We much to my roommate's Chagrin that apartment smell a smell like good. Brad Spelt Lake Tortillas he is I am bread but also wet tents cause I was selling farmers markets at that point so I remember storing my tense in the living room and The the roommates were really accommodating eminating and at what point did this become more institutional I moved out of the House. Pretty quickly Initially I baked actually a few shifts from bread for sale out of the bakery at Danielle but then we moved into a shared commercial kitchen in queens and You know early on. They were the slog years. I've baked overnight overnight and then would sell all day in farmers markets and do my own delivery to wholesale accounts it's like a typical small bootstrap startup story. The Game Changer came with some of the early philanthropic supporters that came on that gave us the initial boost that we needed to continue simultaneous with baking. Twenty four seven. Were you grant writing or did you have random introductions to people no I was grant writing my mom helped me write some of the early grants For a while still kept consulting on the side to pay the rent and then in two thousand and eight I got A competitive additive fellowship for social entrepreneurs which allowed me to quit my day job And but yes. The hard part about it was is that I was doing the kind of intellectual work I was doing the business planning I was doing the grant writing. I was doing all of those things while also like baking bread and grinding corn and You know hiring and managing people who were one or two or seven of the initial Women the first woman that we hired was Ilizarov us us and spent countless hours working with me on the overnight chef. Libya loved to give advice and so we had so many hours to talk at that point. I was single and dating and like looking for love and she was married and had three kids. We're about the same age. But we were kind of you know she was vicariously living through my maturation and the best line from Malaysia. There was this guy that she knew that worked at Danielle. Because I've gotten her husband a job In the in the kitchen at Danielle there is a there is a butcher at Danielle. The deleted new through her husband He. He got divorced from his wife so he was single. And Lydia really really thought that I should meet the money at the butcher and are just remember her saying but Jessica Asa Savvy Cortott Conde. He's a great guy. He knows how to cut meat. Like what else could you want in a husband. And those are the kind of lydia gems at still stick check with me to this day and the and her kind of work ethic and her ethos and many of her ideas have permeated the company. Now you mentioned you were single yet. It was your boyfriend Ellie. Now your husband at the time. Who introduced you to Danielle? So did you take a hi- hiatus from each other we did. We had a little bit of a hiatus and and you know it was those early years where I wasn't single but there was you know it took a while for us to to get more Syria and Ellie works In the wine department at Sotheby's other bees you also got an Eileen Fisher grant early on they were I think our first funder. That wasn't a friend writing and check. I I lean Fisher is is the clothing designer clothing designer and she has a grant for female social entrepreneurs and so the grant forced me to write the business plan. It brought me into this. Wonderful Network of such a women dominated company and they're so progressive and surreal model of. I think hope business should be run and and then also got a lot of New York City based customers through them. And then it's a real recognizable name. So once they leaned Fisher came on board it Coz kind of like the stamp empath approval that I needed from other potential funders in the social enterprise space. What has surprised you about You know this. Oh what surprises me. Is that the feeling of knowing that. You're feeding so many New Yorkers every day last night when I was leaving the bakery and there was probably about three or four thousand pieces of bread waiting to be packed and where piggy folk exactly. There's this kind of just like sense of All like wow I get to feed all these people are going to be so many people's branch and then you know some Monday mornings. I'll open up my email and somebody haven't heard from four or five years will email me like I buy a product at the market every day but I noticed that there was this new olive loaf and I'm so excited and I took it home and I made a the white fish salad and it was delicious flavors and it was delicious. Thank you you are kind of the connective tissue for a lot of strange bedfellows was in New York. Because you are your mission is to Educate through commerce these immigrant women who are marginalized with people let farmers markets who can afford fancy bread. Yeah that's I think. Good way that. A good way to articulate it. You know I think our core competency. It is opening up this really growing immense specialty food market to people who otherwise wouldn't access says we're helping them woman who's selling tamales in her community at one hundred sixteen th in Lexington get that product until foods. You have two two children How present are they In what's going on there Omnipresent and the kids spend a lot of time at the bakery. They've got thirty five Andy's who look out for them at all at all times but like every working mom struggle to to keep all the pieces together and my daughter eats a lot of Brad and I I used to say when she was tiny that like eating so much brad was her trying to get more of me back to turn. That was like a somehow a metaphor for her need for more of my time. So it's it's hard being an entrepreneur especially in the early years of entrepreneurship and balanced owns parenting. But I'm the mother that I want my kids to know. Maybe I'm not the mother want them to know when they're one but I'm the mother I want them to know when they're ten in fifteen and and twenty. Well thank you very much for joining US thank you. My guest has been Justin

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