Jessamyn Rodriguez

 

WOMEN TO WATCH

 

Jessamyn Rodriguez

Founder & CEO, Hot Bread Kitchen

 

Jessamyn Rodriguez’s Hot Bread Kitchen is a social mission first and bakery second, investing in job creation through business development and skills-training programs for talented yet underutilized chefs-in-the-making.

 

I was inspired to start Hot Bread Kitchen because…

Everywhere I travelled while working at the United Nations, women were the bakers and cooks — but after immigrating to the U.S., these same women were marginalized to jobs with little professional upward trajectory. I knew that with minimal training, they could leverage their culinary talent to access professional opportunities in the growing ethnic food market.

 

I made a career switch because…

I had the idea for Hot Bread Kitchen almost a decade before I launched. During that time, I went back to school to get my Baking Certificate, apprenticed at Daniel and was eventually the first woman hired into Daniel’s bakery. Incorporating Hot Bread Kitchen in 2008 was a strategic decision — I felt I had gained the technical skills required and the market for ethnic and artisan breads had reached an all-time high.

 

I couldn’t run my business without…

The amazing team. Each day I work with baker trainees and food business entrepreneurs, from Ecuador to Ethiopia, who are all working to improve their lives and the lives of their families. As a business owner their motivation is extremely inspiring.

 

 

 

Being your own boss…

Is harder than people let on and more rewarding than you could imagine.

 

To me, giving back means…

Helping empower those around you.

 

Best business advice I have received…

People will buy your product once because of the social mission, but if the goods don’t stand up to your competitors they won’t buy them again. This instilled in me the need to produce top-notch breads that were as good as — or better than — other bakeries’ in New York. We want our customers to buy our breads because they are delicious, not because it’s an act of charity.

 

My secret ingredient…

If I can’t choose bread, I would have to say eggs. Eggs are not only a great source of protein but also natural emulsifiers and help thicken everything from sauces to soufflés. There is also nothing that isn’t improved by a fried egg on top.

 

My favorite restaurants…

In Spanish Harlem, there are tons of tiny Dominican and Mexican restaurants that serve inexpensive and delicious food. Café Ollin has become one of my favorites because the food is great — plus they deliver late night when we have a production crunch.

 

What I order…

Carnitas Cemita — a sandwich on steroids that has fried pork topped with queso fresco, avocado, chipotle, papalo, avocado, beans, and of course, lettuce, onion and tomato, on a sesame seed bun.

 

The newest trend in food is…

Underground supper clubs. Many chefs who can’t afford to build their own restaurant or want the chance to experiment are staging pop-ups, like Wolvesmouth in L.A.