A Miami bakery mulls selling the store to Ryan and Ro Ro in its quest for kosher certification and Shabbat hours.
Step one: Bake the best sourdough bread ever. Step two: Make it kosher.
That's Zak Stern's philosohpy behind his successful bread bakery, Zak The Baker, which is in the early stages of becoming kosher.
Last Friday Zak The Baker announced via Facebook that the bakery would become kosher, posting a picture of the “Shabbos Goy Baking Crew,” who will keep the bakery running during Shabbat.
Stern’s wholesale bakery in Miami opened in February 2012 and sells its daily fresh-made sourdough loaves to local restaurants, cafes, and eateries. Individuals can take home loaves if they line up early enough on Sunday Morning at the farmer’s market. The sourdough goes fast, as several reviews on Yelp indicate.
Now the bakery, which only uses kosher pareve ingredients, is in the early stages of obtaining kosher certification.
“It feels like the right thing to do,” Stern, the 28-year-old baker and business owner, said. “I think there’s a need for a legitimate traditional kosher bakery in Miami,” he added. “Kosher restaurants in Miami, they all have this feel to them that they are primarily kosher, and whatever they serve is secondary. But we’re still making country European breads. It just happens that they will be kosher.”
The team Stern found to be his "shabbos goys," as they are called, are two of Stern's Miami-born friends and the business's main bakers, Ryan and Romero (also called Ro Ro) along with their apprentices from abroad.
"They love it, they think it's a novel idea," Stern said. "Finally my wife and I can have a complete Shabbat together, walk to shul and come back and know that the bakery is in good hands."
Stern is considering "selling" the bakery to them on Shabbat, and having it returned to him afterwards, which, according to the Orthodox Union, will meet with the laws of kashruth.
"If it's a wholesale bakery then the OU would be able to certify it," Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the Chief Operating Officer of Orthodox Union’s Kashruth Department said, noting that a kosher retail bakery would not be permitted to do so.
Stern admits that he and his wife, Batsheva, who co-runs the bakery, aren't experts when it comes to Orthodox Union certification regulations.
“We are young, and we don’t really know how to approach this. If anyone has any pointers and guidance, we are very receptive,” Stern said. “We’re just baking bread and we’re committed to it.”
The bakery specializes in sourdough breads with a variety of flavors such as walnut and cranberry or olive oil and za’atar. Another specialty is the Jewish deli rye sourdough made with sauted onions, caraway seeds and flax seeds.
Though he doesn’t advertise this online, Stern bakes fresh challah on Fridays for synagogues, and he plans to make more of them once his bakery becomes kosher certified.
“For me challah is a bread that is soft and supple and slightly sweet. It’s the extreme opposite of the sourdough that we make, which is crusty and chewy and just a hardy bread. They are the same species but very different,” Stern said.
As he works on getting the bakery up to snuff for the kosher certification board, Stern is actively preparing to open a describes, one where customers can actually sit and eat, in Wynwood, Florida, a neighborhood Stern describes as a gritty industrial area in the midst of transforming into an artist community, comparable to Williamsberg, Brooklyn.
Stern hopes to open his Wynwood warehouse-turned-bakery in the fall. He envisions having the entire production process of baking the bread on view for the public to watch as they munch on bread and sandwiches.
“They can come see us baking challah on Friday, all the twisting and braiding,” Stern said. “It would be very inclusive very open. For me, it’s a dream come true.”
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