Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez
Founder and CEO, Hot Bread Kitchen
WHAT SHE COOKED UP
A nonprofit bakery in Manhattan that provides job training and English classes for immigrant women.
FROM MISTAKE TO MISSION
After college, Rodriguez interviewed for a job with Women’s World Banking. “A friend misheard it as Women’s World Baking,” she recalls. “The image was very evocative for me: a group of women baking. I didn’t get the job—but that’s how I came up with the idea for Hot Bread Kitchen.”
Rodriguez, now 35, worked at other jobs for eight years but got ready by earning a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University and a master baker’s certificate (she apprenticed in the bakery of chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurant Daniel).
ON THE RISE
With a grant and two trainees from Mexico, Rodriguez launched Hot Bread Kitchen in 2007 from her apartment, later moving into commercial space. She was head trainer until the birth of her daughter in 2011. Now she’s focused on expanding HBK to five more cities.
“We help immigrant women leverage culinary skills they already have into better jobs,” says Rodriguez. “They earn an above-minimum hourly wage for their time”—which is why they’re able to train for up to a year.
“We’ve trained 25 women—immigrants from 14 countries—and we sell our breads to more than 50 stores and restaurants,” she says. The bakers produce loaves inspired by their native lands while learning new skills.
“In 2009 we got support from the New York City Council to help us expand, and we moved into a permanent home in East Harlem,” Rodriguez says. Half the space is used for the job-training bakery and half for HBK Incubate, which offers kitchen space at below-market rent to fledgling food companies run by minority and immigrant entrepreneurs, most of whom are women.
One HBK graduate was hired as a baker at Boulud’s Daniel. “Other big success stories are women we’ve promoted internally,” says Rodriguez. “Last year a young woman from Morocco who showed a strong aptitude and passion went from trainee to baker to shift manager within six months.”
“I created my ideal work environment—women from all over the world making delicious food 24 hours a day—and saw it grow from a quirky dream into a job-creating machine.”
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