On December 1st, baker Brandie Itman moved her small home business into the kitchen of Beth El Synagogue adding a kosher option to the Minnesota landscape. Team Be’chol Lashon caught up with the busy mother of two to talk about cake, keeping kosher, and being an entrepreneur.
BL: Tell us about how you got started in the bakery business.
Itman: My oldest daughter was born four years ago, and two weeks later my husband got laid off. It was the height of the recession. I started baking to keep busy and keep up morale.
BL: Have you always been a baker?
Itman: I have always wanted to own my own business but did not have a particular set of skills. I’m entirely self taught. No formal training, I worked in restaurants as a kid as a server in the front of the house, never in the kitchen. I’ve taught myself the baking and the decorating. I spent a lot of time watching YouTube.
BL: How did you decide you wanted to open a bakery?
Itman: I really started the bakery to take some of the financial pressure off of my husband being the sole provider and to create a legacy to leave our children. I want my girls to know they don’t have to depend on anyone else for a job.
BL: How did you decide that you wanted to run a kosher bakery?
Itman: I decided to make my business kosher, because I wanted to give back to the Jewish community. The Jewish community has been so welcoming and accepting. As a Black person, I always have that fear that someone would judge me on how I look or how I speak. But in the Jewish community, people have been so warm. They always want to meet me and include me. There are not lots of kosher options in Minnesota, so I wanted to provide one.
BL: Have you always been Jewish?
Itman: No, I converted last May with my girls. From the time of my childhood I would always connect with Jews as friends or as boyfriends. When I met my husband we clicked right away, and then I learned he was Jewish and it just felt like home.
My husband’s family has been great. They never put pressure on me to convert, they accepted me for who I am. They are the nicest people I have ever met. That goes back to Jewish side of them. Jews are more giving and helping. They work for everyone to succeed. It is more of a community, a village.