Jews love challah, and Jews love sandwiches, so it’s about time that someone combined the two into an irresistible business. Thank heavens for Max and Carly Simon, who launched a Los Angeles-based challah subscription service called “challahdad” in April 2022, which grew to include sandwich collaborations in 2023.
“I was born to be the challahdad,” Max told The Nosher. “It may seem like a random side-schlep to develop as a 30-year-old in L.A., but all roads led me to become the father of the bread.”
This witty chat is typical of challahdad branding, which seems born to be an Insta-business. Their captions are littered with puns (“I like this. I like this challot”). Their grid is a mix of quirky challah illustrations, beautiful food shots and Jake Cohen in a challahdad bucket hat smoking a joint. And at the center of it all is Max, with his hipster mustache, dressed in royal blue and white (challahdad’s signature colors), clutching a gorgeously braided challah that’s half his size.
But a strong Instagram presence does not a business make. Just look at the home-baked challah delivery services that sprung up on Instagram during the pandemic. Some — notably Challah Dolly, which now ships nationwide and is sold at several New York bakeries — survived, but many others fizzled out as the world began to open up. Clearly, it takes more to succeed than delicious challah and a talent for puns.
Challahdad’s loyal customer base is growing rapidly, suggesting the brand has just as much substance as style. And they have a Max, whose enthusiastic creativity and adaptability could prove to be their secret to success.
“When I started baking challah a few years ago, it was instantly about how to do something different. It started with wrapping a chocolate chip challah in foil and tossing it into a campfire with friends, resulting in a magical, melty dessert,” he said.
Lots of people make chocolate chip challah, but not many toast it in a campfire. Lots of people experiment with challah flavors (just take a glance at The Nosher’s challah archives), but not many businesses offer a new flavor every week. This was challahdad’s first shtick — from the challahpeno (jalapeno challah) to the cheesydad (string cheese and parsley challah) — but certainly not their last.
“Challahborations” with other small-batch, social media-savvy businesses expanded challahdad’s Instagram reach and customer base while staying very much on-brand. Like the challaluhduja (ghianduja, a chocolate and hazelnut spread, challah) with Ghia, a non-alcoholic aperitif brand that also makes a low-sugar, olive-oil-instead-of-palm-oil ghianduja. Or the spicy everything furikake seasoning challah with Holy Tshili, a female-owned, New York-based company combining Jewish and Chinese flavors.
From there, it was only a hop, skip and a jump to challah sandwich collaboration pop-up events, starting with the Zab’s collab: A “full size everything bagel challah, sliced hamburger style, grilled until toasty, smothered in cream cheese, with a healthy drizzle of Zab’s hot honey.”
Then it was a PB&J with Hot Jamn Preserves jam (organic, upcycled, handcrafted) and One Trick Pony peanut butter (no oil, no sugar, just Argentinian peanuts and Patagonian sea salt). Recently, it was the Jubano with Camila Creates (a Latinx chef running “dining experiences” and pop-ups), a Cuban sandwich on a smashed mini challah. If you’re lucky enough to be in L.A. on July 8th, you can sample challahdad’s latest collaboration for yourself: limited-batch turkey challah hoagies with Delco Rose Hoagies.
Whether challahdad — or any challah subscription service — can stand the test of time remains to be seen. I really hope they do. Not just because the Simons are business owners who champion their partners and are grateful for their customers, or because I really enjoy scrolling through their challaborations — but because challahdad is, ultimately, about spreading Jewish joy. And, joy vey, we sure need some.
Sign up to challahdad’s challah subscription service here and pre-order challahdad x Delco Rose Hoagies here — or try your chances and find them in front of the Luca store (5727 North Figueroa Street) on July 8th, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.