Challah Hub seizes opportunities
Why have plain old challah on Shabbat when you could enjoy braided bread in a variety of fun flavors: mint chocolate chip, s’mores, pumpkin white chocolate chip, lavender chocolate or “challahpeno” cheese?
No reason at all, thanks to Challah Hub (challahhub.com), a one-stop resource for recipes, instructional challah-braiding videos and more.
“It’s really not that hard to make challah, and we want to make it more accessible,” explained co-founder Sarah Klegman, 28.
The enterprise got its start about three years ago when Klegman — who has been baking ever since she was tall enough to reach the counter — met Elina Tilipman, 32, at a brunch and began showing off photographs of her challahs. Tilipman told Klegman she would buy her meal on the condition that she taught Tilipman how to bake.
The partnership kicked off with nothing more than an Instagram account filled with photos of the pair’s crazy creations — Klegman calls it “challah porn.” More than 7,500 people now follow the account, and they’re treated to pictures ranging from rainbow-colored challah to vegan pretzel challah to challah shaped to resemble Bernie Sanders’ face.
Eventually, Challah Hub grew into a website offering recipes, tasting events and baking classes. There was even a one-day-only partnership with UberEATS during which Uber drivers delivered challahs to people’s doors.
Challah Hub sells tote bags, challah covers and vanilla-scented Shabbat candles on its website, which also features how-to videos on making challah dough and braiding technique. One of the next steps, the founders hope, will be to launch a full-fledged baking and delivery service in which customers can sign up for a subscription and receive challahs at their homes before Shabbat begins every Friday.
“We want to be able to deliver to everybody in Los Angeles and be able to deliver a very reliably tasty and enjoyable challah experience,” said Klegman of Valley Village.
Raised in northern Michigan, Klegman moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. She represented local talent, with a focus on comedians. Somewhere along the line, she tired of the industry and decided to devote more of her energy to her passion: baking.
She credits her mother with teaching her the ways of the kitchen. While the tagline for the company is “Not Your Mama’s Challah,” Klegman admits that Challah Hub’s original recipe was her mother’s own.
“I always say, ‘Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll tell people when I have the opportunity that it was my mama’s challah,’ ” Klegman said.
For Klegman, baking challah is a way of expressing her pride in Jewish culture. She grew up as one of the few Jews at her school in Michigan and she was picked on by other students until her mother, who always was an avid challah baker, came into the school and delivered presentations about World War II history, anti-Semitism and the civil rights movement.
“She’s given me a good amount of passion for challah and pride for my culture,” Klegman said.
The organized Jewish world has taken notice. This year, ROI Community, an initiative of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, provided Challah Hub with a $1,000 micro-grant to help redesign its website. In a blog post published six months ago on the ROI website, Tilipman, who lives in Toluca Lake, said the ROI grant was a crucial step in helping Challah Hub become a more serious venture.
“The step from hobby to business is a big one, and this grant was the bridge we needed,” Tilipman said.
Challah Hub does not have its own kitchen space and does not offer a way for people to purchase their challahs — yet. Instead, the founders have used friends’ kitchen spaces and their focus has been making themselves more visible in the community.
In June, they participated in the Los Angeles Bread Festival at Grand Central Market, where they led a challah-braiding workshop. In collaboration with the gang member rehabilitation organization Homeboy Industries, which operates a bakery as a means of employing its clients, they also served up carob chip challah and sesame seed challah to the crowd until the bread was sold out.
And this past spring, after Passover, Challah Hub participated in “A Post-Passover Carb Party,” the NuRoots-organized event that also included Yeastie Boys Bagels, a food truck that promotes its bagels with hip-hop-inspired branding.
While Klegman told the Journal she is more interested in launching a food delivery service than she is in operating a brick-and-mortar bakery, Tilipman wrote in the blog published on the ROI website that she dreams of opening a Challah Hub bakery one day.
“A Challah Hub bakery, can you imagine?” said Tilipman, who is The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ assistant director for the NuRoots Community Fellowship on the East Side of L.A.
Regardless of how they decide to expand, one thing is for sure: The women behind Challah Hub are passionate about what they do.
“We love making challah and putting it in people’s faces,” Klegman said. “And we’ve been lucky that enough people still eat carbs for us to keep going.”