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Bea’s Bakery Cultures Merge

Husband-and-wife team Lenny Rosenberg and Adaeze Nwanonyiri, of Lars Restaurants, took over the iconic bakery in October 2022. In doing so, they combined their Jewish and Nigerian backgrounds, along with their vast experience in baking and design.
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August 10, 2023
Lenny Rosenberg and Adaeze Nwanonyiri

Bea’s Bakery in Tarzana is redefining what it means to be a Jewish-style bakery.

“Even though it’s historically known as a Jewish bakery, everyone has a seat at the table.” – Adaeze Nwanonyiri

Husband-and-wife team Lenny Rosenberg and Adaeze Nwanonyiri, of Lars Restaurants, took over the iconic bakery in October 2022. In doing so, they combined their Jewish and Nigerian backgrounds, along with their vast experience in baking and design. “I believe in maintaining the authenticity of all cultures,” Nwanonyiri told the Journal. “Even though it’s historically known as a Jewish bakery, everyone has a seat at the table.”

The son of a baker, Rosenberg has been in the business for 35-40 years; Nwanonyiri is an experienced and knowledgeable interior decorator. With Bea’s they created a multicultural, modern and even more health-conscious experience. In addition to merging Jewish recipes with traditional ingredients from Africa, they have added more gluten-free and sugar-free options.

One of the best examples of the merging of Rosenberg and Nwanonyiri’s backgrounds is their signature red velvet kola nut cupcakes. Everyone loves red velvet. The kola nut, which is a great protein and also good for a hangover, has much deeper meaning. “The kola nut has historical, spiritual value in the Nigerian culture,” Nwanonyiri said. “Lenny had to go to my father, who’s Nigerian, and present the kola nut as an offering, prior to asking for my hand in marriage. Without the kola nut, you’re not blessed.”

There’s a whole ritual behind the offering; and rituals, especially those involving food, are things Jews know well.

“One of the reasons that always draws me to owning bakeries is it really brings me back to my roots,” Rosenberg told the Journal. “It keeps me very close to the [Jewish] religion.” Growing up, every time there was a holiday, Rosenberg would go to the bakery and prepare items with his father, whether it was Passover, Rosh Hashanah or another holiday. Then, they’d bring food home for their family’s meal. “My grandmother was a very good home baker, and my father learned all the recipes from her,” Rosenberg said. “After the war, when my father came to the United States, he really didn’t have anything to make a living with.”

His parents owned a chicken farm, but they weren’t making that much money.  “He remembered that he knew how to bake from his mother, so he went out and got a job as a baker,” Rosenberg said. “And the rest is history.” Rosenberg’s father started buying and selling bakeries after that; Rosenberg followed in his footsteps. “My father probably had about 18 to 20 bakeries back on the East coast,” Rosenberg said. “He would just buy them, build them up and then sell them. And then I kind of took on that mantle.”

Rosenberg moved to California in 2000, and started buying well known name-brand restaurants and bakeries, such as The Nosh of Beverly Hills. Bea’s, he said, happened by accident. They weren’t looking for another bakery.

Ziggy Gruber, who owns Kenny & Ziggy’s deli in Houston, called and told him that Bea’s was for sale. Rosenberg knew the owner, Jules Litwak; Litwak and his parents owned Bea’s since they opened it in 1968. When Gruber was visiting LA, he convinced the couple to take a look. 

“After walking in there again for the first time in many years, it kind of brought back a lot of memories,” Rosenberg said. It reminded him why he got into the bakery business. “I had long discussions with Adaeze about it,” he said. “And [we] realized this was beshert, meant to be.” He added, “Jules was not only the best seller of a business — and I bought almost 30 stores at this point — he was the the most honest, upstanding seller I’ve ever met. He was just an extraordinary person.”

Rosenberg said that of all the stores they’ve bought, this was the best one. Not just because of the volume of business, but the staff. “I learned over the last 10 to 20 years that your staff [is] what makes your business prosper,” he said. “If you don’t have a good staff, you can have the best product in the world, best location, it’s kind of meaningless.”

In addition reimagining this legendary establishment, Rosenberg and Nwanonyiri created a television show, “It’s a Sweet World,” which premieres on JLTV (Jewish Life Television) network on November 12 and 13. The November premiere coincides with the anniversary of when the couple met at a party in Malibu 11 years ago. 

“It’s a Sweet World” highlights the bakery’s multicultural vibe, as well as Rosenberg’s baking skills and Nwanonyiri flair for design and installation. They take clients’ requests — they want to recreate something from their past or create something for the future — and the show is their journey of creating it. “Normally, Bea’s is more grab-and-go products,” Rosenberg said. “But [we both] have a history of doing much bigger things. We just had a lot of clients who would come in and say, ‘I want you to cater a bar mitzvah for me.’ ‘I want you to cater a Nigerian [or another culture’s] event.’”

One of the episodes features a fundraiser for Ukraine at a comedy club. Rosenberg and his baking team created traditional Ukrainian desserts, poppy seed rolls and snowballs, while Nwanonyiri’s decor highlighted familiar things, such as colors of the Ukrainian flag. “As you see what’s going on in Ukraine, We wanted to make sure that it symbolized family and togetherness,” Nwanonyiri said.

Red Velvet Kola Nut Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups All-Purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp Kola Nut power/Tiger Nut powder (If you cannot find kola or tiger nut powder, substitute with ground walnut flour, which you can find in mosthigh-end markets )
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°F.
Place paper liners or grease a cupcake pan.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients at 2nd speed (cream) for 30 seconds.
Add the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring and vanilla; mix at 2nd speed (cream) for 2 minutes or until smooth.
Scoop about 4 ounces of batter into each cup.
Bake for 12 minutes.

Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz. cream cheese
4 cups powdered sugar
A splash of vanilla

Put all ingredients into a mixing bowl. Mix at 2nd speed (cream) for 90 seconds until smooth and creamy.
Using a knife or spatula, spread on cooled cupcakes.

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