Jessamyn W. Rodriguez, Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Jessamyn W. Rodriguez is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the award-winning Hot Bread Kitchen. Since its inception in 2007, she has led the growth of the organization from a visionary idea to a thriving bakery and workforce development program. Hot Bread Kitchen won the 2009 “Best Small Business” for Queens from the NYC Department of Small Businesses and has become nationally recognized brand that has been covered in print (New York Times, Daily News, and Food & Wine Magazine), TV (Today Show & NPK), and Radio.
Jessamyn combines her passions for baking and social justice for foreign-born women in Hot Bread Kitchen. Her efforts have also been recognized by Echoing Green, which selected her from over 1500 social entrepreneurs and by the Eileen Fisher Company that awarded her a Grant for Women Entrepreneurs in 2007. Jessamyn has an MPA from Columbia University and a BA from the University of British Columbia. Before starting Hot Bread Kitchen, she gained 10 years of experience in NGOs, government, and the United Nations, focusing on human rights, education, and immigration issues. She worked in many places, including the US, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Bosnia, Guatemala, and Chile. Jessamyn also has a Master Baker certificate from the New School University and was the first woman to be hired as a baker at Chef Daniel Boulud’s renowned Restaurant Daniel.
Ben Hershberger, Chief Bread Officer
Ben Hershberger has been baking professionally for more than 20 years, however, his baking career began as a child growing up in Nevada where he milled his own grain and baked the bread for his family. A graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, he has baked for top dining establishments such as three Ritz Carlton Resorts in Florida and The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale Arizona. Most recently, he served as Head Baker for Chef Thomas Keller’s world-renowned Per Se and Bouchon Bakery in New York where he was responsible for bread, and viennoiserie items. A Certified Master Baker, he has also worked as a Chef and Instructor at the Florida Culinary Institute.
Given his extensive experience as both a baker and bakery instructor, he possesses the unique combination of skills required to spearhead Hot Bread Kitchen’s rigorous on-the-job baking training program. Hershberger is committed to Hot Bread Kitchen’s mission of helping individuals to use bread baking as a means to attain economic security while preserving international breads and artisan baking traditions.
Sandra Vu, Program Director, HBK Incubates
Sandra Vu is the Program Director for HBK Incubates– Hot Bread Kitchen’s growing kitchen incubator program. She holds a Master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University. Prior to joining Hot Bread Kitchen, Sandra managed the studio operations of a food media company on the Lower East Side, and worked in human resources for Gap Inc.’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco. Culinary experiences in countries such as Vietnam, India, and Hong Kong enticed Sandra to divert her career path to support the food industry.
Californian born and raised, Sandra received her bachelor’s degree in Business from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In addition to enjoying the endless culinary delights that New York City has to offer, she participates in endurance events, including the NYC Marathon, to raise money for organizations that focus on impoverished groups and community development.
Sandra is dedicated to serving NYC’s local food community through growing successful food businesses.
Shimme, Operations Director
Shimme joined Hot Bread Kitchen in Spring 2013 as the Director of Operations. He brings with him many years of experience in bakery production, retail, operations and multi-unit leadership. Prior to joining Hot Bread Kitchen, Shimme was the owner of sixunderscore LLC, a bakery and natural foods consulting company which assists businesses in building their brand, launching new products, training, merchandising and much more. A large portion of Shimme’s career was spent at Whole Foods Market, where he served as the Bakery Director for the Northeast Region.
Grace Moore, Communications Manager
Grace oversees Hot Bread Kitchen’s farmers market operations, working in close contact with GrowNYC’s Greenmarket to make sure Hot Bread Kitchen’s products are available year round to our devoted customers.