Photo by Jefferson Siegel
Master baker Uri Scheft with a tray of tantalizing treats at Breads Bakery.
Photographers: Jefferson Siegel, and Tess Colwell
BY REY MASHAYEKHI | Since it first opened 12 years ago, Lehamim Bakery has become famous in Tel Aviv for the delectable creations of its founder, Uri Scheft. Scheft, an Israeli national born to Danish parents, learned the art of baking bread in Europe, and caused a mild sensation upon returning home to open a bakery of his own. With a salivating variety of breads all baked on site — from crisp loaves of rye and sourdough to sweeter treats like rugelach and cheese sticks — Lehamim soon became the talk of Tel Aviv.
One of the bakery’s fans was an Israeli-born, New York-raised businessman named Gadi Peleg, who came across Lehamim while in Tel Aviv. Peleg “came to love that bakery,” as he put it, and was introduced to Scheft through a mutual acquaintance. Eventually, the two discussed the possibility of bringing Lehamim — which is Hebrew for “breads” — to New York City.
“I knew the level of quality was one that New Yorkers would appreciate,” Peleg told The Villager.
Two years ago, as Lehamim continued to grow in popularity, Scheft and Peleg put plans in motion to open a bakery in New York. This past January, after much time spent scouting locations and ironing out the practicalities of bringing Scheft’s unique methodology across the ocean, the two men finally opened Breads Bakery — located at 18 E. 16th St., right across from Union Square.
Upon entering the very large, 9,000-square-foot space, it becomes apparent why the arrival of Breads Bakery has proven so notable among bread enthusiasts in New York. The scent of freshly baked dough hangs in the air, while the walls are covered with racks filled with a seemingly endless assortment of rolls, buns, cakes and sweets. Despite its size, the bakery only seats about 20 people — which can be explained by the massive baking operation that takes place in the back of the room, in an enormous kitchen that produces all of the products on display.
So far, Breads has received a rapturous reception from patrons and food critics alike. Local food blogs have heralded it as the latest in the city’s line of boutique bakeries, such as Maison Kayser on the Upper East Side and Bien Cuit in Brooklyn.
“I’m extremely flattered by the reception New York has given us,” Peleg said. “New Yorkers are spoiled by the options available to us.”
Peleg mentioned that Union Square was a “no-brainer” for the bakery’s location, characterizing it as a place frequented by “people who care about food.” When asked about the possibility of further Breads Bakery locations in the city, however, Peleg said that he and Scheft “haven’t thought so far ahead” and are only focused on the Union Square location for the time being.
“If things continue this way, we’ll be extremely pleased,” Peleg added. “It’s all we could have ever hoped for.”