Verge Loves: Challah Hub

Photography credit: Sally Claire

Here at Verge we know that the key to anyone’s heart is through their stomach and Challah Hub definitely have the lock to ours. If you’re not familiar with Challah, it’s an incredible bread that is very important to the Jewish culture and is traditionally served on Jewish holidays. It’s been a key part to hearty meals for generations, and power duo Elina Tilipman and Sarah Klegman are putting their own unique spins on a tasty classic! We were fortunate enough to sit down with the co-founders of Challah Hub to discuss where their inspiration comes from and their secrets to great Challah!

We’re huge fans of Challah Hub, but for those who aren’t as familiar just yet, could you explain to our readers what the best part about Challah Hub is (besides a great yummy experience)?

The best parts about Challah Hub besides the great yummy experience, is the fun level that we bring to carbs (hi, Mint Chocolate Chip challah) and the silly we put into everything we do (our Instagram captions are arguably appropriate). But besides the fun factor, the CONVENIENCE factor is unbeatable. We deliver the challah as close to your face as possible (or on your doorstep, whatever you’re cool with). You don’t even have to leave the house to get delicious, vegan, kosher, did-we-say-delicious challah – we deliver all over Los Angeles the first Friday of every month.

You guys are the main reason behind Challah bread being the coolest food around. Why Challah and why now?

Why thank you! We can’t take all the credit. It has been around for nearly 6,000 years at this point, but we like to think we’re a small but influential blip on the timeline-oh-challah. Why challah? It’s just how it happened. Sarah grew up baking challah with her mom since she could reach the counter, and when we started baking together, we came at it from a playful place of, “what kind of weird stuff can we put into bread?!” Then, the why now is probably simple: the internet. People want to look at insane, delicious looking food. Plus – not to toot our own challah – but this generation of Jewish entrepreneurs are super inspiring and nothing short of badass, taking ancient traditions and looking at them through a modern lens. We just saw weird challah when we looked through that lens.

For those who don’t know, Challah bread is a traditional Jewish food mostly eaten on Jewish Holidays. What inspired you both to take Challah to a whole new level with such incredible new flavours?

That’s where we first started! When we first became friends, it was never “let’s just make some challah and call it a day” it was always, “what weird stuff can we put into this bread?” Turns out: a LOT of weird stuff, and we’re really good at it. And then when we started sharing our breadventures on the internet, people shared in our excitement, so we just kept going.

How do you get inspiration for your next adventurous Challah recipes?  

Literally everywhere. A pastry we see. A friend who tells us about a new dish. We have a theory: if you can imagine it, we can challah it.

You both have so much amazing things happening outside of Challah Hub – how do you prioritise time for all of your entrepreneurial ventures?

Thank you! Yeah, Elina has an awesome custom neon company, and Sarah is a writer and performer. We’re still learning to prioritize, honestly. Challah Hub has been a passion project for us from the beginning. Luckily, we don’t have investors, or a daily physical bakery to run, so we’re able to keep our lives outside of carbs functioning pretty much as normal. Although, our lives are not-super-normal. At the end of the day, we try to prioritize joy. That means Elina making time for her neon company, but also for her growing daughter, family, adventures into the desert and beyond. Sarah lives and breathes storytelling and writing, and has somehow managed to connect her passion for comedy, writing, and performance to a challah bread company (have you seen our Buzzfeed video?). It’s not a perfect science, but we want to enjoy our life, not hustle till the challah turns to matzah.

We hate to make you pick favourites but if you had to choose which is the best Challah flavour you guys make?

How dare you! Alright, well Sarah says it’s Mint Chocolate Chip and Elina says its Turmeric Everything so you just need to try both. Buuuuut also we’re also developing S’Mores (YEP) and Gluten-Free, too… so more flavor insanity is just around the corner.

What was it like starting your business, any obstacles that you had to work around?

Hah! Oh, we’ve learned SO much as Challah Hub continues growing and evolving. One of the great realizations we had when starting out was that EVERYONE starts somewhere, and rarely knows what they’re doing. Not to mention neither of us had a professional background in baking, experience in the baking business, or knew anything about running a culinary business… at all.

Baking means experimenting. Ask any baker about the process of scaling a recipe, and they’re likely to squint their eyes, raise their eyebrows, and shrug – or just shake their head and walk away. It’s all trial and error. Sometimes you do an experiment – like matcha challah – and it’s DELICIOUS.

Other times you try something like macaroni and cheese challah and wonder how you could have ruined two of your favorite things in the world. We had to learn everything as we did it. Working with large companies meant dealing with things like delays in payments, or kinks in the chain that meant we weren’t able to provide the best customer experience possible.

Kosher certification would have been a whole other hurdle, but luckily our partnership with the incredible humans at Continental Kosher Bakery in Burbank made that easy. But it’s hard selling bread. People love looking at the pictures we share on Instagram, and they love coming to see us at pop-ups, and boy do they love tasting our challah, but we’re still learning how to market in a way that results in sales.

To give you an idea – when our Buzzfeed video got over ten million views, that only resulted in 10 new customers. So people love us, and they love our product – we just need to get better at marketing that side of our company. Oh – and finally, the biggest struggle: gluten.

The question we get asked the most is “when will you have gluten-free challah?” and our answer has always been “never, because we only make absurdly delicious challah, and we haven’t found a way to make absurdly delicious challah without gluten.” But we’ve got some things cookin’ for 2019… so who knows what we’ll do with or without gluten this year!

What’s the best part about owning your own business and what’s the worst?

Best: Being able to be 100% ourselves, including being super honest in interviews, using bright pink as our brand color, and saying arguably appropriate things about carbohydrates on the internet. The worst? The moments when you don’t love it, and have no one to blame but yourself. But for the most part, even when it’s tough, we still love it.

 

Photography credit: Sally Claire

It must be important to have a great relationship with your co-founders, how do you maintain a great work/friend balance?

We’re so proud of our partnership. We’re very lucky in that Elina is good at everything Sarah doesn’t want to do, and Sarah is good at everything Elina doesn’t want to do. It’s a really wonderful balance. But our friendship started with challah – literally the first time we hung out was to bake challah, so our friendship is part of Challah Hub. We maintain the balance by being super honest with each other – sometimes too honest (like that one time when Elina laughed at Sarah’s haircut but whatever it’s in the past totally doesn’t bother her to this day or anything whatever). But really – it’s just all about respect, honesty, and understanding that we’re just two gluten-loving humans, trying to bring joy into the world by way of delicious challah.

Any bread baking tips you can share with us?

Use your hands! Not a bread machine!  

If someone hasn’t ever eaten Challah before, what is the best way to eat it? Any favourite dishes to eat Challah with?

If you have never eaten challah before, then first of all: welcome, your world is about to change. There is no best way to eat challah, but we can tell you some of our favorites:

  1. Use it as sandwich bread.
  2. Make french toast with it.
  3. *Rip a piece off with your bare hands and shove it in your face.

*We mostly recommend #3.

Any advice to people trying to start their own business?

Go for it!!! As we said before – no one knows what they’re doing at first. Ask questions, and work from a place of love, and if you fail at first, then you’re still doing something right because that’s how you learn. Just try not to fail with other people’s dough 😉

Check out everything Challah Hub on their social media below and be sure to keep an eye out for these guys this year!

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