“The response [to becoming kosher] has been amazing, more than I expected,” says Strawberry Blonde Bakery owner Jacqui Okum.
By Louise Rachlis
For all of their six years in business, Strawberry Blonde Bakery has been vegan, gluten-free and nut-free – and now the bakery has added kosher to the in-demand offerings at their two locations, 111 Richmond Road in Westboro and 767 Silver Seven Road, unit 17, in Kanata.
“I’m thrilled that Strawberry Blonde Bakery has become kosher,” said Rabbi Levy Teitlebaum, director of Ottawa Vaad HaKashrut. “It speaks to their dedication and inclusion of the community.”
Ottawa Vaad HaKashrut is a kashrut certification agency recognized by the Association of Kashrut Organizations. Its mission is to facilitate the availability of a wide variety of reliably kosher food, products, and services to Ottawa’s Jewish community.
“About five years ago, Rabbi Teitlebaum approached us about becoming kosher, because we used to be located under the Ottawa Bagelshop,” said Strawberry Blonde owner Jacqui Okum.
They were only two staff at the time and very busy, and so they didn’t get around to it, she said. “However, we touched base about a year ago because the Ottawa Bagelshop wanted to develop a gluten-free bagel, and we re-visited the idea of making our whole bakery kosher. Manager Allison Iris-Fong was very detail-oriented and helped us take it off the ground. We looked at every ingredient, changing ingredients that weren’t kosher.” As well, they also had to guarantee the products were dairy-free and nut-free.
There are a few items made by Strawberry Blonde before their kosher certification, like chocolate and frozen items, that aren’t yet kosher. Once those items are sold out, everything in the bakery will be kosher. Now about 75 per cent is, Okum said, and everything non-kosher is clearly labelled.
“We also do catering, wedding cakes, wholesale to all the Farm Boys across Ontario, and some smaller health food stores in Ottawa,” said Okum, who now has about 40 staff in the two locations. “It’s a lot of business to manage.”
Personally vegan, she said that while working on the kosher process with Rabbi Teitlebaum, cross-contamination safeguards were put in place. “You can’t make mistakes. You can’t not be serious about it.”
Rabbi Teitlebaum describes Okum as “a leader who creates delicious masterpieces. Vegan, gluten free and now kosher. Definitely someone who takes their labour of love seriously.
“All the staff at Strawberry Blonde Bakery are wonderful to work with. Allison and I have been working closely for over a year to achieve this milestone. Mazel Tov!”
“In kosher, we’ve always believed that we are affected by the food we consume, both physically and spiritually,” said Rabbi Teitlebaum. “This certification acknowledges that understanding our food source is as significant as eating it.”
Strawberry Blonde posted on social media about going kosher early this month.
“The response has been amazing, more than I expected,” Okum said.
“Couples come in to order wedding cakes and say ‘You’ve made me so happy!’ It makes all the work worthwhile.”
For more information, call 613-725-2253, or visit www.strawberryblondebakery.com.