Summer is still here but the smells of Rosh Hashanah are already wafting from Sunflower Bakery in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The bustling bakery is in the midst of its weeks-long preparation for the upcoming Jewish holidays.
“New this year are the caramel apple crisp, apple cider tea cakes, and chocolate walnut tart,” said Daphna Raskas, a Kemp Mill resident and the new executive director of Sunflower Bakery.
Kol HaBirah recently sat down with Raskas to ask her about what’s cooking at the bakery.
What skills do you bring to the job?
I have a doctorate in organizational behavior and a certificate in family business consulting. I have helped guide nonprofits — including Berman Hebrew Academy, where I served as president — through periods of critical transition and growth. Ideveloped and implemented effective governance tools, and worked with them on strategic planning and implementation. I also have experience working with diverse constituent groups, including committees, volunteers, funders, and government agencies.
What excites you about your new job at Sunflower?
It was so exciting to be on the podium at graduation for our Pastry Arts Training Program with our co-founders Laurie Wexler and Sara Portman Milner and see our students who have worked so hard take their well-earned steps toward successful employment.
Food-oriented businesses that have hired our most recent graduates include Chouquette Chocolatiers, Founding Farmers Rockville, Giant Food, Harris Teeter, the Marriott Marquis, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Stellas Bakery Rockville, and The Cakery. We could not carry out our mission without our employer partnerships in the region and the support that we have received across the community.
What number graduation was this?
This year we graduated 11 students. We have had a total of 57 graduates; 85 percent have secured employment within six months.
What does the Class of 2017-2018 look like?
For the upcoming year, we project 14 to 16 new people in the Pastry Arts Program along with six to eight continuing students. We are just completing the first year of our Cafe Sunflower Employment Training Program and hope to have eight students this coming year and two to four interns. We also have twenty-four slots in our teen summer exposure one-week sessions.
What else is new this year?
We are hoping to expand to a larger space and to introduce additional employment opportunities in bread baking and shipping/packaging.
What Sunflower baked goods are in your freezer right now?
Pumpkin muffins and combo mandel bread.
Just between us, can you share any Sunflower Bakery secrets?
Yes: We bake amazing wedding cakes, and look forward to seeing them displayed and then enjoyed at local weddings!
By Fran Kritz
Fran Kritz is a health care policy journalist. Her writing has been published by MSNBC.com, The Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, Forbes Magazine, and the New York Jewish Week. Fran and her husband Neil split their time between Jerusalem and Silver Spring, Maryland, and are proud members of the Kemp Mill Synagogue.