#BiteWeekly is a new initiative by Foreword Coffee to raise awareness for voluntary welfare organizations (VWOs), social enterprises, independent bakehouses, and home bakers with compelling stories and meaningful causes that we support. Search for our hashtag on Instagram to find out more.
I would remember my first encounter with Bakery Hearts — a warm and happy feeling I got from my first bite into their freshly baked chocolate brownie. It was love at first bite, during the last session of an entrepreneurship module I was studying during my University days, and I’ve always hoped to learn more about what they do and how I can support them in their social mission.
We visited Bakery Hearts at their kitchen in Ang Mo Kio Community Centre :)
Fast forward 5 years later, I finally got in touch with the programme coordinators of Bakery Hearts as part of Foreword Coffee’s new initiative to feature baked goods and food from voluntary welfare organizations (VWOs), social enterprises, independent bakehouses, and home bakers. We call this initiative #BiteWeekly; our cafes will introduce a new bite every 2 weeks and share the story behind the goodies. For our first feature, we are happy to work with Bakery Hearts, a programme established in 2010 by Cheng San Family Service Centre under AMKFSC Community Services Ltd, which provides women from low-income families with the opportunity to supplement their household income and prepare them for work.
Well-equipped and well maintained. The ladies knew their way around and do their work efficiently.
We met Ms. Raudhah, a social worker with AMKFSC, and she showed us around the central kitchen where the women baked their lovely goodies. Nadi and I didn’t know what to expect and we were awed by the simple and well-equipped setup of the kitchen space which can house up to 15 people during baking and cooking classes. Ms. Raudhah shared with us that there are guest chefs that come to teach new recipes every festive season such as Christmas and Chinese New Year. The ladies would learn the recipe and then practise over a few sessions before they put their products up for sale and take public orders. This helps to spice things up for the ladies as they would always be learning new things even as regular patrons of the programme.
We observed that the ladies come from different backgrounds and may speak different languages. We were impressed with how they still managed to communicate with each other through interpreters among them who could speak multiple languages, or by learning a new language through informal interactions within themselves! I like to relate this back to the situation in Foreword Coffee, where persons of different abilities (e.g. a hearing and a deaf staff) can still work harmoniously together to get the job done.
These ladies receive allowances for their time spent in the kitchen. Ms. Raudhah shared that they shy away from paying “salaries” because the goal is not to retain the ladies in the programme but to provide an intermediary for them to gain the skills and confidence to find jobs outside.
Mrs Tan was preparing some Valentine’s Day cookies!
I shadowed Mrs Tan, a regular and one of the most experienced baker in Bakery Hearts, as she was baking some cookies to fulfill Valentine’s Day orders. Mrs Tan knows her way around the kitchen and can operate all the equipment there. She gives instructions and guides the newcomers in the kitchen. Mrs Tan generously shared her knowledge on baking and demonstrated how things are done methodically in a step-by-step manner. There were other ladies around who were making curry puffs. Everyone knew their role and work were done in a quiet and swift manner, like how you would expect an experienced team of cooks would do in a kitchen. Everyone has different levels of experience and know-how; depending on their scheduling and expertise, the ladies can only make certain baked goods on certain days. If you are thinking of engaging Bakery Hearts for some freshly baked goodies, be sure to make your orders early for their planning!
The other ladies were also making curry puffs at the same time.
For our first edition of #BiteWeekly, we ordered 3 trays of Bakery Heart’s signature chocolate brownies. Ms. Raudhah shared that the recipe for the brownies was refined a few times and eventually became a favourite product among their customers. There were many returning customers purchasing the brownies and soon it became a signature product. We highly recommend trying their brownies which you can order by messaging them on Facebook or send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Our freshly baked brownies ready for collection!
It was an enriching visit to Bakery Hearts and we really like the idea behind this programme, which has not yet been successfully replicated in other areas in Singapore. Each part of Singapore faces different social issues and challenges and has different needs; Bakery Hearts is indeed unique on its own as the Ang Mo Kio area presents a need to be addressed and Bakery Hearts fills in this need using a ground-up, self-help approach that is also sustainable in the long run.
Look out for our next #BiteWeekly feature!