January 1, 2024, Brighton, NY – Malek’s Bakery in Brighton, NY is excited to announce that kosher meat pioneer and Rochester-native Naftali Hanau will take over management of the historic bakery, effective immediately. In the coming weeks and months, Hanau plans to expand breakfast & lunch options alongside Malek’s much beloved kosher, dairy-free pastries, cakes and breads.
In late 2023, Hanau, founder of kosher meat company Grow & Behold Foods, was approached by the bakery’s current owner, Hillel Community Day School, about managing the bakery. Hanau and his wife Anna had been considering opening a deli/bakery/catering enterprise at some point, once they and their family were settled in Rochester. They moved here from Brooklyn, NY in summer 2023.
“We really love feeding people,” said Hanau. “We loved the personal connections we had with our customers at Grow & Behold. We really got to know folks – who has a family celebration coming up, who prefers second cut brisket to first cut, etc. We were thinking about moving back to Rochester and building a smaller-scale food enterprise where we could get that feeling again of knowing and being a part of the community built around good food.”
While the details on that enterprise are still evolving, the opportunity at Malek’s was one Hanau says he just couldn’t pass up.
“I grew up with cow cookies from Maleks, and my kids know them as a special Rochester treat that my mother would bring when she visited us in Brooklyn. The notion that we still have a brick-and-mortar bakery in Brighton, with delicious foods baked fresh daily and such a loyal following – it’s a great opportunity to get involved with the community and the local food scene here.”
As an alumna of HCDS, it’s an extra special connection and opportunity to come full circle, supporting the institutions that were formative in his youth. Hillel Board President Yosef Kilimnick says that the school is “very excited at the new direction Malek’s will be taking under alum Naftali Hanau.”
Top on Hanau’s list is reorganizing the physical layout in the bakery to make room for a coffee station and a couple of small tables in the front. He also plans to introduce more savory breakfast and lunch items, including egg sandwiches, whitefish & lox, soups, bourekas and more, while still continuing to produce the items that have kept Maleks on the map for decades.
“Pastries, kuchens, custom cakes, challah – those signature Malek’s items aren’t going anywhere,” Hanau said. While change takes time, Hanau is excited to work with longtime Malek’s bakers to grow the offerings at the bakery over the weeks and months to come. Future plans also include online ordering (a selection of the bakery’s offerings are available via UberEats and GrubHub), group deliveries to local schools, and catering.
Founded in 1977 by Ms. Lea Malek, a holocaust survivor from Hungary, Malek’s Bakery opened at 1795 Monroe in what had previously been a bakery owned by Herman Storer. (Before that, the building was once the Brighton Town's offices and even has the old jail holding cell in the basement!) Ms. Malek baked cookies and pastries for daily treats, as well as breads and cakes for the Jewish sabbath and holidays. The recipes were her own from her native Hungary, as well as those gathered from other Rochester Jewish bakers on Joseph Avenue. McCurdy’s Seven Layer Cake still bears the name of the department store where it originated (one of the McCurdy’s bakers came to work at Malek’s and brought the recipe along.) The bakery has always served both Jewish and non-Jewish clientele, with holiday shaped cookies and special cakes for Easter, Christmas, Halloween, Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah, Purim and more.
In 2002, Ms. Malek sold the bakery to her long-time baker, Hoang Ngo. When Mr. Ngo was ready to retire in 2022, the bakery was purchased by the Hillel Community Day School to ensure it would continue to serve the Brighton and Rochester community.