Orly Gottesman, 36, is owner and operator of the popular kosher and gluten-free restaurants Modern Bread and Bagel, and Thyme and Tonic, an Upper West Side “plant first” bar and restaurant — but you’ll never see the words “kosher” or “gluten-free” on their menus, Gottesman says. The Le Cordon Bleu-trained patisserie chef was inspired to create gluten-free flours and treats when her foodie husband, Josh, was diagnosed with celiac disease. “Josh and I sought out to create a restaurant with a charming atmosphere, modest prices and such high-quality, delicious food that anyone eating there would have no idea that it was a gluten-free or kosher restaurant,” she says. Gottesman began her business selling her proprietary blends of gluten-free flours; now, Modern Bread and Bagel has three brick-and-mortar locations, with two more New York shops on their way.
For the full list of this year’s 36 to Watch — which honors leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making a difference in New York’s Jewish community — click here.
How does your Jewish identity or experience influence your work?
A significant chunk of our business revolves around special holiday menus — my favorite part of owning a restaurant is the creative side of coming up with new recipes and menu items, particularly for Jewish holidays. Every Purim, we create new hamantaschen flavors, and on Shavuot, we make delectable cheesecakes! For Passover, I created a grain-free flour, and we were able to supply our Jewish customers with some of the most delicious Pesach cakes and pastries. I always try to recreate traditional Jewish gluten-filled items, first for my husband, and now for our customers, because food provides such a strong emotional connection for people to their religious traditions. It’s no coincidence that our most popular bakery items all happen to be Jewish cultural foods, including challah, babka, rugelach and bagels.
Who is your New York Jewish hero?
What’s a fun/surprising fact about you?
Josh and I are both singers and we met in a Jewish a cappella group at NYU. I always dreamed of being the voice of a Disney princess.
Was there a formative Jewish experience that influenced your life path?
Joining Ani V’Ata, the Jewish a cappella group at NYU, was a formative experience for me. I grew up in a Modern Orthodox community and didn’t have many opportunities to branch out and become friends with Jews from different religious affiliations. Ani V’ata brought friends together because they identified as Jewish and shared a love of music. Josh and I met in Ani V’Ata; he was two years ahead of me, originally from Scottsdale, Arizona, and grew up in the Reform Jewish movement. Our lives would likely not have crossed paths had Ani V’Ata and the NYU Bronfman Center not brought us together. We continue to support the Bronfman Center, as it is a cause that is very close to our hearts.
Do you have a favorite inspiring quote?
The Someecards quote: “I’m having fruit salad for dinner. Well, it’s mostly grapes actually. Ok, all grapes. Fermented grapes. I’m having wine for dinner.”
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How can people follow you online?
You can visit our websites, modernbreadandbagel.com, blendsbyorly.com or thymeandtonic.com.
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