With a slogan like "doing good tastes great," it's no wonder that Nixtamal is off to a good start. The project from Children First, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of children and families in east Bakersfield, has plenty of sweet plans in store for the community.
To start, it's offering a monthly subscription box of baked goods, highlighting work from local bakers, and an item from a local artisan. Besides satisfying your sweet tooth, the boxes also help bring awareness to Nixtamal's main mission: to further develop east Bakersfield and support its residents.
Nixtamal is taking a cookbook page from Homegirl Cafe, an offshoot of Homeboys Industries in Los Angeles, which provides on-the-job training for residents and provides them with culinary and business skills that will serve them in the future.
The local project's mission is twofold, said Andrae Gonzales, city councilman and founder of Children First.
"One, we want to really employ individuals who are living directly in the neighborhood," he said of the plan to open a cafe and bakery that will allow east side residents to develop valuable work skills while feeding the neighborhood.
"And two, this is a way for us to generate revenue that we will reinvest into east Bakersfield. All proceeds that are generated will go to benefitting east Bakersfield in service projects and enrichment opportunities."
The name is a nod to the project's mission and ethos: Nixtamalization is the process by which maize kernels are treated with alkali and steeped to prepare them for further use in its whole form as hominy (found in pozole, menudo and other foods) or ground into masa, which as a dough is the basis for tortillas, tamales and arepas.
And just as ingredients come together, so too did community partners to help bring the project's first phase together including Jennifer Williams Cordova of Willis and Williams Design, Jeran McConnel of Oleander + Palm and Marah Meek, chef and Bakersfield College culinary arts instructor who helped curate the inaugural subscription box.
To give the community a literal taste of what is to come, Meek and her volunteers from the BC program developed a selection of baked goods that will be available next month.
Available by preordering on the Nixmatal website, the March box comes with an assortment of sweet and savory goods:
- Morning buns, flaky rolls with hints of orange and cinnamon.
- Thumbprint jam cookies, with seasonal jam.
- Savory scones of bacon, Gruyere and chives.
- Almond-lemon tea cake, with lemon icing.
- Bostock, sliced brioche baked with guava jam, almond cream and toasted almonds on top.
- Devil's food chocolate cake with caramel and chocolate ganache.
- Seasonal hand pies filled with raspberry jam.
"I was thinking about different pastries that people like to enjoy," Meek said of the offerings. "There are more sweet things but we have a really good variety of pastries that people are comfortable with, really yummy everyday pastries."
The bostock, a French pastry, may be the least familiar to customers.
Meek said the brioche topped with guava jam and frangipane is similar to something she had at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.
She said, "I wanted to add something different, a little out of the ordinary."
Also included in the subscription box is a flour dish towel designed by Nanette Bonilla of Nanette Art and Design featuring a rising golden sun and a growing corn stock in reference to the project's name.
Each month's box, launched on the first Saturday of the month, will feature a different assortment of baked goods and an item from a local artisan. People can order one box or subscribe to receive them monthly.
Meek said she is eager to see the project develop.
"I am really excited that there is going to be a cafe that's focused on the east side. Sometimes we don't focus on certain parts of town."
"There are bakeries in L.A. that do something similar but I don't know of anything like that in Bakersfield where employees learn culinary and business skills, how to be in the culinary world."
Gonzales said the project has been in the works since last year, encouraged by the 10th anniversary of Children First in 2021, but that the pandemic has slowed the rollout. He said they hope to open the business as early as next year. A location is close to being secured and local architect Elizabeth Hernandez is working on the design.
More details will be revealed down the line, Gonzales said.
The self-described "nonprofit practitioner," who also heads up Stewards Inc., said he is very proud of the hard work put forth by Children First over the last decade.
"Volunteer-led efforts are driven by heart and vision and love for the community and they are faced with lots of different challenges," he said. "The fact that we have been able to sustain our organization and do good work in east Bakersfield is something that all of those volunteers should be proud of."
Through community projects like Nixtamal, the organization aims to help the neighborhood continue to flourish and grow.
"Based on the relationships we've fostered with residents in east Bakersfield, our hope is to pursue this venture and really allow us to go even further over the next 10 years."