Here at Clements’ & Lees Market, we are fortunate to have many amazing foods come through our doors every day. Occasionally, we come across something that we would describe as mind blowing. Divine. Transcendent. Something so good that we run to tell our friends and family about it. The incredible babka, rugelach and challah we carry from Rhode Island’s own Buns Bakery fits this description to a T! That’s why we were so excited to receive the opportunity to check out their new facility in East Providence.
Buns is the brainchild of baker extraordinaire, Guy Hanuka. To kick our visit off, we spoke at length about Guy’s entry into the craft of baking. A native of Israel, Guy went looking for work after his time in the military. He was attracted to the idea of working in the food industry, and, after a few jobs, eventually landed a position as a dishwasher in a facility that hosted culinary classes. Guy would always absorb the topics being taught, and one day, the facility hosted an artisan baking course. After class ended, Guy approached the instructor to see if he had any interest in taking on a protégé . “He was a real deal artisan baker. He even had a wheat tattoo on his hand!”, Guy exclaimed. This instructor would go on to have a profound impact on him, acting as a mentor for years to come. After learning extensively from him, Guy went on to open numerous bakeries and explore other dessert disciplines and even had a brief stint in China. Eventually, Guy made his way to Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island to get a formal education in the art of baking. With a laugh, Guy said he had an “existential crisis” after J&W and took a break from baking; however, it all reignited after having massive success producing babka and challah out of his home kitchen at the start of the 2020 pandemic. He eventually started producing commercially out of Hope & Main (a culinary incubator in Warren, RI) and it continued to grow from there.
One thing that was immediately apparent when we entered the production area is how exceptionally organized and driven the Buns team is. When asked what his secret is, Guy said “from day one, it’s always been about we, not me. I’ve always liked working as a team. We try to do a lot together… even eat lunch together. We find it harder as we grow, but the ideal is always there”. He continued on that “money was never the goal for us. It was always more about being in the right places and building the right relationships”.
To see the production process first hand was a treat for the senses. In the first room, dough was being rolled flat, filled, braided, and cut at a series of stations. Each operated like a well-oiled machine. Every step expertly calculated and executed. The entire team (of over 15 full time staff) seemed genuinely happy to be doing what they were doing.
As we entered the second room, we wish we could describe the heavenly aroma. A table full of freshly baked babka was flanked by ovens baking beautiful challah. It was one of the most divine food sights we’ve ever seen.
After viewing the production area, Guy took us to a large room that was in the works. “What I would like to do here is eventually make this a separate kitchen to be utilized by companies looking to grow. We got to experience this model at Hope & Main and it could give companies another stepping stone”. What an amazing idea to help the local food industry continue to flourish!
A gracious host from the moment we arrived, the final stop was over to some cooling racks. Guy proceeded to send us with some tasty samples to bring back to the stores for everyone to try. These included the new seasonal favorite, apple babka!
To say this was a memorable feature would be an understatement. Guy’s story was truly inspirational. Through a dazzling amount of hard work and risk, Buns Bakery has continued to flourish. They have been hugely popular at our Portsmouth location and we are currently planning to bring them to Lees in Westport, too! They embody everything we love about local foods. Amazing products with a unique story and heart. Try them on your next visit… You won’t regret it.
Until next time,
Matt, Shane, Mike & Stephen from Clements’ & Lees