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Israeli bread maven Uri Scheft opens Bakey this month across from Boston Common

The café will sell babkas, breads, and buns.

Baker Uri Scheft

Uri Scheft, 58, earned a degree in biology from Tel Aviv University in Israel but ultimately decided to pursue his true passion: food. He grew up in Israel with Danish parents, and baking was a way of life in both cultures. In 2002, he opened his first bakery in Israel, Lehamim, which now has six locations throughout the country. He also wrote “Breaking Breads,” an acclaimed cookbook that delves into the finer points of babka, challah, and flatbreads.

This month, he’ll open Bakey, a café selling buttery babkas, sweet and savory buns, cheese-stuffed burekas, and breads straight from the oven — Bakey prides itself on freshness — plus coffee from Seattle roaster Caffe Umbria, at 151 Tremont St.


What about Boston appeals to you?

First of all, I love this city. After quite a few years in Israel and also in New York, I had a lot of offers to open up different places in the world. My business partner, Or Ohana, who had been running the bakeries in Israel for a long time, was anxious to do something new. We traveled to the States quite a lot and generally fell in love with it — the young spirit.

What’s your impression of the food scene in Boston? What’s special here?

There are a lot of great coffee places. People are aware of quality, and this is an audience who is already aware of high-end baked goods. The food here, for us, is always exciting. I like fish, seafood restaurants, and this area is the best.

Who are your customers? What will they want?

So, traveling in the United States, in many cities, I saw a lot of coffee businesses, chains, bakeries — not only in the States but all over the world. In Israel, where I come from, a lot of bakeries will normally bake at night. The product is usually pre-baked, warmed up. My concept is to introduce baked goods at the most fresh time.


Going back to my childhood, with my mother at home, we wanted to eat everything when it was actually hot and very fresh. This is how I feel about food in general. With my main bakeries in Israel, we always bake at the premises. I think these baked goods will touch anyone who likes bread, babkas, croissants. I don’t define my customers specifically; there’s not just one type.

Why bread and pastries? What about them speak to you?

I was born to Danish parents in Israel. They kept the Danish culture and atmosphere at home. Constantly throughout childhood, being Jewish and Danish, we loved to bake and are known for baked goods.

Growing up in the 1960s, 1970s, people didn’t go out to buy cakes. You would make it at home. At my house, my mother used to run a kindergarten. We’d bake challah for Shabbat on Friday. Always, I was coming home from elementary school, high school, always with the smell of fresh bread. It’s deep inside me. Home and fresh bread are deeply connected to me.

We went back to Denmark for a couple years. I took some baking classes but didn’t know this would be what I would do. Only later, after finishing my degree in biology, I went again to travel the Far East, and it popped into my head — this would be what I’d love to do. I returned to Denmark and went to baking school there. After the first day, I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life.


Why switch from biology to baking?

I was born to immigrants. For me, my father chose to make a living. I had the urge from quite early, a teenager, that one day, I’d do something that I really would enjoy. My father was a schoolteacher and wasn’t always happy. He did change his career later on. I saw a little frustration. I knew I wanted to do something I loved.

I took biology, but it’s not that far from what I’m doing now — it’s still working with sourdough, bacteria, chemistry. It was actually a really good background for me. I traveled around the world and after I was married, I thought, what will I do with my life?

I went back to Denmark just to check on a school. I had a lot of family there. I landed. I went to my grandmother’s house, I picked up the phone for the baking school, and it took me by surprise: Classes started today! They said I could come tomorrow.

I wanted to learn pastry. When I came to school, they looked at me — and maybe they were lacking students the baking school — and said, ‘No, you won’t do pastry. You’ll do the baking class.’ The pastry class was full. I took the first day there and everything just fell in place for me. I came home, called my wife, and said, ‘I’ve found what I want to do for the next 10 years.’ Now it’s been more than 20.


Boston has plenty of bakeries. What’s special about yours?

We really want to introduce our products in a menu that isn’t huge. Throughout my travels, around 30 years of baking in different places in Israel and other places in the world, I narrowed down my specialties. There are special products I really like, and we have a narrow menu. We want to bake throughout the day. The oven will stay on. We have five chambers in the front of the house and really want to present and sell our product at its best, when it’s fresh, just when it comes out of the oven. This is different from what I see others do.

Let’s talk about the pandemic. How has opening been for you?

That’s a good question. This business plan started around five years ago. My business partner moved to Boston two years ago. We thought we’d open in less than a year. That didn’t happen. It’s a new challenge, and during this time, we were trying to set up the business. We thought maybe we should wait until this is over, but together, with our investors, we said that we’d go all the way with it, full speed ahead. It’s a little bit scary. When we did the research on Tremont, we knew there would be foot traffic and people in the park. Obviously, we don’t see the numbers right now — but we’re very optimistic. We’re going ahead with the project.


What mistakes do amateur bakers make at home? Any advice?

You need an electronic scale. Don’t use spoons and measuring cups! I don’t like it. Sometimes you have really small amounts, and a little extra gram here and there makes a huge difference. And follow the instructions.

Favorite Boston restaurant?

A place in South Boston — Loco. It’s kind of a tequila bar. It serves oysters and guacamole. I’ve been there more than any other restaurant. It’s a very young place, for students, but I love to go there.

Favorite pandemic-era snack?

I’m a peanut-addicted person.

Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.