Friday, August 6, 2021

Bait Lehem House of Bread



OVERVIEW​​​​​​​​​​​​
Bait Lehem, which means house of bread in Hebrew is literally, a feast for the senses. Authentic Mediterranean and West Asian flavors using bold and explosive blends of herbs and spices and a penchant for the traditional healthy good food stimulate your curiosity and appetite.
Michael Tweg, COO / Head Baker

The owner/ head baker draws recipes from the heart, inspired by his Israeli heritage, enriched by his travels across the globe and nurtured by his desire to help people and communities in need.



OUR MISSION​​​​​​​​​​​​
To empower, create a culture of compassion and enrich the human spirit—one bread, one person and one community at a time.

OUR VISION​​​​​​​​​​​​
➢ For our business to be one of the top options of people who love and understand what authentic and good food is.
➢ To maintain a corporate image that is pro-worker and pro-people.


OUR PRINCIPLE​​​​​​​​​​
Our company believes that providing employment to locals and improving their culinary skills to a higher standard will enable us to maintain the quality that we have vouched for since our business started.
Along side our unswerving commitment to quality, one of our business ideals is to be able to make an impact in the lives of the people, in the community we live in and in our own workplace. The bread that we make, is meant to be shared and enjoyed by people.

OUR STORY​​​​​​​​​​​​
The passion for good food, particularly bread, started right from a simple abode in Israel, where the company owner and chief baker Michael Tweg hails from. His penchant for travel and food brought him to several countries in Europe and America.


Michael , together with his Filipina wife Cristinita Areola (whom he met and fell in love with, in Israel) came to visit the Philippines. But Michael fell in love with the Philippines right away as he was amazed not only with the culture but with the possibilities and opportunities here.
Michael , together with his wife Cristinita Areola


In 2012 Michael and Tine settled in the Philippines and has since made this country their permanent residence.
In 2013 fueled with the desire to make a living and realize a dream of putting up a business, the couple turned to their passion for bread and good food. That year, they opened a simple restaurant offering only simple Mediterranean fares such as pita bread and falafel.
It showcased the flavors of the Mediterranean and West Asian regions, which always remind Michael of home. Michael had always wanted to introduce these cuisines to the Filipino palate. With the exotic taste and explosive flavors, Bait Lehem struggled from the beginning mainly due to the unfamiliarity of the Filipinos to this type of food.
Eventually, they developed products that will appeal to the Filipino palate without compromising quality and originality. Slowly, Bait Lehem was able to get the patronage of clients.
o At present, Beit Lehem employs more than 40 personnel, nine of whom are professionally trained bakers under the tutelage of the owner/head baker himself.
o Bait Lehem now serves people from all walks of life. Their commitment to quality and topnotch service assures every client a unique dining experience.
o One reason why they persevered to continue with the business, even at the height of the COVID19 pandemic, is their wish for Filipinos to have another choice and a chance to learn another culture through food.
Vegetarian options and other dishes using the best and freshest ingredients are now served at the restaurant- affordable and reasonable.

OUR RESTAURANT​​​​​​​​​​​
Our restaurant is located at 755 San Ignacio St., Plainview, Mandaluyong (near Mandaluyong City Hall). It is a one-stop shop building where our restaurant/bakeshop is located and where we operate our commissary.
OUR PRODUCTS​​​​​​​​​​​
With quality as top priority, various ingredients used for the different artisan breads and food items are sourced out overseas, mainly from India and Mexico where herbs and spices abound.
Each bread and every food item served at Bait Lehem is prepared in a traditional way ensuring the authenticity of the products. Dishes are made upon orders and served fresh on the table.

Every Sunday at the at the weekend market in Salcedo, Makati City, Bait Lehem goodies are put on display and sale.
For those who have desires for exotic flavors and healthy options, Bait Lehem delivers around Metro Manila to satisfy your cravings.

house” (bait) and “bread” (lehem), is Israeli Michael Tweg and his Filipino partner, Cristinita Areola.
“The idea is to help Filipinos establish a family income so people don’t need to go abroad,” Tweg told the Inquirer in an interview.
“When I was in Israel, I saw how migrant workers struggled with homesickness, and tirelessly worked just to provide for their families. I thought it shouldn’t be that way. It would be better if families stay together,” he shared.



First visit
The decision to set up shop in the Philippines was not a hard call to make, Tweg said. After all, it was love at first visit for him in 2012. “I saw a potential here, and also saw the needs of so many people. I wanted to give people the opportunity to work,” Tweg said.
The challenge at that time, he said, was getting Filipinos to appreciate food they are not too familiar with.
“Most of our products [though] are common in the Holy Land, a lot of what we eat day-to-day in Israel and found in every street in the old city,” Tweg explained.
Apart from exposing Filipinos to traditional Mediterranean food, the entrepreneur said he also wanted to show the people “a way to eat healthy, without any chemical or preservatives, to improve their lifestyle.”
It took him two months to develop the products he wanted to introduce to the Filipino palate. And while most of the ingredients are locally sourced, he had to import the spices to bring the authentic taste of traditional Mediterranean cuisine.
“I was about to give up, and gave myself around two to three days more before I pack my bags. But a miracle came and I found the right products to carry on,” Tweg shared.



He thought at first he would not stay long in the Philippines. He could not be more wrong. After eight years, the kitchen has grown to a commissary, churning out products that many Filipinos have come to love.
Tweg’s decades-long experience working in kitchens in the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium and New York helped him expand Bait Lehem’s menu with items incorporating Western methods and Middle Eastern flavors.
Aside from its best-selling pita, its top products now also include the filo pastry treat baklava, coffee buns and hummus.
Its diversified product range also consists of flatbread with different toppings, a variety of bagels, baguettes, bourekas, sweet treats, artisanal loaves and ready-to-cook falafel.
Bait Lehem had also set up stores in El Nido and Coron in Palawan, further expanding its employee base. But when the island stores closed because of the slump in tourism as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tweg brought his employees to Mandaluyong City.



Opportunity
“I don’t want them to lose their jobs. There’s more opportunity to sell here, and I also think it would be better to just gather them all where we’d all be safe,” Tweg said.
The global health crisis and the restrictions it brought to mobility and businesses had also compelled Bait Lehem to rethink its strategy and focus on online selling.
Weeks after the initial quarantine imposition in Metro Manila, Bait Lehem’s portal went online and started taking orders from Monday to Saturday.
But because it had already built a loyal customer base from the Legazpi Sunday Market in Makati City, which was also suspended because of the pandemic, the company decided to extend its online operations and accept orders all seven days of the week.
The demand was further boosted by new clients from different cities who, before the pandemic, were not able to visit the Mandaluyong City store and the Sunday market in Makati City.



The pandemic may have hurt the business in some ways, but Tweg and Areola found a way to navigate around the restrictions to grab the opportunity to serve markets they were not able to tap into before.
Now, aside from enjoying retail sales, Bait Lehem is also supplying baked goods to some of the country’s major dining outlets, such as cafés and Mediterranean joints.
“My vision is to grow into different cities in the Philippines, mainly to teach and to give opportunities,” Tweg said. Before the business grew to what it is today, the Israeli baker had already visited several depressed locations in the country to teach Filipinos how to bake, and sell products to augment the family income. Bait Lehem has also been embarking on charity missions, bringing breads to frontliners and providing food in areas hit hard by the pandemic.



Freshness
And despite all that it has accomplished thus far, the company is still not letting up. Tweg said he was already negotiating with partners outside Metro Manila. He believes he can replicate Bait Lehem’s success in Metro Manila to other places by sticking to what had brought the customers to the brand.
“First is freshness, the food does not sit on the shelf. Customers basically order the night before to receive them fresh,” Tweg said.
He also boasts of the products’ quality as the highest, “because we don’t do any short cuts,” he continued.
Tweg also said using as much local ingredients as they can not only ensure their freshness and quality, but also provide business to local suppliers.



Aside from looking to expand outside Metro Manila, Bait Lehem has also further diversified its menu.
Soon, customers may order cooked pasta dishes from Bait Lehem online. Pasta packs which also include sauces, breads, and even bottles of wine, good for two or four people, will also be available.
At the rate it is expanding, it looks like Tweg is not about to leave the Philippines anytime soon.

www.baitlehem.com/ @baitlehembakery/ 0995 441 5602

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