Autumn Stanford and her Brooklyn Kolache Co. school NYC on the historical pastry.
In Brooklyn, Small-Batch Kolaches from the Heart of Texas
In our continuing series, The Texas Embassies, we introduce you to outstanding restaurants throughout the world serving Texas-inspired fare.
Photos by Alexander Pedigo.
No one else was making them — so she decided to do it. Such was Autumn Stanford’s straightforward reasoning behind opening a kolache shop in Brooklyn. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Stanford arrived in New York City in 2004 and noticed a void in the food scene where it came to the sweet and/or savory doughy treat whose origins are from the Czech Republic. Still, Stanford would spend many years honing her business acumen at one of the most successful food-delivery companies in the country, Seamless, before formally embarking on her baking dream in 2012.
“I ended up knowing my job [at Seamless] was going to be moved to Salt Lake City,” she explains of her transition into small business owner, operator and baker. “So, I thought back to the things I loved the most — and I Ioved my time working at coffee shops and bakeries when I was in high school and college. There was no kolache bakery [in Brooklyn], so I knew that would set us apart from the other great bakeries. It gave me a year to plan for it.”
To fund the bakery now known as Brooklyn Kolache Co., Stanford turned to Kickstarter and, well, the rest is history. So successful is her culinary operation, that it attracts visitors form out-of-state, and there are exciting plans for expansion. We celebrate this TexPat’s achievements and chatted with her about the learning curves, the best combinations, and the Texas-cuisine trends currently making waves the New York City food scene.
First things first, do you bake the kolaches?
I do, I started off as a baker here. At this point, I still bake them, but I more-so call myself “Problem Solver.” We now have three other bakers, and I do anything and everything that needs to be done.
What was the community’s response to your opening and kolaches in general?
There’s a huge learning curve. People often come in and want a muffin or bagel. In the beginning when we opened, I got used to just explaining what we make. Then I would give them a sample. Or sometimes people were scared to order because they didn’t know how to pronounce it. But now on the weekends we have people coming from Connecticut, New Jersey and Philly who place big orders in advance to take some home to freeze.
How do you explain the difference between a Texas-style kolache, which you say specialize in, and a traditional Czech kolache?
A traditional kolache would be made with fillings like cottage cheese or apricot. We take a lot of liberty with our fillings. Sausage and cheese is our most popular, and it’s really a combination of both Texan and Czech heritage. People don’t think of Texas as being a hub for Europeans, but the Czech Republic and Germany both have huge communities in the state. I’ll give [customers] a little tour of Texas’ history and how Czech settlers might have stuffed kolaches with local ingredients — and that’s what this is.
So your sausage and cheese kolaches are the biggest hits, but what is your favorite combination?
We just got a bunch of New York state cherries, so I’m really into cherry. We also have a mushroom and goat cheese that I love, and we’re doing a limited run with Fletcher’s Brooklyn BBQ with smoked char siu. It’s sort of like the most gourmet pork bun you could have.
There’s a undercurrent passing through New York right now in praise of Texas cuisine. Why do you think that is?
It’s interesting. I feel like the general trend for food in the past 5 or 6 years has been to be really indulgent. A lot of the food I was raised eating was pretty indulgent, too, with lots of queso and meat. So I think part of [the fanfare] comes from sticking to that general trend of Southern indulgence food. You see a lot of Tex-Mex right now, and for a long time it’s only been available as fast food — which isn’t even doing it right. I feel like people have the same reaction to discovering kolaches as they do to discovering queso: “How did I not know about this?!”
What advice would you give to anyone tinkering with opening their own food shop in New York?
I would say, “Do it right the first time.” Peoples’ first impression is the biggest impact you can make. When you open, have the menu you’re going to have, and have the hours you’re going to keep. Show them everything you’re going to offer. And you have to make sure you’re there to control the experience the customers are getting right from the beginning. New York City is so competitive, and there’s so much that’s good, that you really have to go above and beyond right from the get go.
If you're in the New York City area and would like to visit Brooklyn Kolache Co., you can do so Monday - Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Fridays from 7 to 8; on Saturdays from 8 to 8; and Sundays from 8 to 6. You'll find them at 520 Dekalb Ave., Brooklyn NY, 11025.
Phone Number: (718) 398-1111