Growing up in a Jamaican household De’Asia Collins had never heard of babka. However, today, the Yonkers resident has put her own spin on the Polish-Jewish treat and created a company, Bitchin’ Babkas.
Collins, 29, grew up watching her mother make delicious Jamaican food, but her specialty is nothing she ate as a child. Instead she launched Bitchin’ Babkas in 2019 and it has slowly garnered a reputation citywide. In fact, it was selected to be part of the Bank of America Small Business Spotlight at the Winter Village at Bryant Park in Manhattan between Nov. 27 and Dec. 12.
“I have never won anything in my life,” Collins told the Bronx Times. “I’m real excited about this opportunity.”
Raised in a Jamaican family in Brooklyn, Collins had never heard of babka growing up. As a child she cooked a lot with her mom and loved being around food.
However, her path to becoming a chef and owning a business did not happen overnight. She was an executive assistant for several years in Manhattan, but wasn’t happy. In 2016 she began buying cookbooks and during that process, stumbled upon a Jewish cookbook and saw something called babka. Collins was intrigued and her boyfriend, Alex Sabala, told her it was delicious. He even made her watch the infamous “Seinfeld” episode about babka.
From there on, she was hooked.
Collins made chocolate babka for her boyfriend’s family and they loved it.
“For me growing up the only thing I knew that was Jewish was a bagel and cream cheese,” she said.
Collins continued to hone her craft by making numerous babkas and in 2019 launched Bitchin’ Babkas.
Then shuttered home from her job as an executive assistant last year due to the pandemic, Collins realized baking Jewish delights was something that she wanted to pursue full time. The delicious dough became a canvas for other spreads, inspiring Collins to experiment with a variety of flavors, including guava, cream cheese, hot chocolate and more.
“Of course, it was really difficult to quit my job,” she said. “With the support of my boyfriend and family I really just strapped on my boots.”
Collins told the Bronx Times cooking was easy, but she had never run a business before. So, she learned how to promote herself on social media and Google ads and in 2019, obtained a master’s in business from the Metropolitan College of New York.
And now that she has the knowledge about Jewish foods she is hoping to merge them at some point with Jamaican delicacies.
“I love making and creating food,” Collins said. “I’m so into learning about Jewish food.”
From someone that never had or heard of babka, it’s now a huge part of her life.
“I always knew this is what I wanted to do,” Collins said. “A lot of the feedback I get is from people who have never had babka before. It’s really exciting to get people into babka.”
Looking ahead to the end of the month, Collins is eager for her babka to be displayed at the Winter Village at Bryant Park. And with tourism back in NYC, millions of people will be able to sample her creations. “I think they’re really going to love the taste,” she said.
Reach Jason Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.