Battery Park Baker: BPC high schooler debuts at Smorgasburg

Jack Greenleaf’s Bread and Moneky was a hit at its March 31 debut at Smorgasburg.
Photo by Lisa Greenleaf

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA

The city’s most recognized foodie market, Smorgasburg, launched its eighth season last weekend — Saturday in Williamsburg’s East River State Park and Sunday at Prospect Park’s Breeze Hill. More than a dozen new vendors joined the famed venue — including a 14-year-old Battery Park City kid selling his homemade banana bread.

Jack Greenleaf, a high-school freshmen, grew up wanting to be a chef or a baker. Now, Smorgasburg has allowed him to be both. He’s the youngest vendor in Smorgasburg’s history — “by a long shot,” said Eric Demby, the market’s co-founder.

Greenleaf said his banana bread was inspired by his mother’s recipe.

“She raised me on her version of banana bread,” he said. “And I just wanted to do something in honor of that. I think that’s one of the big reasons why I started it.”

Plus, he didn’t want to rely on his parents financially anymore. Though he’s mostly just breaking even right now, his baking-business venture — dubbed Bread and Monkey — has taken off since its inception last June.

Photo by Lisa Greenleaf
The 14-year-old baker started out last year selling his banana bread to neighbors in BPC’s Rockefeller Park.

The first day he tried selling his banana bread, he baked 20 loaves of in his home kitchen, whipping up four loaves per batch. He set up shop in Rockefeller Park in BPC and sold 17 loaves by the end of the day. He gained so much traction that he built a website and started selling every week — delivering late Sunday or early Monday by bicycle — to customers in Soho, Tribeca, Battery Park City, the Financial District, and the Seaport.

By late July, he added a version made with chocolate chips. “It took off immediately,” he said.

Last year, he had 384 orders, the majority of them during the summer, since during the school year, his production rate slowed significantly. But over the winter, word of his banana bread traveled across the East River to Park Slope’s local coffee shop, the Roots. The Roots and Greenleaf got in touch back in February, and now they sell around 12 loaves per week. That same month, Greenleaf had a tasting with Smorgasburg honchos as a part of the application to become a vendor.

“When they tried it, they immediately loved it,” Greenleaf said.

But the market needed a bit more than just a simple loaf of banana bread to allot a slot to the budding baker. That’s how Greenleaf’s banana bread French toast came to be. He also experimented with various sauces and settled on chocolate and matcha — a green-tea sauce inspired by 10Below Ice Cream’s Matcha Made in Heaven flavor.

“It was unbelievable,” he said of his latest creation. “The matcha sauce was just classic.”

On March 31, Bread and Monkey debuted its banana bread, chocolate-chip banana bread, and French toast made with both at the iconic foodie haven, and was an instant hit. The stand was busy all day — his mother on the grill for the French toast and a family friend working with him as the cashier. Greenleaf said he sold a lot more than he expected, reeling in new customers with samples.

“Whenever somebody would try it, they would love it and they would either buy a loaf or French toast,” he said.

Though he’s new as a vendor, Greenleaf is no stranger to Smorgasburg. His first bite at the market was the notorious Ramen Burger a few years back when he was just 10 years old.

“I grew up going to Smorgasburg, and I always thought it would be incredibly, incredibly cool if I could be there as one of the vendors,” said Greenleaf. “It’s honestly insane.”

Greenleaf had been waiting for this day for years — but he didn’t expect the day to come so soon.

“I didn’t think that an adult would think a 14-year-old could actually withstand all the pressure from everything at Smorgasburg,” he said.

But Demby, the cofounder of Smorgasburg, said age is not a criterion. Their focus, rather, is for a “delicious” and “tasty” product, professionalism, a clear concept, a strong brand identity and the ability to self-promote.

“At his tasting, he presented as professionally as anyone we met this winter, and answered our questions as deftly as other adults,” he said. “In fact, with the focus on young people’s power and pride at the moment, we see Jack’s age as a distinct advantage.”

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