Brandie Itman talks about converting to Judaism, her new business selling cheesecakes, and balancing work and family life.
Where exactly do you live in Minnesota?
Prior Lake, south of the River. Like past Bloomington, further south. But my kids go to preschool at Adath synagogue and I work there part time time, too.
How old are your kids?
Three and a half, and the youngest is turning two next month.
You just started a cheesecake catering business, Bella Nava Creations, congratulations! How did the idea come about?
When my eldest was born, I became a stay-at-home mom. Suddenly, I was tied to the house and had a kid on my hip all the time. So, I started baking and trying different things, cakes and cookies. My family really loved my cheesecake. My mother-in-law said, “You should sell these,” and that put the idea in my head. I had a lot of encouragement and help from family and friends.
What are your cheesecake offerings?
I make all different kinds of cheesecake, from two-bite treat cakes to 9-inch dessert cakes. I also do savory cheesecakes, like for an appetizer with a cheese spread on crackers type of thing. I make cakes for individuals and cater events. I did cakes for my cousin’s wedding over the summer and that was really cool. They were all apples and honey.
That would be a great Rosh Hashanah cake! You just converted to Judaism, right?
I just converted in May of this year. I had my mikvah and my girls came with me. It was a really good experience.
What inspired you to convert to Judaism?
Before we had kids, my husband and I spoke about it. He really wanted to raise the kids Jewish. I fought it for awhile, since I moved away from my family 45 minutes south of Minneapolis and I wanted to hold on to one last thing from my past. But, the more that I spent time around his family, it began to feel more interested. We went to events at Adath. I started to work part time at the Gan and it felt like home. It felt like a calling, something I needed to do. I fell in love with the whole culture and the traditions. Now, I think I can be more of a support for my daughters when they go through their bat mitzvahs.
How are you balancing this and motherhood?
It’s still a struggle because I am working part time at the Gan, too. You feel guilty, but you know you’re doing it do better things.
What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
I think it would have to be Yom Kippur because I really like the idea of washing away things that happen in the last year and moving forward with a clean slate. As a mom, you feel guilty about things. I lose patience because I’m doing so much. You carry that with you and start over and do it better the next year. I really like that idea.
Do you have a favorite Jewish food?
I think I like the sweet brisket on Rosh Hashanah that my mother in law makes the most. I don’t know how she does it. It’s sweet and savory mixed together, just awesome.
Are you having cheesecake for Thanksgiving?
More than likely. My mother in law makes Thanksgiving dinner every year. She gives us each something to bring. I’ve made a bundt cake with a cheesecake center that might be good to bring again.
Bella Nava Creations will be selling cheesecakes and taking orders at Sholom Home holiday pop up shop on the November 22 and Mitzvah Magic on December 6.
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