At the Bench

A Look Behind the Loaf Series

“A Look Behind the Loaf” is an inclusive blog series designed to highlight and elevate the unique voices, stories and experiences of underrepresented professionals across the artisan baking community. If you’d like to suggest someone to feature in the future please reach out to



Verzênay Pâtisserie

Arshiya and her husband, Aqeel, have run this small family business since 2014, starting first at the Green City Farmers market in Lincoln Park, Chicago. The quality of Verzenay's products is a direct result of sourcing from local farms, belief in using natural or organic ingredients, and mastering the tried and tested artisanal techniques.

At Verzênay, we are all about sharing our devotion to make delicious and nourishing Chef crafted sweet and savory baked goods and desserts. Our mission is to provide consumers with products that are:

  • Best in taste & quality
  • Filled with locally sourced and clean ingredients, and
  • Supports economic development with a focus on making progress on equality for women

What inspired you to open a bakery business?
Verzênay Bakery and Patisserie was born when I moved to Paris to learn and excel in the art of French pastries. After graduating from the Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts, Paris, and working over there at the Delmontel Boulangerie-Pâtisserie and Hotel Le Meurice, Verzênay became our means to share the French passion for high quality bread, pastries and desserts.

What keeps you going?
The satisfaction that comes with learning, developing, mastering and passing on the knowledge of the different techniques of baking and pastry making, and equally, the support from customers and businesses over the years.

What challenges have you overcome as a baker?
Making and selling a wide variety of bakery assortment with artisan breads, pastry, desserts and also savory products was a major challenge I took early on in 2014, as I always wanted my consumers to get a comprehensive offering from our side. Additionally, balancing our business with a slight mix of wholesale, while staying focused on retail is another ongoing challenge that we have worked on over the last 6 years and this has now positioned us well to open our new storefront in July 2021.

What advice would you give to someone considering a baking career?
Before jumping fully into the baking career or baking business, go to the place where they make the kinds of things you would like to make, and stage at those places. Be ready for non-traditional working hours. Definitely start off with a niche line of your offerings to master and sell to consumers or if you are an employee, master a few techniques first. Taste is first, presentation and offering innovative products is second.

What does 2021 hold for you?
Since we have always been focused on being a full line bakery with artisan breads, pastry, desserts and also a savory breakfast and lunch place, we are so looking forward to what we have been working on for years - to open our first storefront. While many of the COVID related challenges are slowly going away, we are still focused on staffing up with the right skillset and being successful at our store.

What recipe would you like to share?
Inverse Puff Pastry

Try This at Home Series

Launched at a time when so many in our industry are experiencing varying degrees of uncharted waters, the "Try This at Home Series", is a means of helping to keep bakers baking, even if that means baking at home. Continue reading for more on those stories. And if the world has allowed you extra time at this moment, we encourage you to dig in, keep busy learning new techniques, testing formulas, or safely networking with fellow artisan bakers. Our best to each and every one of you as we all learn to navigate these current realities.

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A Look Behind the Loaf:

Joe Bowie - 9.25.20

Shala Irby - 10.16.20

Maham R. Qureshi - 1.22.21

En-Ming Hsu - 3.19.21

Third Culture - 4.09.21

Masa Madre - 5.21.21

Bread Justice - 6.04.21


Try This at Home:

Pain de Monium - 4.3.20

Hot Cross Buns - 4.7.20

Two Multigrains - 4.14.20

Spicy Brioche - 4.17.20

Southern Accent - 4.21.20

Certified/Certifiable - 4.24.20

Challah & Polenta - 4.28.20

Baking Ambassador - 5.1.20

Two Scones - 5.5.20

Craig Ponsford - 5.8.20

Schlepping for Bagels - 5.12.20

Puff Pastry - 5.19.20

Indisputable Bread - 5.22.20

Cinnamon Rolls - 5.26.20

Toscano Bread - 5.29.20

That's Amore! - 5.9.20