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Scottsdale bakery adds Karsh's head baker, bread

Bread from the Arizona Bread Company in Scottsdale is shown. (KTAR photo/Bob McClay)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A Scottsdale bakery is hoping to meet the needs of customers who used to go a renowned downtown Phoenix business.

Karsh's Bakery closed down its 7th Street location last month after nearly 50 years in business.

Customer Zach Epstein was there on the last day, and said he was pretty upset.

"I don't know if there's another good Kosher bakery around. I'll have to look," Epstein said.

But he still may be able to get a taste of Karsh's at another bakery. That's because Jeff Benkel, who owns the Arizona Bread Company in Scottsdale, was also a Karsh's fan.

"Karsh's was well known. We ate there a lot and always loved the rye bread," Benkel said.

And he's bringing that bread to his business, located at 7000 E. Shea Blvd. He started out by hiring Karsh's former head baker, Seraphin Nieves.

"I am always on the lookout for talent, and realized that their head baker has been doing this for 30 years," said Benkel.

Arizona Bread Company does not own the rights to Karsh's name, so Benkel says he'll "probably" call the bread a Jewish or white rye. It'll be baked in a different kind of oven and will have "a few more seeds," but Benkel said that it's basically the same bread.

"It's the original formula. We're doing the preferment (and) we're doing the sour just the way they did. We're making it available at the farmers markets that we do here in the store," said Benkel. "For the people who always loved the bread, we want to make sure that it's continued to be made available."

Arizona Bread Company may also incorporate Karsh's recipe into its challah.

"We make a really good challah now," Benkel said. "I would like to get the extra flavor that's ours, but more of the volume and the texture of theirs. We're going to be looking to kind of pull the best attributes of both."

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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