This Inspiring Couple Turned Pandemic Baking into a Successful Business

The sweet life.

  • Category
    Eat & Drink, People
  • Written by
    Kara Mickelson
  • Photos courtesy of
    Kirsh Baking Company

When Uyen and Jeff Kirshenbaum were furloughed from their jobs at Simms Restaurant Group due to COVID-19, they needed to reassess their personal and professional goals while finding a way to continue supporting their growing family. Losing both incomes while paying for a recent home purchase only compounded the stress.

As a pastry chef, Uyen did what came naturally during the pandemic: She baked. As a way to connect personally with family and friends, she sent out handmade “cookie grams” with personalized notes. The heartfelt messages and home-baked sweets were so well received that they inspired Uyen and Jeff to create an online cookie business during the lockdown. As Kirsh Baking Company became a reality, Uyen’s dream of having her own operation was pushed to the forefront.

With a dramatic change to their intense work schedules came a new perspective. While still busy raising their young children and managing life during a lockdown, Jeff and Uyen began laying the foundation for their vision. They started with a cottage license and took praise from family and friends as a cue to move full force into the world of mail-order baking.

They bake small batches of classically acclaimed cookies, like salted chocolate chip and snickerdoodle, as well as playfully inspired seasonal recipes that would satisfy any aficionado, such as their “grilled s’more sammies.”

Jeff was familiar with significant career shifts. Once a Wall Street guy, he later embraced a hospitality career and eventually served as a general manager in the Simms Restaurant Group. His experience and flexibility allow him to keep the new online business in perspective. Founding Kirsh Baking Company also created space for Uyen and Jeff to structure life according to their own schedules.

Family is a top priority for the couple. Due to drastic shifts caused by the pandemic, their goal of building a brick-and-mortar bakery became tangible. Previous stress from dueling schedules was reduced as the two were able to focus on the family business.

Uyen’s parents left their home country of Vietnam after the war. They boarded a boat with six young children in tow to make the dangerous journey. She now credits that decision for fueling her drive to succeed. Uyen was less than 1 year old when her family spent six months in a Malaysian refugee camp before making it to the United States. Her parents’ ability to thrive amid difficult circumstances was a trait they passed on to Uyen—along with a strong sense of family and the comfort of home-cooked meals.

While her parents supported her baking talent at home, they encouraged her to achieve an academic degree. They were more than a little surprised by her desire to pursue a culinary education. Uyen graduated from UC Irvine with a degree in international studies, through which she was able to spend time abroad in France. As part of her culinary career, she graduated from École Lenôtre, one of the top pastry schools on the planet, and later worked with Guy Savoy at Michelin-starred restaurants in Vegas. 

The fancy French pastries that inspired and delighted Uyen while studying abroad were integral to her culinary foundation and training. She felt something familiar in the cuisine—perhaps the French colonial influence on the Vietnamese recipes her mother prepared resonated on a deeper level.  

Uyen designed Kirsh Baking Company to offer approachable and unpretentious baked goods. Currently she and Jeff are working from a commercial space and have hired full- and part-time staff to support the growing business. Uyen creates recipes, manages the kitchen and staff, and has also recently rejoined Simms Restaurant Group. Jeff chose not to return to his job and now manages the bakery’s website operations. 

They bake small batches of classically acclaimed cookies, like salted chocolate chip and snickerdoodle, as well as playfully inspired seasonal recipes that would satisfy any aficionado, such as their “grilled s’more sammies.” Even their dairy- and gluten-free cookies, made to accommodate Jeff’s sensitivities to lactose, sell out daily. While cookies are their staple, pie is apparently on the horizon as the company expands.

The tasty treats in every box of “cookie love” that Kirsh Baking Company delivers remind us that the day ahead is sweeter when savored and shared with family and friends. 

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