NEW ORLEANS — When Kathryn Conyers saw empty bread shelves during the early weeks of the pandemic, she decided to try out idea that she had been having for a few months -- she would make bread herself.
"For a couple of months before COVID and Mardi Gras, I was really like, 'I want to do a bread company and I want to bake bread that has nutritious things in it, that I like for my peanut butter and jellies.' But after about five or six loaves that came out horribly, my friend who is a baker said move out of the way," explains Conyers.
That's when she called her friend Carla Briggs, who is a baker.
"Her extreme struggle with trying to produce this bread at home but wanting to start a company, I just had to jump in and do some brioche and just kind of take it from there and learn the basics of making some bread and it not coming out like a log," explains Briggs.
The ladies have created an assortment of bread options including sweet potato rosemary sandwich bread, tea cakes, butter cornbread and brioche sandwich loaf.
"There's some very southern favorites but also just great recipes we've learned from aunts and grandmas along the way, " says Briggs.
The ladies are now making about 200 loaves a week, and shipping bread all across the country. Viola's Heritage Breads is about more than delicious bread. The brand has a purpose.
"Viola represents the unknown, unnamed people in the culinary world -- the black and brown people that we just don't know. We want to honor them through the name Viola through heritage bread," explains Conyers.
"We are looking to change the way the baking industry looks at African-american bakers. As a baker and a trained professional, it's been extremely hard to navigate this industry and build a legacy financially and just have products that reflect who we are. So we are changing the way bread is produced and who produces it, and just seeing something that reflects us on the shelf," says Briggs.
Viola's Heritage Breads ships and deliver on the southshore, or you can pick up bread at Thalia market (1245 Constance Street) on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
For more on Viola's Heritage Breads, check out the company's website.