Using Food Entrepreneurship to Feed Careers | Hot Bread Kitchen

We interview Leslie Abbey, Chief Executive Officer, Hot Bread Kitchen.

In this podcast, Leslie shares how HBK is focused on reaching 1,000 “breadwinners’ by 2024 and how it has been leading the organization out of the pandemic. Hot Bread Kitchen programs and services include professional skills training and career programs, job placement, food entrepreneurship and social services support. We have a built-in network of high-quality employers ready to hire women from our programs. Our food entrepreneurship offerings help small business owners seed, start and scale their ventures. And our team helps women overcome obstacles to success outside the workplace—from financial planning to childcare.


Leslie is an organizational leader and entrepreneur who has committed her career to supporting at-risk youth and families, social justice, and data-driven strategies to improve human service outcomes. In January 2022, Leslie became CEO of Hot Bread Kitchen, an organization that creates economic opportunity for immigrant women and women of color through job skills training, food entrepreneurship programs, and an ecosystem of support in New York City. 

LESLIE ABBEY, CEO Hot Bread Kitchen

Prior to joining Hot Bread Kitchen, Leslie was Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of Covenant House New York, the City’s largest organization dedicated to serving youth experiencing homelessness. During her tenure, she implemented significant operational improvements, including the launch of multiple data-driven strategies to improve youth outcomes, growth of the organization’s budget by more than 50%, and the spearheading of an agency-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plan. From 2014 to 2017, Leslie was Interim Executive Director and Chief Program Officer at Lantern Community Services, a leading nonprofit provider of supportive housing in New York City, and the largest operator of such services for youth leaving foster care. From 2007 to 2014, Leslie held progressively senior positions at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). 

Leslie started her career as an attorney in the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice from 1997 to 2007, where she first represented children and youth in Bronx Family Court, and then moved on to the Practice’s Special Litigation and Law Reform Unit. In 1995, Leslie received her J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she was an editor of The Review of Law and Social Change and a member of the Family Defense Clinic. She received her B.A. with Honors from Swarthmore College in 1990. 

Leslie has served on various boards and committees in the nonprofit and public sectors and currently sits on the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and Board of Trustees of New York University School of Law. In the year following her law school graduation, Leslie founded Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT), which provides legal information and support to Family Court litigants, and now serves 30,000 litigants annually. A native New Yorker, Leslie lives in Manhattan with her husband, two teenagers, and rescue dog, Sammy.