At Cham Bakery, the passion for pita runs deep. Originally from Damascus, Syria, the Alderie family, including Faiz Alderea, his wife, Samar Alchaar, and their son Alaa Alderie opened Cham in the summer of 2014.
“Sharing our family pita bread with St. Louis is our way to give back to the community that so warmly welcomed us,” says Faiz. As the first pita bread company in town, the bakery takes pride in the consistent high quality of its white and whole-wheat pita, as well as its customer service. It’s no surprise then that over the years Cham has grown from two wholesale customers – Middle Eastern restaurants Petra and Ranoush – to supplying eateries across the city, as well as grocery stores such as Dierbergs Markets, Whole Foods Market, Global Foods Market and Straub’s.
Tell us about your family’s background. My father and grandfather were bakers, but I was a bookkeeper. It wasn’t until we moved to St. Louis in 2012, reuniting with my son, Awss, that we began baking. –Faiz Alderea My dad and I actually started a number of businesses before Cham Bakery. We sold the last one to buy [the warehouse where Cham is housed], and in the future, we want to start a food truck. –Alaa Alderie
What is it like working with your son? In the bakery, he is not my son; he is my partner. I’ve taught him what I know and now we work together, making all our business decisions together. –F.A.
How have customers received your pita bread? Oh, they love it! Before Cham Bakery opened, people in St. Louis had to settle for three-, four-day-old pita. It was coming from Chicago and other places; people had to order it online and wait for it to be shipped. No one wants that – old bread, it’s not good. –A.A. Originally, almost all of our customers were Arabic, but we’ve since learned more about American culture and the American market and we’ve been able to expand. –F.A. A lot of local restaurants pair our pita with menu items: The hummus, baba ghanoush and labneh at The Vine Cafe on South Grand [Boulevard] comes with fresh-baked Cham pita bread; Ranoush does amazing things with our pita, such as its arayes [pita stuffed with spicy ground beef]; and chef Wesam [Hamed] of Kaslik Mediterranean Cuisine in Hazelwood, Missouri, makes magic with it – to name a few. The best thing about this business is that our client list is stable – it’s very rare to lose a customer – so we can focus on adding one or two new wholesalers or restaurants a month. –A.A.
With an increasing customer base, how do you ensure that the quality of your pita bread never falters? First, we buy the best ingredients; our bread is made with only five ingredients – flour, yeast, salt, sugar and water – and we pay a high price for each. Second, we work from the heart. This is the bread that feeds our family, so if anything doesn’t taste right, in any given moment, it goes in the trash and we address the problem. We want only the best to reach our customers’ table. –F.A.
Cham Bakery, 6818 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, Missouri, chambakery.com