Editor’s note: This is a new series about Detroiters living elsewhere, but still rooted in the D.
Laya Barak: Bone broth and dance with Midwest flair
Laya Barak, 34, took her Midwestern values with her when she moved to New York City to pursue dancing.
“Having that genuine Midwestern attitude of helping out thy neighbor and just being real with people — once I started getting work and building up my name, when other people needed that same help there was just that genuine want to help each other out,” she says.
A West Bloomfield High School graduate, she went to Indiana University, then backpacked the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Israel and Europe before moving to NYC in 2005.
Laya danced at Annette & Company School of Dance in Farmington Hills and also competitively. She became a choreographer and taught dance as well. Then, ankle surgery in 2011 forced her to diversify her pursuits.
Today, she teaches Pilates at a pre-professional program at The School of Steps on Broadway, a New York dance school. Laya also works on various choreography projects, including a night of performances that benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
She’s also found a passion in helping others heal via bone broth, which her mother, Dorothy, sent her after ankle surgery. Dorothy started making broth and shipping it to her on dry ice. “It was something that really helped heal me,” says Laya, who had stomach inflammation issues after surgery.
The idea to make the bone broth commercially came one Sunday in February 2015 as she read about bone broth catching on nationwide. She wrote a business plan, then they started looking for commercial kitchen space and getting licensed.
In December 2015, the mother-daughter team opened an online store for their Michigan-based business, BrothMasters, and started shipping. Dorothy makes broth in a commercial kitchen in Ferndale, while Laya handles the business side. Her father, Eddy, helps sort out their cooling and packaging process, and her younger brother, Ari, organizes nationwide shipping and operations.
“It’s been a learning process for all of us, but it’s been just a great venture that is now really taking off,” Laya says. “We’re all really passionate about it.”
Between her dance community and Pilates clients, she’s got lots of potential customers. She runs broth tastings backstage for actors at Broadway shows and, in recent months, also hosted a private event for CNN’s anchors and reporters. She’s in talks with integrative doctors, acupuncturists and Eastern medicine doctors who want to bring her broth to their patients.
The bone broth comes in 16-ounce packs that can stay frozen six months or in the fridge for six days. They’ve been selling out each new batch, with demand particularly high in the winter.
“It’s an age-old recipe people just don’t want to make anymore because it takes so long and is so labor intensive,” Laya says.
When back in Michigan, she spends time at her childhood home and with friends now back in Michigan. The Franklin Cider Mill is a stop on her tour every fall, she adds.
In New York, she’s always glad to meet other Michiganders. “There’s a sense of camaraderie,” she says. “Every time I meet people from the Midwest in New York, there’s a different type of connection. It’s almost like ‘I know you.’”
Know an expat Detroiter with strong ties or influences from the D who could be featured? Send an email to Karen Schwartz at email@example.com.