Need a Gift Right Away?

Meet Dona Murad-Gerschel: Third-Culture Kid, Third-Generation Baker, Owner of Librae Bakery

Naomi Banks | 06 May, 2024

            Meet Dona Murad-Gerschel: Third-Culture Kid, Third-Generation Baker, Owner of Librae Bakery

Seated on an empty curbstone in Cooper Triangle, Dona Murad-Gerschel and I were across the street from her first Bahraini-inspired culinary venture in New York City, Librae Bakery, which opened its doors in 2022. With a decade of culinary expertise under her belt, she’s cultivated a team of dedicated leaders to keep the establishment running smoothly. Our conversation delved into the ethos of Librae Bakery, how being raised by bakers developed her love for pastries, and her secret weapon for creating breathtaking interior designs (hint: it’s the pastries).

Her responses have been edited for length and clarity. Check out the short video clip from the interview on Instagram and TikTok by clicking the hyperlinks.

In celebration of Mother’s Day, we are donating 100% of the proceeds of the signed print to benefit the Brooklyn Community Services’ Transitional Living Community women's shelter. Purchase the only print signed by the owner to support a worthy cause here.

Murad-Gerschel: This is my second baby, but the other is on the other side of the world. I have a roastery and a cafe back home called Hopscotch & Grind. I took a lot of things that I learned there and brought them here and vice versa. Both of the brands have their own identities. One is the big sister and one is the little sister and sometimes the little sister is cooler than the big sister, but they are both a labor of love and family-managed businesses.

Tell me about how being a “third culture kid” impacts Librae.

Murad-Gerschel: I grew up in Bahrain. It's an island in the Middle East in the Gulf. I think being a “third-culture kid” is a representation of coming from somewhere, but also having influences from other places. I went to an American school, so there was a lot of American culture that I was exposed to. My mother is from Mumbai, so we also had a lot of influences from her culture and how she grew up. I think sometimes people feel that they’re from someplace but culturally associate themselves with other places. That's how Librae was born! My husband, Andre, is from the US and has Moroccan and French influence in his life. Librae was a marriage of all these cultures.

I brought in spices from Bahrain in my suitcase prior to opening Librae. We looked at all these things and thought: Why don't we use what's in front of us, play with these, and put it in classic pastries to represent our cultures and what we are as people? We have a pastry called Loomi Babka. The word “loomi” is “black-lime” in Arabic. We took Loomi, made a lemon curd with it, and put it in a Babka. A lot of people have Babka; it’s a huge representation of New York and we wanted to bring those two cultures together. We made a Loomi Babka, which is dried black limes filled with lemon curd in a knotted brioche bun. It's so tasty and citrusy, but sweet at the same time.


Above: Librae Bakery's Loomi Babka

Your mother and grandmother are both talented bakers. How have they inspired you?

Murad-Gerschel: My mother's attention to detail is what inspires me. She is such a perfectionist in her craft – she learned that from my grandmother. My grandmother actually was a wedding cake designer. She would create beautiful flowers and floral details and she would make it out of marzipan. My mother would make all of our cakes growing up. I remember once having a Barbie cake and a train cake and having all these beautiful cakes. My mother brought that craft to me. She always looks at the small details to make sure that they're perfect before it even is served to us on a dinner table, or lunch, or even in her cakes. That is what I've learned from both of them – that detail is important.

How did you know that this building was “The One”?

Murad-Gerschel: Firstly, I didn't. We signed during COVID and took a leap of faith. We thought, “You know what, sometimes you don't need to be on a busy street.” Because, at that time, it was very quiet. It ended up being the best risk that we took because now it's such a busy street and life has been brought back to the building and to the street as a whole. People come across and have our pastries in the little park here or they'll sit outside somewhere else.

There was something when I walked into the building that made me feel connected to it; a certain brightness. There was an energy that I felt that told me to take this chance and sign the space because there was goodness in the whole space. It's also very airy. I really liked the fact that the kitchen is open, so bakers could see their art being displayed, sold, and enjoyed. It's much nicer than baking in a basement that's a lot darker. I wanted the kitchen to feel like it was on the outside and the inside to also feel like it was in the kitchen.

We make a joke that you can do cartwheels in our kitchen because it's so big for Manhattan. We're very blessed with that. It keeps everything neat, in order, and organized. Because it's a female led kitchen, I feel that that's important. Attention to detail – going back to my mother and my grandmother because my mother also helped us open Librae and was very particular about where things should go and how they should be organized.

Can you share some of the inspiration behind the decor?

Murad-Gerschel: Our inspiration comes from Copenhagen because my husband and I would go there a lot. We love the way that sometimes less is more because it is timeless. We also wanted to bring in the culture of the Middle Eastern coffee shop; which is enjoy your coffee, sit down, have a nice time, relish in the idea that it's your reward, and that it's something that needs to be enjoyed.

We wanted to bring in a lot of clean and neat looking interior interiors. A lot of our ceramics are custom made for us from Bali and some from Budapest. We chose marble and we have these big mirrors on the wall to make the space feel bigger and airy-er. We wanted wood, marble, and herringbone. Those are timeless interiors that go a long way. They're relaxing on the eye.

We wanted to highlight all of the pastries, so we wanted all the focus on the pastry display, as opposed to the interiors. For me, the most important thing is the way that the pastry looks and tastes, as well as the coffee. It was important for everything to be beautiful and tasty. The most important thing is for us to be delicious.

Almost like your pastries are your decor?

Murad-Gerschel: [Laughs] Yes they are. That is accurate!

Talk me through how your restaurant leaders impact the flow of the restaurant.

Murad-Gerschel: We have a very beautiful team that cares. Lauren and Rebecca were part of the opening team. They care about the product, they care about the brand, they are the brand. For instance, Rebecca will not put out things that she is not happy with. Even if it tastes a little bit off, she will not put it out. Lauren is the same way. They're perfectionists in their own way, attention to detail is so important. I love their dynamic – it's just a lot of love into everything they do. I'm so appreciative of that.

We've become family. We're all on the same page. They're great people. It’s their whole demeanor that brings a lot of love into this space.

Librae Bakery is located at 35 Cooper Sq, New York, NY 10003 and is currently open on Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Click photo for more information on the signed print of Librae Bakery for BCS.