By: Fatgirl Hedonist
I first heard about Lee & Marie’s Cakery Company from Chef Aaron Brooks a couple of months ago and ever since then I’ve been diligently Facebook stalking them. Why my sudden interest in a bakery that doesn’t even exist yet, you wonder? Bueno, one visit to their Facebook page and you’ll see a cover photo that boasts that they are, “Proudly employing & supporting adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” That’s not something you see a company announce every day, so naturally, I was intrigued. They’ve been in the planning process since 2011 and all of their hard work will soon come to fruition when their storefront in South Beach opens its doors to the public on August 31, 2012.
I was lucky enough to grab a sneak peek at all the great things they’ve got going on in their production kitchen in Wynwood as well as a view to their storefront in South Beach. Pero, first I have to introduce you to the brains and talent behind this operation. The founder is Andy Travaglia. The Executive Chef is Yannis Janssens from the Fountainebleau. Chiat – Mei Yow is assistant pastry chef and comes to Lee & Marie’s from the Setai. Keelin Martin and Shawne Brian are both pastry sous chefs. Enrique Valdes is a savory sous chefs from Yardhouse. Luis Piñol is their Communications Manager and branding guru. Last and most definitely not least, we have Johanna Oltavaro who is the retail manager for Lee & Marie’s.
So now that we’ve got the introductions out of the way you might be asking yourself, who the hell is Lee and Marie and how do they tie into Autism?! Bueno, according to Andy Travaglia, Lee (short for Lenore) was her grandmother and Marie was her ex-husband’s mother. Both were phenomenal bakers that Andy has decided to honor. Andy also explained that she is personally motivated to empower people with Autism. Andy has reached out to local government and is currently working closely with the Univeristy of Miami’s Center for Autism and Related Diseases (CARD). Andy has made it her lifelong purpose to advocate for Autism awareness and autonomy for those with the disorder. According to Andy, with the help of U.M.’s CARD they are expected to have 15-20 adults with Autism working both front and back of the house at Lee & Marie’s by the new year.
Now let’s talk about what I know best, FOOD! Chef Janssens stated that they are trying to stick to American classics. All of their food is made fresh daily with a focus on local ingredients. They will be offering 5 cakes on a daily basis that include, Lee’s German Chocolate cake, Hummingbird cake, Red Velvet, Carrot cake and Devil’s Food cake. Also on board is Marie’s New York style cheesecake. Now, I know I said “American classics,” but Chef Janssens and his team are bringing new life to old school favorites. How does a Caramel Heath Éclair or Bourbon Bundt Cake sound (both were ridiculously delicious)? Coconut mint rice crispies treats or homemade oreo cookies? Maybe some Banana Passion Bread or Bacon Corn Muffins are more up your alley? If none of these things appeal to you, I feel so sorry for your taste buds then you have to at least try Chef Chiat – Mei Yow’s Panther Coffee pudding. I was lucky enough to get a chance to try all of these things and although I’ll be jogging all over Hialeah for the next month trying to burn it all off, I can pinky swear that every calorie was well worth it.
In addition to pastries and cakes, they will be offering some delicious sandwiches, salads and they’re working with La Parisienne Bakery to offer some French style breads. I can personally vouch for their BLT sandwich that comes with pork belly, kimchee aioli, lettuce, tomato and avocado. If you know me, anything porkbelly gets a thumbs-up and this sandwich didn’t disappoint. The creaminess from the avocado and the slight kick from the aioli all worked perfectly. Also be sure to check out their salchichon hoagie with drunken goat cheese, salchichon (duh), lettuce, tomato and aioli. Their couscous salad and homemade potato chips are also a must try. As hot as it is in South Beach, their couscous is completely refreshing with a hint of lemon, almonds and golden raisins. And if you hadn’t already figured it out, they’ll also be serving up Panther Coffee. Definitely great lunch items that should be checked out asap.
This team has several long term goals, one of which is to open up a sister location in New York. Once the South Beach location is up and running, they plan to open up their production kitchen to the public and possibly participate during the second Saturday Wynwood Art Walk. They are also in the process of opening up Bar Crudo directly next door within the next few months. Bar Crudo will be a raw bar that plans to fuse Peruvian and South American influences with Japanese techniques; they too will be employing adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Not only is the food good (it’s freaking delicious), but as their business model states, they’re working towards an amazing goal to create awareness for an underemployed and undervalued population and demonstrate the positive effect these opportunities will have on the entire community. How can you not want to root for these guys and see them succeed?! So check them out at 108 South Pointe Drive in Miami Beach and support a great cause.
Have suggestions on what you’d like to see in the column next week? Follow me on twitter and let me know!