ASU alumnus Julie Moreno opened Jewel’s Bakery and Cafe last week to quite a bit of applause.
Jewel’s is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for breakfast and lunch and weekends from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. for brunch.
Moreno, who has always enjoyed cooking, is a big fan of how the menu has turned out.
“We’ve got sandwiches, salads, flatbreads; we’ve got eclectic flavors, Greek, Thai and of course some all-American stuff,” Moreno said.
ASU alumnus Seth Landau, who has been helping Moreno with the press around the opening, called Jewel’s “an incredible story.”
Three years ago, Moreno’s 9-year-old daughter Sophia was having gastrointestinal problems. One day it was so bad that she was taken to the doctor. The doctor wanted to remove her appendix, but Moreno wanted to do one more test, which revealed the problem wasn’t her appendix. Moreno said later testing revealed the problem was Celiac disease.
Celiac disease can have a variety of symptoms but stems from an allergy to a protein found in wheat and similar products like barley and rye.
Being a mother of six, Moreno wanted to be able to cook a meal for the whole family at once again, so she began experimenting with different kinds of gluten-free baking using her own flour.
After a few tries, the product started to get pretty good, she said.
“A lot of people say it tastes better than normal,” Moreno said.
Moreno entered a baking contest and went up against some of the top bakers in Phoenix, said her father and investor in the cafe, Bill Hankerson.
“She’s really become the ultimate gluten-free baker,” he said.
In the time after winning the contest, Moreno was running a bakery out of her home with three chefs and decided the bakery either needed its own location or it was over.
Hankerson, an investment banker, said he came up with the idea to open a bakery and cafe.
“I decided we should open a bakery,” he said. “We were going up against Starbucks or someone for the location the store is in now. I told them I’d pay the first year’s rent in advance, right from my retirement plan. That’s how much I believe in it.”
Hankerson spoke about how it has been a relatively common experience for people to cry in the store after trying the gluten-free baked goods and discovering they can have gluten-free food that tastes like, if not better than, the real thing.
“When I found out about all these people crying, that’s when I knew that we had the right product here,” Hankerson said.
His granddaughter, Moreno’s daughter Justine, is the one who told him it’s actually not that uncommon.
Justine helps Moreno run the restaurant, doing a variety of things.
“(Justine is) a jack of all trades,” Moreno said. “She runs the front, does hiring, she really likes to be on the line cooking though.”
Jewel’s Bakery and Cafe is located on 4041 E. Thomas Road in Phoenix.
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