Lee & Marie's Cakery to Open in South Beach Tomorrow, Hires Adults With Autism (Photos)

Lee & Marie's Cakery is a name you've likely never heard of before, but this beauty of a bake shop will open its doors to the public tomorrow at 7 a.m.

There, you can grab your favorite Panther Coffee beverage before work or perhaps a scone or two for breakfast -- all while helping adults with autism.

Thirty percent of Lee & Marie's staff have some form of autism.

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That coffee and scone just became a little brighter, didn't they?

"Twenty-two years ago, my friend's child was diagnosed on the spectrum. So this is how I can help," owner Andy Travaglia says. "Too many people with autism become adults and have no where to turn, few options for work, especially if their parents are gone and have no siblings to help them."

Travaglia hopes the concept of Lee & Marie's can offer one more option.

A few days ago, Lee & Marie's hired its first adult with autism, Yohanna Waterman, who will work alongside chefs and sous-chefs in the production kitchen located in Wynwood. Waterman is a Johnson & Wales pastry/culinary student who has been trained by UMCARD (University of Miami Center for Autism and Related Disabilities) to work in a professional setting.

Travaglia's goal is to have 30 percent of Lee & Marie's staff on the spectrum, both in the production kitchen and working the front of the house.

The storefront is located in South Pointe and holds about 50 people in a homey and casual indoor/outdoor setting. "Everything in this store came from my home," she says.

The store (which Short Order saw before it was completely ready) is speckled with armoires, homey cabinets, riding helmets, cookies in jars, and flowered bud vases. And then there are photos of Lee and Marie -- Travaglia's grandmothers -- who were particularly known for award-worthy German chocolate cake and New York cheesecake.

Panther Coffee lovers will rejoice that Lee & Marie's will proffer the product.

As for the pastries, Belgium native and Lee & Marie's new executive chef, Yannis Janssens, will take the reigns. He's a classically trained pastry chef who's already concocted a variety of modernized confections, including the inventive "cup cones" and maple bacon corn muffins.

"You know I'm a purist," Janssens says. That means everything on the menu is farm-fresh and chemical-free. "I don't like margarine, and I don't use high-fructose corn syrup. We use real cream and milk from farms in Sarasota, fresh fruits and berries from Paradise Farms in the Redland." And the menu will change "almost daily," he adds. Janssens plans to focus on using what's available that day to compose the menu.

Salads, sandwiches, and other savory options are available, and most hover around $10.

Daily deliveries to a women-and-children's shelter in Miami will be made so that not a single scrap goes to waste.

Continue to the next page for photos of pastries and the storefront.

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