Written by Domenica Farishian, email@example.com Friday, 18 April 2014 00:00
When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. That’s just what a Hicksville baker is doing, except in her case it isn’t lemons, but a gluten-free diet. Her lemonade stand of choice is her brand new gluten-free eatery, “Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro,” which held its grand opening on April 12.
“I’m a baker who can’t even eat wheat or eggs,” said owner Jaclyn Messina, chuckling at the irony.
Her restricted diet started four years ago when at 22-years-old she was diagnosed with Celiac disease. A year later, she learned she was allergic to eggs. Besides changing her own diet, Messina, an Executive Baker since 2010, decided to alter many of her recipes. “I wanted our customers who needed to eat gluten-free to have choices that also tasted good,” says the baker.
Baking is something Messina says she was destined to do. It seems her baking fate may have been sealed on the day she was born. “My mother was baking blueberry muffins when she went into labor with me. To this day blueberry muffins are my favorite,” she says.
Throughout her childhood, Messina could be found in the kitchen baking and cooking. When it was time to apply to college, she applied to only one—The Culinary Institute of America— where she was quickly accepted. Her first job after graduation was a cookie business she started from her home. At the time all of her recipes were made with traditional flour products. Eventually she landed a job at a bakery.
Soon after discovering she needed to eat gluten-free, Messina experimented with all sorts of ingredients to prepare the baked goods and meals she always loved, without compromising on taste. “It really helped that I was a professional baker before my diagnosis. I knew what food should taste like,” says Messina.
After a series of “trial and error” recipe tests, and with the help of her father as her main taste tester, she was ready to pursue her lifelong dream of owning her own bakery. Messina spent the next month and a half mapping out a plan to turn her dream into a reality. She wrote a business plan to show to the federal Small Business Administration, in search of a loan to start up her business. But because of her age, and despite being told that she had “the best business plan” some had ever seen, she was repeatedly turned down.
That is until her parents stepped in. “They told me they really believe in me and my dream. Without them and the rest of my family none of this would be possible.” Messina quickly found a location for her business. But before she was ready to open she wanted to bring her products to the public.
As luck would have it she found the perfect venue to showcase her baked goods when she learned about the East Coast’s first ever “Gluten & Allergen Free Expo” held in New Jersey in September 2013. Armed with one Kitchen Aide Stand Mixer her friends bought for her and 500 pounds of gluten-free flour, Messina “stripped down” her parent’s kitchen and got to work preparing 4,000 baked goods for the expo.
Messina got the feedback she was in search of. She won the coveted prize of best bread at the expo, as well as pleasing some of the expo’s toughest critics: children. “I held my breath as a little girl picked up a piece of my short bread. Then I heard her say, ‘mom this is amazing’. I was so happy.”
Now Messina is prepared to win over the young and old alike at her new bakeshop and bistro, which she proudly proclaims is “Long Island’s first certified gluten-free bakery.”
In addition to the usual baked goods, such as breads, cakes and cookies, she will be offering both breakfast and lunch choices that include Panini sandwiches, bagels, pretzels and even egg sandwiches. “Just because I can’t eat the eggs doesn’t mean my customers can’t,” she laughs. “All of the products are made from coconut flour and almond flour and are all organic.”
Messina also has plans in the works to distribute many of her gluten-free products to among other potential clients, catering halls, cruise ships and other bakeries. All products will carry the “Jac’s” logo.
Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro is located at 600 South Oyster Bay Road in Hicksville. Find out more at www.jacsbakeshopandbistro.com