Autistic baker uses culinary talents to launch business, hopes to expand

Matthew Cottle is the founder of Stuttering King Bakery, a bakery that produces home-baked goods and sells them to businesses in downtown Phoenix. (Courtesy of Matthew Cottle)

Matthew Cottle can quote Winston Churchill, name fine cigars and bake a mean scone. He’s a creative type who views baking as an art form rather than just a form of sustenance. And he looks the part, with his well-groomed circle beard and dark brown hair that falls just above his shoulders in tight ringlets.

Cottle, an ambitious 23-year-old man, faced multiple roadblocks when he tried to get started in the food business.

Because he is autistic, things were difficult. But Cottle is breaking the mold and proving that he can be a successful baker as founder of Stuttering King Bakery.

The bakery produces home-baked goods and sells them to coffee shops and businesses in downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale. Matthew plans to open a bakery in the downtown Phoenix or Scottsdale area and employ other autistic people.

Five days a week Matthew delivers his pastries to the Beneficial Beans Cafe in the Scottsdale Civic Center Library. The cafe is run by the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, where Matthew is a client.

The goods include muffins, scones, brownies and cookies and range in price from $1-3.

He also makes weekly deliveries to Seed Spot. Stuttering King Bakery has catered ASU events and delivered to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital as well.

At Seed Spot, located near Central Avenue and Thomas Road, Stuttering King Bakery has an office to manage its business affairs, receive mentoring and grow its support network.

“How can you not fall in love with his story, the dream and his dream for other autistic people?” said Courtney Klein Johnson, co-founder of Seed Spot.

Klein and Chris Petroff founded the nonprofit in October 2012 to support early stage entrepreneurs who are doing something good for the world, Johnson said, and Cottle’s unique home-baked and delivered business model, attention to detail and dream to employ other autistic people make him a perfect member of the Seed Spot mantra.

Stuttering King Bakery is named after King George VI who Cottle draws inspiration from.

“He overcame disability, and he became an inspiration and hope to an entire country,” Cottle said.

Cottle was diagnosed at age 19 with high-functioning autism.

“It’s hard to find a job when you are autistic,” he said.

He worked as a courtesy clerk at Fry’s Food Store for six years without advancement and became inspired to cook during his senior year of high school during a culinary demonstration.

“It’s a work of art,” Cottle said. “I could see myself doing something like this.”

Matthew Cottle and his mother, Peg, take care of work at Seed Spot. (Domenico Nicosia/DD)

But Peg Cottle, his mother, said finding a place where he could study his craft was challenging.

The rigid school system was not where Cottle excelled and in order to even begin studying at a community college, he had to take preliminary English and mathematics courses.

Traditional culinary school was not a viable option.

Cottle took private baking lessons for three years from pastry chef Heather Netzloff, chef and owner of Rumpelstiltskin Granola. From there he attended the St. Mary’s Food Bank Community Kitchen. The program is dedicated to helping people with employment barriers learn skills and become employed, according to the kitchen’s website.

Cottle has been certified to handle food and his business is registered under the Arizona Home Baked and Confectionary Goods Program.

Minor accommodations have helped Cottle to become successful. He prints off his recipes and checks off each ingredient and step as he completes it.

The baking process begins the evening before when he preps the scone batter and bakes it the following morning before delivery to ensure freshness, Cottle said.

“Matt really bakes in a creative fashion,” Peg Cottle said. “It looks so good you just won’t wait to eat it.”

Cottle said he plans on training his future employees through a personal apprenticeship.

“That’s how our founding fathers did it and I think that’s how it should be done,” Cottle said.

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