The Porch at Christie’s in Westport bakes inclusion, purpose – Low Calorie Diets Tips

WESTPORT — From an idea of ​​friendliness and inclusion to a fully fledged restaurant, The Porch at Christie’s in Westport recently celebrated its one year anniversary.

The Porch is powered by baked goods from Sweet P, a non-profit bakery that provides vocational training and employment to people with disabilities. The Porch’s mission is food, community, and purpose, and there’s plenty to sample — from baked goods to breakfast, brunch, and all-day items.

“We strive to serve delicious food in a beautiful, happy space where the entire community and beyond can gather,” the company’s website reads. “Equally important to us is our concern for inclusion and employment for people of all abilities.”

Sweet P was the original store, and then came The Porch. Andrea Pecoriello, owner of both companies, described the inspiration behind the companies and how they came about.

“We don’t have a child with special needs,” Pecoriello said. “But like everyone else, we have friends, we have family members who have a special needs child.”

She said she knew most social services for these young adults would stop when they were 21 or 22 years old. She added that the unemployment rate for this group of people is around 80 to 85 percent.

Knowing this, Pecoriello and her husband Bill decided to lease a bakery. In 2019, they hired pastry chef Terri Cahn. The Pecoriellos remodeled the entire site, Cahn created a curriculum for incoming students, and Sweet P was born.

Cahn said she responded to a “cryptic ad” to work with the company, but she’s “all in.”

The first class of seven trainees joined in February 2020 and completed their Backen 1 program, which taught general baking knowledge. Five of those students transferred to Baking 2, where they learned how to make the Sweet P baked goods, graduating in April 2021.

Now, these Sweet P employees make the baked goods the store is known for.

However, Sweet P is considered a kitchen and therefore cannot sell its own goods. So the Pecoriellos opened The Porch, a full restaurant complete with a baking box full of sweet P treats.

Sweet P is a non-profit company while The Porch is fully profitable. However, Andrea Pecoriello said they reinvest any profits back into Sweet P to keep it going.

Since Sweet P opened just before the COVID-19 pandemic, students were able to gain about six weeks of experience before protocols had to be changed. When they finally got back into the kitchen in the fall of 2021, they were socially distancing but still baking.

Cahn laughed that Pecoriello initially planned to only sell a handful of Sweet P items. Now the company sells about 40 products.

Pecoriello called COVID-19 a kind of blessing in disguise because they’ve had plenty of time to get to know the students, who are now employees.

Pecoriello said some of their best products, which employees love to bake, are biscuits, scones and muffins – and all products are made from scratch.

For reasons of space, there have been no further classes since the first. However, the business hopes for further growth.

“We’re excited to go ahead,” said Pecoriello. “Our beautiful, delightful classroom of a kitchen has been transformed into a production kitchen.”

In order to expand, Sweet P needs space for a classroom and a kitchen.

“We feel like we really nailed it in this training course,” she said.

She described that other bakeries across the country have a similar mission to hers.

“Our goal eventually, once we get the training alongside production, is to have other groups like us across the country use our knowledge instead of starting from scratch,” Pecoriello said.

Sweet P also works with other local non-profits, including Westport Book Sales, an antiquarian bookshop that benefits the library. Sweet P provided baked goods for the store’s events and in return the bookstore donated children’s books to events at The Porch.

Cahn also offers Zoom cooking classes in partnership with STAR Inc, a provider of support and services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Fairfield County.

Sweet P and The Porch are also geared towards community. Upon entering The Porch you will see a neon sign that says “Hello Friend”.

“Once you step out onto the porch, you’re a friend — you belong,” Pecoriello said.

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