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Valley Partnership's 25th Community Project: SARRC helping young, autistic baker realize his dreams

The sounds of drilling, shoveling and excited chatter will permeate the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC) on Nov. 3 during its renovations, courtesy of Valley Partnership’s 25th community project.

SARRC’s location at Cypress and 16th streets will be receiving renovations which will directly benefit its Vocational and Life Skills Academy by renovating the Garden Works area. The Garden Works program helps grow produce for the Culinary Works program.  It also helps teach adults with autism spectrum disorders gardening skills, says Cece Russell, SARRC’s Social Enterprise Manager.

Both the Culinary Works program and Garden Works program are part of the Vocational and Life Skills Academy. Culinary Works is an 8-week program that trains adults with autism in the culinary field, Russell says.

It was through SARRC that Matt Cottle, 23, discovered his love of baking. Cottle participated in the Culinary Works program and SARRC later connected him with Heather Netzloff, who taught Cottle how to bake through one-on-one lessons.

“I liked the feeling of baking and I knew I had a talent for it,” Cottle says, adding, “Why not do it for a living?”

Each morning Cottle bakes pastries for his business, Stuttering King Bakery. Cottle is a young business owner with big dreams, much as any other business owner. Cottle’s journey into adulthood has been different, though, because Cottle is autistic

Cottle was born, raised and lived in Colorado until his junior of high school when he moved to Phoenix with his family. A job opportunity for his father brought the Cottles to Arizona.  The transition from Colorado to Phoenix was tough, Cottle says, but eventually he made friends and adjusted.

High school graduation brought more questions and concerns for the Cottle family.

“I had zero idea what I wanted to do until I started thinking things through,” Cottle says.

Cottle had been looking for ways to gain experience in the work force, but with little success.

“For two and half years people had been slamming doors in my face,” Cottle recalls.

With SARRC’s help and his family’s support, Cottle was able to pursue his dream of starting his own baking business. Stuttering King Bakery provides Beneficial Beans Café, a social enterprise by SARRC, with all of its pastries. Stuttering King Bakery also takes private orders online or via telephone.

The best-selling item on Cottle’s menu is his banana chocolate chip muffins. He says he also loves them because he used to bake them with his mom when he was younger. Cookies, biscotti, cakes, and muffins are all on Stuttering King Bakery’s menu.

Cottle currently bakes everything from home since he has a Maricopa County Home Bake license, but that may change soon with the help of Seed Spot, a nonprofit organization that supports select Arizona entrepreneurs.

Cottle recently participated in the first Seed Spot event. Seed Spot is helping Cottle build a website and kitchen within its building in Downtown Phoenix, he says.

Stuttering King Bakery was named after English King George VI. Cottle loved the inspirational message of hope from the film, “The King’s Speech.”

Cottle says he hopes to one day have his own building for his bakery. He has his eye on one, currently, and envisions it with a few tables, 10 bakers, and interns interested in the culinary arts. He wants to hire adults with autism in his bakery, too.

“Matt is definitely an example of the positive impact SARRC has on adults with autism spectrum disorders and their family,” Russell says proudly.

Cottle has big dreams and even bigger plans.

“Hopefully I’ll expand my bakery all over Arizona and nationwide one day. And maybe, just maybe, become the first autistic politician.”