March 22, 2017
2 mins read

One of the best things about dinner isdessert. But any chef can throw some ice cream on top of a brownie and call it a delectable masterpiece. That is not the case for Lara Lombardo, the head chef at Seagull Bakery.

Lombardo started in the industry by helping out in an Avondale bakery called Let Them Eat Cake, which triggered her passion.

“I was so interested from the main baker at Let Them Eat Cake,” Lombardo said.

Lombardo’s love for creating palatable delicacies eventually inspired her to open a bakery of her own. With help from her parents, Carol and Dave Lombardo, she opened Seagull Bakery.

What started as a cottage industry in November 2013 has grown to occupy a commercial kitchen, which Seagull Bakery shares with The Perfect Pear Catering Co., and their own online store. Lombardo is always challenging herself to create new desserts to satisfy her customers. From gluten-free, flourless chocolate tortes to (her favorite) mango Key lime bars, Lombardo’s productions appeal to all types of sweet tooths.

Creating new desserts is not the only thing that has been an important aspect of her life; Lombardo, 25, lives with autism.

“It’s more difficult baking for me because when I have a lot of work to do, it can be overwhelming,” Lombardo explained. “I talk to the chefs helping me and use strategies, like breathing, to calm me down.” The bakery’s website states that the business “began in 2013 to employ, mentor and teach those with autism while creating beautiful, high quality pastries.”

Over the years, Lombardo has had the opportunity to learn from local executive chefs such as Danny Groshell, owner of Ocean 60, Verousce Mckibbin from The Perfect Pear, Nils Rowland at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, and Elizabeth Kerns from the now-closed Let Them Eat Cake. Utilizing their tutelage and expertise, Lombardo has risen like the yeast in her pastries to become an accomplished, experienced baker.

The desire to teach others the tricks of her trade has led Lombardo to share her baking skills at Mainspring Academy, a school for people with special needs, and at the Arc of Jacksonville.

In her efforts to “bake-down the barrier” of cake baking and broaden her pastry horizons, Lombardo has been experimenting with cupcakes. She won’t sell her experiments to the public, however; she donates her practice cupcakes to a homeless shelter, giving folks there a tasty treat.

The Lombardo family plans to expand their business by opening a retail shop with the purpose of employing more chefs and workers to help their growing business and create local jobs.

“There’s not that much opportunity out there, so we created this for her, essentially, and when it exploded in growth, we really saw the need and responsibility to employ, teach and mentor people with autism,” Carol explained.

The able-bodied and sharp-minded baker, excited to continue her ever-growing baking business, and keep learning new aspects of it, has a message for those living with autism who may think their dreams are unattainable.

“No matter what challenges they have, they should keep doing what they love,” said Lombardo.

Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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