AVONDALE — After years of whipping up pastries for restaurants like Trencherman and Cherry Circle Room, pastry chef Angela Diaz is opening her own spot dedicated to gluten-free cookies.
Diaz plans to open a walk-up window at 3453 N. Albany Ave. in early 2021, depending on how long the city permitting process takes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The to-go spot will be an extension of Diaz’s cookie company, You’re a Cookie, which she launched last summer.
At the You’re a Cookie window, folks will be able to grab Diaz’s freshly baked cookies and other homemade desserts, like ice cream and oatmeal cream pies. Diaz is teaming up with a coffee company on a special coffee blend.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to have something where people can walk up and have a really good cup of coffee and get a sweet snack of some sort,” Diaz said.
Before Diaz launched her own cookie company, the Aurora native worked for years as a pastry chefs at some of Chicago’s top restaurants. In addition to Cherry Circle Room and Trencherman, she was the executive pastry chef at the Ace Hotel and Owen & Engine.
While at Trencherman, Diaz struggled with a gluten sensitivity. She also noticed more patrons were requesting gluten-free desserts due to allergies.
Struck by the confluence, she created vegan desserts to serve at the restaurant. One such dessert — a gluten-free triple chocolate chip cookie — quickly became a hit.
“We didn’t tell people [without allergies] it was gluten-free, but when we told them, they were very happy,” Diaz said.
When Trencherman closed in 2017, Diaz found a new pastry chef gig at the Ace Hotel and started saving money to build a business around the gluten-free triple chocolate cookie and other recipes inspired by her Mexican American upbringing, like her sprinkle crunch cookie.
“Mexican bakeries — panaderias — they have this sugar cookie there and it’s covered in sprinkles and it was one of my favorite cookies because every single bite would have sprinkles in it,” she said.
“The way I come up with my flavors are from my childhood and things I’ve learned. … I grew up American, having pizza puffs and chocolate chip cookies, but at home, it was not that. It was Mexican rice and beans. Both worlds are in my flavor profiles.”
Diaz formally launched You’re a Cookie last summer. She named her cookie company after a joke she makes in the kitchen.
“When we’re in the kitchen, it’s, ‘No, you’re a cookie!,’ ‘You’re a pie!,’ ‘You’re a soup!,’ ‘You’re a sauce!’ That’s always my comeback. It’s silly,” she said.
Over the past year and a half, the company has grown significantly. Diaz’s cookie dough is now sold in 13 grocery stores across the Chicago area. Diaz has also picked up wholesale accounts and sells cookies and cookie dough online.
The business took a hit due to the pandemic, but Diaz said she was able to recuperate faster than she anticipated.
Diaz said she’s thrilled to fulfill her years-long dream of opening a brick-and-mortar spot, and in her home neighborhood of Avondale, no less. The plan is for the spot to remain grab-and-go and act mostly as a production headquarters, meaning customers won’t be allowed inside.
In the coming months, Diaz plans to expand operations and get her cookie dough into grocery stores in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, but with the Avondale facility as home base.
“We do plan on having a larger manufacturing place in the future. We do plan to grow,” she said. “But that’ll be our space here in Chicago.”
Diaz still struggles with her gluten sensitivity and knows others do, too. But with You’re a Cookie, she hopes to win over folks who don’t have dietary restrictions. She prides herself on “making deliciously irresistible cookies that just happen to be gluten-free,” according to her Instagram bio.
“I want everybody to be able to enjoy a really good cookie regardless of your dietary needs. … It’s not something that should be so hard to find. It shouldn’t taste so different than a classic chocolate chip cookie,” she said.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.