Alex Diaz has never worked harder in his life, and he couldn’t be happier.
“This is my passion,” says Diaz, 27, of Manchester, taking a break from the action at the weekly Bedford Farmers Market, where he sells his line of natural cookies, to talk about his new business venture: Tender Love and Cookies.
His day job is baking at The Black Forest Cafe and Bakery in Amherst. But once he’s done his Thursday to Sunday shift, he puts in about nine more hours baking three days a week at Creative Chef Kitchens in Derry, where he rents kitchen space.
He single-handedly does all the baking, label printing, packaging, marketing and deliveries to retail customers.
His business just launched in April, and already his guilt-free indulgences are in high demand, primarily at local independent markets, based largely on word-of-mouth endorsements.
Aside from the weekly farm market at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Bedford, Diaz also sells his wares at the Derry Farmers Market on Wednesdays, and his cookies are distributed locally at Angela’s Pasta and Cheese Shop in Manchester; Harvest Market in Bedford; A Simply Wholesome Life in Windham, and Natural Choice Market in Hooksett.
He also takes orders online, and will deliver, personally.
“No, I have no days off. I work Thursday through Monday at Black Forest, and I am baking Sunday, Monday and Tuesdays,” says Diaz. “I’m very dedicated. Baking is my passion, and I love every minute of it because I’m living my dream.”
He means that in every sense of the word.
Diaz came to the United States from Puerto Rico in 1996, when he was 9 years old.
“We were an unfortunate family. We went through hard times. But one thing I want people to know, especially people in my Spanish community: anybody can do it. If you put your mind to it, you can live your dream, like I’m doing,” Diaz said.
It has taken a great deal of sacrifice and consistency to get where he is, he says.
“I’m slowly learning about consistency. I started with 10 kinds of cookies, but I decided to cut back and focus on fewer flavors,” he says.
His line currently includes chocolate chip, peanut butter, ginger spice, green tea lemon, maple spice and cinnadoodle.
“That’s my own version of a snickerdoodle. It’s probably the most popular cookie I bake,” he says.
His cookies sell for $14 a half dozen. Chocolate fudge brownies are $18 for 6.
Diaz says he has always been interested in baking – even as a kid he would go to the neighborhood bakery in home town in Puerto Rico, just to watch how the baking was done.
“I could have stayed there all day. It’s something I’ve always just naturally loved. I even remember the first thing I baked. It was a plain vanilla boxed cake mix, but then I added all kinds of things to it and it actually came out great,” he says. “It just clicked for me.”
His love of baking coincided with his love of eating and, over time, Diaz realized he needed to do something to curb the calories. That led him to experiment with gluten-free recipes in an effort to create a healthier cookie. As his interest in improving his own health and nutrition increased, he found that there was a demand for his more health-centered products. He takes pride in using high-quality ingredients that are organic and non-GMO (genetically modified organisms.)
He blends his own gluten-free oat flour with tapioca and potato flour, flax seeds, sunflower, palm fruit and safflower oils.
“I have actually lost 45 pounds, even with all the cookies I eat. That’s because the ingredients are so healthful,” Diaz said. “My best customers are parents who have kids who like a healthy snack. At the end of the day, you know what you’re feeding your kids with my products. Some of the processed cookies out there have so many different ingredients. My cookies have only about 10 ingredients, and they’re good for everyone, whether you have food allergies, or celiacs or just prefer gluten-free,” Diaz says.
Contact Alex Diaz at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1.843.900.4593. Find Tender Love & Cookies on Facebook.