Alumni serve up a buffet of tasty and palatable foods and spirits
Cupcakes that would make a grandma proud. A juicy burger the way a burger should be made and should taste, piled high with all the fixings. A little slice of French heaven that doesn't involve a fry. Limoncello, direct from Italy, that is a hit import with Seattle-area patrons at bars and restaurants.
Seattle University Magazine grabs a bite with six food and drink success stories— purveyors of the aforementioned food and drinks, Jody Hall, '88 (Cupcake Royale), Charlie Olson, '90 (Blue Moon Burgers), Andrew Klein, '07 (Mobatta crepes), and James Vert, '04, and Nicole Finamore, '04 (Finamoré limoncello), plus Mick McHugh, '66 (F.X. McRory's), and Christian Wong, '98 (Chocolati).
These are just a few such establishments owned and operated by Seattle University alumni, who have found success by doing what they love while putting their own spin on the classics or introducing to the locals something new.
Dig in and bon appétit!
No offense, Betty Crocker, but Jody Hall is not a fan. "Betty Crocker has ruined our palates," says Hall, known around town as the woman behind the sweet and dense cupcakes of Cupcake Royale, the quaint, old schoolinspired cupcake shops she owns throughout Seattle.
A 1988 graduate of Albers with a degree in marketing and finance, Hall's road from the business world to dessert started with a job more aligned with her education—she was a "numbers cruncher" for Key Bank. Hall moonlighted as a barista for a then-fledgling coffee company known as Starbucks.
When Starbucks offered her a position as a store manager, she quit the bank and began what would be an 11-year tenure with the coffee giant, moving up the ranks and into various roles.
In 2000 she left for REI, where she helped grow the brand and raise the recreational company's national profile. A layoff got her thinking about going into business for herself. Originally the plan was to open a coffee shop. Instead of offering the typical pastry accompaniment to coffee, Hall got an idea to pair it with cupcakes.
While cupcakes were all the rage in New York City, made famous by Sex and the City, Hall saw an untapped opportunity to bring that little slice of cake heaven to the locals. And with that, Vérité Coffee and Cupcake Royale was born, with the first shop in Seattle's Madrona neighborhood in 2003.
Cupcakes were a particularly bold choice for a business given that Hall was a new business owner and not a professional baker. But she knew to hire the right people: an expert to get the cake and frosting recipe just right the formula was tweaked roughly a year and a half ago, when a new baker was brought on board to make the cake more moist.)
"Most people have never had a cake that wasn't from a boxed mix," says Hall, whose cupcakes are today available in shops in Madrona, Ballard, West Seattle and Capitol Hill.
When it comes to cupcakes, Hall doesn't do fussy. At Cupcake Royale, don't expect cakes infused with perfumed rose water. What you will find is a more traditional, classic version that has a baked-daily-from-scratch, old-timey charm. It's the kind of cake your grandmother would make, says Hall, who subscribes to the notion that a good cake starts with the best ingredients—60 percent of which are locally sourced—a lot of love and just the right amount of frosting.
Among the biggest sellers: the salted caramel, featuring chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream; the "dance party," a white cake with pink buttercream and whimsical rainbow sprinkles; and the "triple threat" of chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and chocolate shavings.
"Betty Crocker has ruined our palates."
Jody Hall, ’88, owner, Cupcake Royale
On the business side, Hall believes in a holistic model that is rooted in giving back. Each year she donates thousands of cupcakes to various city and community organizations. She hopes to develop more partnerships with her Capitol Hill neighbors, including SU. And Cupcake Royale will continue to grow and evolve without losing what makes it special. "We're not trying to take over the world, Starbucks style," she says.
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