On Charleston Boulevard, right next to University Medical Center is a brand new bakery headed by an unassuming white sign that just reads “Keto Bakery”. The bright blue letters and vintage signs in the front window preview the true nature of what lies inside: the Starburst Parlor, a keto bakery with bright blue and pink walls, a vintage aesthetic complete with an antique jukebox in the front playing classic tunes, whose quality and range of food and drink items really far surpass what you might expect from a diet bakery.
Starburst Parlor’s menu has a surprisingly large range. Menu items include: chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, miniature cheesecakes, red velvet cupcakes, miniature pumpkin pies, cinnamon rolls, chocolate-covered strawberries, bagels, pizzas, different flavors of coffee, two different flavors of iced tea, and five flavors of iced cream among other options. All of these items are completely keto-friendly.
“If it doesn’t taste right, I won’t put it out for anyone,” said Jill Shlesinger, owner and founder of Starburst Parlor, “I’ve done at least two recipes 12 times over, and they’re my own recipes so I keep on it and keep changing ingredients and methods until I get it right.”
Shlesinger explained that she refuses to put a product up for sale until her and her family say that they can’t tell that it is keto-friendly by just tasting it. The only product at the bakery that she doesn’t make personally is the ice cream.
The way that Shlesinger makes everything in the store gluten-free and sugar-free is by personally ordering keto-friendly chocolate, using Almond flour in the recipes that require flour, gluten-free baking powder, and Swerve, an all-natural low-calorie sugar replacement sweetener.
All of Shlesinger’s recipes are keto because she is on the diet herself. She has polycystic ovarian syndrome and the diet helps her. Through this business, she has found and helped a lot of people like her, who have to do the keto diet for their own health conditions, as well as people who choose keto for fitness reasons.
“A little girl came in,” said Shlesinger, “She was maybe five, just after we opened and she had celiac. So in her young life, can’t really go anywhere and pick and choose like an ice cream sundae… it made me emotional to see them like ‘Anything you want, you can get anything you want’ and she was in disbelief.”
Shlesinger started Starburst Parlor after she permanently lost her job of 11 years in the pandemic shutdown. After that, her friends pushed her to turn her hobby of baking into a business. The real start of Starburst Parlor came when Shlesinger was operating pop-up shops in local businesses with her son and delivering goods full time.
“So my fiance was working crazy hours because I wasn’t working,” said Shlesinger, “and I was doing pop-ups with my teenage son. Then I accumulated a following through social media and word of mouth.”
Now Shlesinger is experiencing steady growth for her business now that her own location has been open for nearly a month. Despite this growth, she is still very close with her customers.
“I formed friendships with almost all of my clients,” said Shlesinger, “The people were amazingly warm and friendly, and excited to see that someone was doing something that they needed in their life. Because my goal is to give back everything they’ve been missing because that’s what I was doing for myself.”