Get to know a Baker: Ashley Wittig, Bunner's Bakeshop
It's easy to see how a shop like Bunner's has been so successful in such a short time. Its goods are sweet, wholesome and delicious while catering to those with restricted diets and sensitivities. Recently, I met up with baker and co-owner Ashley Wittig to talk about food, friends, flours, and the future of her specialty bake-shop.
Why did you decide to open a vegan and gluten-free bakery?
Well I'm vegan, and my business partner is vegan. When we were doing farmers' markets, a lot of our gluten-free products were really selling. We made spelt and gluten-free, but people were getting a bit antsy about the spelt. So we decided to simplify our lives and go completely vegan and gluten-free, and that's how it was when the shop opened.
Is there a secret to making yummy gluten-free baked goods?
Mixing the flours up. You can't just use brown rice flour and expect to get an amazing cake out of it. A good combination of flours, and knowing what flours do what, too. Rice flour is really dense, whereas chickpea flour is fluffy. So you've got to know what kind of texture you want.
Why did you choose to open in the Junction?
Well we live on Roncesvalles, so it's close. And the Junction just appealed to us. It's a really nice community feel, it's still pretty rootsy, you know what I mean? And for a starter business it's really affordable.
Are there challenges with maintaining the retail space as well as wholesale?
Our wholesale business - we wholesale to David's Tea and a handful of other coffee shops in the city - is only on a handful of days and is only our gypsy cookies, so that's easy to maintain. At first we were doing a lot more, but we just get the girls doing batches of the cookies now and just pack 'em up, and deliver them all over the city. So that part of it is do-able. The main part of our business is the retail. The challenge with wholesale is just dealing with different personalities.
We also do catering. I love doing weddings. Going to the venue before everyone else is there, and setting up the cupcakes or the cake. Sometimes I get to catch a sneak peek of the bride, and that's always exciting. You totally feel behind the scenes, in the back with the DJ setting up.
Did you always want to be a baker?
I always liked baking, but I really wanted to be a teacher when I was growing up and that's why I went to school for English Lit, and I was going to go to teacher's college. Instead I was working for a cosmetics company. I did that for a few years, but then I quit, and I opened Bunner's. I didn't really mean to be a baker, but I always loved baking.
Are there any future aspirations for you in the food world?
We're always vying for a second location. We actually have some really great news we'll be announcing in the near future. We're also thinking about renovating the back of the bakery, and creating a cooking class area, and doing baking classes there. But we could always do it in the front too, for now. Teaching in general is just something I'm really passionate about. I think that it would even be fun to work at George Brown or something. Well, one day at a time!
When you're not working in the bakery, where could we find you?
I wake up really early, so you won't find me out too late at night, but I really love just hanging around in Kensington, there are a lot of vegan places there. I ride my bike all over the city, so when it's really nice out, I'm on my bike. I love going to restaurants. I think the one I frequent the most is Urban Herbivore. I'm a big salad eater - because I work here! Hot Beans also has this amazing TVP burrito that makes me melt inside.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
Most underrated baking ingredient? Salt.
Favourite Toronto Bakery? Sweets from the Earth, or LPK's (they have great vegan tarts).
One baked good you can't live without? The gypsy cookie!
What's the next hot trend in baking? Pies and Donuts.
Is it okay to have dessert with every meal? It depends...but I think they taste best in moderation.
Favourite cookbook? Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero.
Someone who inspires you? My business partner Kevin, and my girlfriends.
Read more baker profiles on our Toronto Bakers Pinterest board.
Photos by Natta Summerky
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