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Bunners in the Oven: Talkin’ treats with Toronto’s first vegan, gluten-free bakery

The words “vegan” and “gluten-free” have not been traditionally associated with the word “delicious.” But traditions change, and Bunners is leading the charge, with their hip Junction bakery selling a delicious range of sweet and savoury baked goods that just so happen to be gluten-free, vegan, organic, and in many cases free of other common allergens like eggs, soy and refined sugars. We got in touch to talk to them about their methods, the treats they’ll have on offer at the Gluten Free Garage, and the shift in attitudes towards natural, organic treats.

Shedoesthecity: Tell us a little about the Bunners origin story.
Ashley Wittig: In 2009 I left my job to focus on developing the most delicious vegan and gluten free baked goods I could imagine with the help of my partner Kev. I baked and he taste-tested and together we created many of the recipes we still use today! We started off at farmer’s markets but quickly had to graduate to a full walk-in bakery because demand was so high–it was exciting but so overwhelming. We used up all of our savings to open Bunner’s and I was our only employee for the first 6 months! Eventually Kev left his job to work at Bunner’s full time, we took on a couple of part-time helpers, and the rest is history! Now we have a second location in the works and a cookbook being published by Harper-Collins this coming Spring.

SDTC: What can we expect from Bunners at Gluten Free Garage?
AW: We always bring big faves like mini cinnamon buns, butter tarts, date squares, cookies, brownies, and cupcakes–we do a “fauxstess” Hostess-style cupcake specially for the GFG because RonniLyn has such a soft spot for them.
SDTC: There’s been a huge amount of buzz about your treats. Why do you think the things you make resonate with people? 
AW: I think it’s a rare treat for people with food allergies to be able to go into a bakery and be able to eat anything they like–AND it tastes amazing! They can get a real old-fashioned birthday cake that everyone at the party will love eating. I think it resonates with people because we’re making gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free products the focus of our energy, not just a token “allergy free” offering.

SDTC: It seems like you’re always inventing delicious new stuff. What’s the creation you’ve been most proud of so far?
AW: There’s so many of them that I absolutely love, but the one I’m most proud of is the brownie. It took about 2 years of working and reworking my idea until it was perfect. Toronto Life even said it was one of the best 6 sweet treats in the city that year!

SDTC: Where do you find your culinary inspiration? 
AW: Inspiration comes from everything! Sometimes it’s a memory of something I ate, or my facebook page blows up with requests (currently it’s Christmas cake), or sometimes it’s just what’s seasonal and what flavours and textures compliment one another.

SDTC: What advice would you give to young people who are planning on starting their own small business? 
AW: Be prepared for a lot of hard work and dedication, and not a lot of freedom! But also be prepared for being deeply satisfied and challenged every day.

SDTC: Your bakery is in the Junction–what’s your favourite thing about the neighbourhood?
AW: I love how tight-knit the neighbourhood is, and how much it’s evolved even in the three years we’ve been there!
SDTC: Why should people come out to Gluten Free Garage? 
B: For the same reason coming to Bunner’s is exciting- because anyone who suffers from celiac or gluten intolerances will have the freedom to roam around and try anything their heart desires!

SDTC: What other stands will you be sure to snag free samples from? 
AW: I love the healthy treats the girls at Earth & City whip up, and I can never pass up a nanaimo bar from LPK’s, or a donut from Tori’s!

 Bunners will be at the Gluten Free Garage on Sunday, November 17. 
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