Now that Halloween is over, the countdown can begin to the most wonderful time of the year… no, not Christmas, get a grip: it’s the Gluten Free Garage!! You don’t have to be living the ‘GF’ lifestyle year-round to get into this one-day-only foodie extravaganza at Artscape Wychwood Barns on November 21. While the gluten-free market has exploded in recent years, quality and yummy foods at reasonable prices can still be hard to find sans gluten. That’s where GFG comes in, showcasing products from independent vendors, bakeries, and restaurants to give you the best of the best.

Some of those bests are Michelle Cass and Sher Kopman, the sisters-in-law team behind RawFoodz, a gourmet line of raw, vegan and organic dressings and spreads. We talked to them about how their business came to be, how they’re prepping for this year’s Gluten Free Garage, and how on earth they can make a garlic butter substitute raw and organic.

Shedoesthecity: Tell us a little about the Rawfoodz origin story.

Michelle Cass: RawFoodz was created in 2010 when Sher, my sister in law, came to me with an idea to bottle my salad dressings and sell them to retail stores.  To be perfectly honest, I originally didn’t care for the idea.  My salad dressings consisted of 3 ingredients at the time and I was completely disillusioned by the massive selection of dressings out there. What I didn’t realize was that was exactly the reason why we should do it! There were TONS of dressings out there but none of them were actually good for you!  I had just gone through holistic nutrition school the year before and Sher is a graphic artist so we put our talents together and came up with the idea to create incredibly clean, organic, raw plant based salad dressings.

SDTC: What can we expect from Rawfoodz at Gluten Free Garage?

MC: We love consumer shows because it really gives us the opportunity to educate people as to why the product is good for you and the multiple uses it serves. We love to give people the opportunity to try all seven styles.  This year at the GFG I will be handing out some amazing gluten-free recipes I’ve created using our dressings. Healthy food is my passion so I love to spread the joy!

SDTC: Why do you think the products you make resonate with people?

MC: We’ve taken comfort foods and not only made them super nutritious and immune boosting… they actually taste good!  I think we’re just coming out of the old school of thought that raw or vegan food has no taste. It tastes way better!!! It’s clean and digestible and full of flavour.  It just has to be made right. Once it is, there’s no going back!

SDTC: What’s the creation you’ve been most proud of so far?

MC: I would say Zen Budda just may be the one I’m most proud of.  I’m a very diligent plant-based whole food eater and there was nothing on the market that I would touch with a ten-foot pole that tasted like butter or margarine.  I’m a huge fan of coconut oil and hemp, so for me to have come up with this product that has a creamy buttery taste definitely puts a smile on my face.

SDTC: Where do you find your culinary inspiration?

MC: The kitchen has been my playground for as long as I can remember but converting conventional dishes into really healthy versions has been a passion of mine for quite a while. I’ve been a vegan for the larger part of my life and I’ve seen the industry go from soy based GMO deli meats to so many incredible options for healthy food.  I had to be creative back in the day when there were 2 or 3 decent cookbooks. That’s where I drew the larger part of my inspiration, from needing to find it in order to eat. However, if I was to praise one person in particular for inspiring me to love raw food it would definitely be my friend Doug McNish.  He’s like the godfather of the Toronto raw movement. He took it to a whole new level and made it so appealing.  He’s also compassionate and kind; he exemplifies what raw, healthy food is all about.

SDTC: What advice would you give to young people who are planning on starting their own small business?

MC: I would say follow your deep, inner passion and intuition and never second-guess that. Business is hard. I would never tell anyone starting out that it’s easy. It takes a lot of capital, a lot of hard work and it’s a very bumpy road with a ton of hard decisions but none of that matters if you believe in what you do. So that would be my strongest piece of advice…drive it with passion and steer it with intuition.

SDTC: Why should people come out to Gluten Free Garage?

MC: There is nothing better than a room full of vendors who are there because they love their products and want to share them with you. There’s always so much love in the room it always makes for a high energy, feel good day. Yes, everything there is gluten-free and that’s fantastic but it’s also innovative, healthy and usually great deals. If I wasn’t working it, I would for sure be there stocking up on all my favourite stuff!

SDTC: What other stands will you be sure to snag free samples from?

MC: Let’s just say I hope I’m really close to Bemonte Raw, No. 7 hot sauce, CocoVie… Excited to try everything, actually!