Part II: Doron Petersan
Doron Petersan opened Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats in 2002 drawing on her dgree in Dietetics from the University of Maryland and years of experience working in restaurants. She lives with her husband, Peter and their rescued companion-animals in Washington, D.C.
Hi, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. OK, now we come to the really yummy part of the show. We’re going to be talking to Doron Petersan who is the owner of Sticky Fingers Bakery and has a great, delicious new book out called Sticky Fingers Sweets: 100 Super Secret Vegan Recipes. Welcome to It’s All About Food.
(Doron) Hello! How are you?
(Caryn) OK! (noise in background) Do we have someone else on the show with us?
(Doron) This is Doron Petersan.
(Caryn) I know, I know. It sounded like it was a dog that was joining us.
(Doron) No, those are probably just our very loud refrigerators behind me. I’m actually in the shop today.
(Caryn) Oh, great. OK, well, thank you. So, I’m really excited to be talking about you. I love your new book. Beautiful.
(Doron) Well, thank you so much. I’m so glad that you’re enjoying it.
(Caryn) Yeah, and we love stories like yours. Well, you know, this whole vegan thing. There are so many of us that have been vegan for a while, or some people that are new to it, and we love success. We love great food and when somebody does it and does it right and gets some recognition, you’ve got this whole happy army behind you.
(Doron) Oh my goodness. Well, thank you so much. That’s so sweet. I love all of those things too: food, success, sweets, fun.
(Caryn) Yeah. I have a Web site ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com and I post a lot of different recipes up there: healthy food and all kinds of things. But whenever I post the treats, that’s what gets the most traffic.
(Doron) Yes. I’d say that we’ve definitely gotten most of our attention for our sweets. Over the years that’s been the strongest part of our business. It’s the part that keeps growing and growing and growing. And while our sandwiches are super fun and coffee is always a must, our sweets just really pull people in the door. I mean, you can’t resist looking at a cupcake or a cookie and not falling in love.
(Caryn) Yeah. Well, I’m always promoting healthy food because I want vegans to be models for the world because I’m coming from a place where I believe vegan food is the ideal for the environment, for health, for animals. And I want us to be glowing and beautiful and strong and living long, healthy lives so that everybody else wants to come along.
(Doron) Absolutely, we completely agree. And we think everybody should start their healthy day with a good dose of enjoyable dessert. I mean, there’s nothing better than eating food that you absolutely enjoy that’s really fun and is also better for you.
(Caryn) That’s right. Now, one of things on your bakery Web site that I love is that you have all of the ingredients for all of your products.
(Doron) Yes. We cater to everyone and we want to make sure that everybody knows what is going into their mouths and their bodies. So if we have people that are concerned about one ingredient or another or they’re trying to avoid an ingredient for a sensitivity or an allergy, we want to make sure that they can do that easily. But also we want to show people how simple and how straightforward our ingredients are. There are no scary ingredients. There’s not a ton of preservatives or things that you can’t pronounce. It’s straightforward food.
(Caryn) I was reading it…and I’m just going to reiterate everything you just said because it’s important. I think more companies are starting to learn that it’s important to divulge this information because so many people have food issues and vegans can be really militant when they want to know what’s in their food. So it’s smart to just make it easy and have it out there. I know I’ve been to so many places and when I ask the servers: “Do you know what’s in this?” They look so dumbfounded like: “What? It’s a piece of cake. What do you mean, what’s in it?” It’s really important. Then I was also really thrilled to see how clean your desserts are. They’re basically the same ingredients I use when I bake, pretty much.
(Doron) Yeah. That’s it exactly. That is our entire method that we want to send by putting out all of our ingredients out there as well as having the book available for folks as well so you can see what we’re using. We’re not talking about a lot of intricate, detailed ingredients. We’re talking about flour, and sugar, and different fat sources to develop the texture and the flavor and also your frostings and fresh fruits and chocolate. It’s real food.
(Caryn) OK. Now, you are the winner of the Cupcake Wars.
(Caryn) Can you tell us a little bit about how that all started? It’s just such a great story and I’m so glad you’re the winner.
(Doron) Yeah, I’m tooting my own horn over here. We actually won twice. We went on once and won up against one other vegan and two other traditional-style bakers. We went back a second time and didn’t do so well. We went back a third time and won against three traditional bakers who were also previous winners. So we’re the first vegans to win the All Stars of the Cupcake Wars. We’re very proud of that. Any chance I get I do have to tout our horn because it’s just such a fun thing to be able to talk to people about. It’s the Food Network too. It’s super fun.
(Caryn) Are they going to do something good with you at the Food Network? We’re all clamoring. Who’s going to get the first vegan food show on the Food Network?
(Doron) I have no idea. Unless Rachel Ray or Guy Fieri doesn’t go vegan anytime soon I think they’re going to have a tough run. But I’m open to any ideas or suggestions anyone has.
(Caryn) Now, are you expanding the bakery? Is it going to go franchise or chain? Are you going to stay small? What’s your plan?
(Doron) Well, right now we’re focusing on our wholesale. We have partnered with a facility who has been doing wholesale for years and years and years. We are now producing our Sticky Fingers products for the mid-Atlantic region, for Whole Foods, and for other national food stores. We’re really working on growing that right now. We have cakes and cupcakes and brownies and cookies. That’s really been a fun way to reach all of our fans and new fans and customers. As far as expanding the actual individual shop, I’m open to just about anything as far as what the future holds for Sticky Fingers. I haven’t signed a lease on a new place yet but it definitely is a lot of work to keep a business up and running. We have 26 employees here on any given day and a lot of product to move in and out of the bakery and a lot of people to keep happy. So, there’s nothing set in stone.
(Caryn) Wow. OK. I liked reading about the Korean company that came along and wanted to model your store.
(Doron) Yeah, that was really fun! That happened in 2005 as a result of a friend of ours being on kind of a 60 Minutes-style Korean TV show, documentary show. She came into our store while the crew was filming her and somebody saw the show (online) and thought that it would be an interesting addition to Korean food cuisine. And it was doing really well! Last time I checked. We went there and opened it and they have kind of free will to expand as they see fit for their environment.
(Caryn) Sure. I wish it had been there when I spent some time in Korea. I was there a lot doing some engineering work back in 1999 and 2000. I know that the country has changed so much in the last ten years. I read about all kinds of things and a lot of it is really great. But there were a few vegan restaurants. One of them I salivate to go back to but I wish the bakery had been there.
(Doron) Oh, wow. We had such a great time while we were there. It opened up just a whole new world of eating to us, definitely since we were blessed by having people there who could navigate the menus for us and make sure we were not eating any animals by mistake. We had such a great time with the tofu houses and the porridge and the Buddhist temples where we could go and get six-course meals of pure vegan goodness. Oh my gosh.
(Caryn) There was one restaurant where I went to, and I probably went there like three or four times a week, where they would put out 25 different dishes and it cost like nothing. And I’m like a plate-cleaner so I would work at one thing at a time and clean it up and then work on the next one. And I didn’t realize there were a few dishes that they kept replenishing…
(Doron) It could get you in trouble.
(Caryn) But it was all really good.
(Doron) The next thing you know you have like 45 servings of bean sprouts and sesame seeds.
(Caryn) Kimchee. So, you’re definitely one of the queens of vegan desserts here.
(Doron) I love that term and if that’s what you’re going to deem me, I accept.
(Caryn) Let’s back up a bit and get some history from you. How did this all…how it all began.
(Doron) Sure. Right around 1995 I became vegetarian after working with a veterinarian. I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian and I got to witness a surgery and saw the inside of a dog and noticed how it looked a lot like chicken. The musculature was a little bit too familiar to what I had been eating the night before. That’s changed the way that I look at what I eat and the animals and it’s been all a vegan journey since then. I went vegan after that and became really interested in the nutrition aspect and the health aspect of eating vegan and making sure that a vegan diet was done healthfully. Frankly, so many people always try and scare you about the B12 and the protein. I wanted to make sure I was not going to be one of those people so I fell in love with the nutrition aspect. I ended up going to school at the University of Maryland, which is where I took some food science classes, and lo and behold found out about the whole science behind baking and the fascinating aspects of building recipes based on the science rather than simply what each ingredient can do. So that’s where I started to look outside of traditional baking and think we could do this. And I’m really hungry for some real food.
(Caryn) Well, I think having good vegan treats is what really opens the door for so many people because they think “I can’t do this because I’m going to be deprived and I’m not going to be able to have all of those favorite comforting things.” We know that’s not true.
(Doron) Absolutely. That’s what I’m here for. I’m here to make sure that you can become vegan without missing out on any of the things you remember like cookies and cupcakes and cakes and loads and loads of sweet stuff.
(Caryn) Now, unfortunately, people are having more and more food sensitivities. I’m not really sure where all of this is coming from: if it’s because the quality of the food is changing or maybe something’s happened over the hundreds of years of natural selection, who knows, that’s tripping with our DNA. I don’t know. But more and more people have wheat sensitivities and allergies and Celiac disease. It’s scary. There are soy issues and certain people have their own peculiar allergies, some I’ve never even heard of. Where does that fit in to your bakery scenario? Do you have some recipes that are accommodating to sensitive eaters?
(Doron) Yeah, absolutely we do. We have gluten-free, wheat-free items available. We have some soy-free available, though the Earth Balance products that we use at the store do have soy in them but the individual-size items you can definitely get soy-free so when you’re baking stuff at home you can easily convert to soy-free options.
(Caryn) It’s all in the chemistry. I’m a believer that there’s a lot of great gluten-free treats that can be made once you figure out the chemistry.
(Doron) Yeah, we play it very safe here and we make sure that the items that we have available gluten-free are very easy to do. So, our chocolate cupcakes with our chocolate frosting and chocolate chips. And of course we’re exploring every day. But still dairy and eggs tend to be the higher and more dangerous of the allergies that are out there and seen more prevalently in younger kids especially.
(Caryn) Now, you definitely had some great success with your bakery and the Cupcake Wars and your book that’s coming out. How’s your family responded to your lifestyle?
(Doron) Like my husband and my baby? We just adopted our first son in September so that was right around when all of this stuff was developing and while we were working on Cupcake Wars and finishing up the book. So it’s been an absolute crazy time. My husband is such a sweetheart; he’s just a great dad and a great support system and really having fun watching all of our hard work blossom. He’s just been amazing jumping in and taking over where I can’t.
(Caryn) How old’s your son?
(Doron) He’s five months old.
(Caryn) Right now what is he eating?
(Doron) Well, let’s see. Last night he had peas, pureed peas, for dinner. And we had some zucchini. We had some organic Earth’s Best soy formula. We ate a frozen washcloth for our teeth and he may have found a couple of dog toys on the floor too.
(Caryn) That’s great. Well, it should really be an interesting journey. Feeding children is interesting. Definitely fun. These early years are so critical and so many people don’t realize what an important thing it is to get your child trained on good foods and develop their taste buds for good foods early on.
(Doron) Absolutely. We’re a big believer in “feed real food” so we follow the rules as far as making sure that there are no allergy sensitivities and starting out the types of foods that we feel…he’s already started eating lentil soup and baked tofu and black beans. He really enjoys onions—not traditional for a little baby but it’s important to get all of those spices in there in the palette.
(Caryn) There’s a bunch of different people out today with vegan cookbooks. There are so many of them. I’m overwhelmed with how many are coming out, which is really inspiring, which means that the market is growing and that’s good. There’s a number of different vegan bakers out there. Do you connect at all with some of the other ones? It’s like this great little community happening.
(Doron) Yeah. I think it’s exactly that; it’s a community. I think the more we work together and support each other to continue creating wonderful desserts it’s just going to be a better food world and vegan cuisine. Absolutely. When I say work together, there are definitely people that I’m in contact with that I work with regularly looking at their recipes, building off of their items. Also just people that are food blogging about the stuff that they’re making in their kitchen, that’s really an inspiration for us and gives us ideas every day.
(Caryn) Well, the pictures for your treats are really, really lovely. It looks like you’ve put a little art into what you’re making. You don’t just make them taste good and I like that.
(Doron) Yeah, we had a lot of fun with the photos. Melissa Nyman is an amazing photographer and then Jenny Webb and I, Jenny who was on Cupcake Wars and I, did all the photo styling right here in the shop. It was fun.
(Caryn) OK. What else do I want to talk about before I let you go? Do you have any favorites?
(Doron) My absolute favorite cake and cupcake is our almond cream. I’m sorry, our coconut cream and then second is our almond cream. I’m looking at them in the case right now and they’re side by side and I think I want to combine them and eat one. The coconut cake is my absolute favorite. The almond cream is a very close second. But really, I like everything.
(Caryn) Of course, yes. And I’m sure that the cravings change from time to time or sometime you want…I’m looking at a coffee cake here, or chocolate…
(Doron) One of our bakers, Ramon, is in the kitchen right now working on some cherry-inspired items for the Cherry Blossom Festival coming up soon so that’s going to be a fun time and some fun desserts.
(Caryn) And you are in Maryland?
(Doron) We are in Washington, DC. 1370 Park Rd, Washington, DC. Colombia Heights. We’re about, oh, 3 miles from the Capitol.
(Caryn) Right. That’s a pretty hip place. I could see why you’re doing well there. That’s a good, growing vegan community there.
(Doron) It’s fun. Yeah, we call it the vegan bubble. Everywhere you go there’s something vegan and there’s someone vegan.
(Caryn) Your name, Doron(e), is that how it’s pronounced?
(Doron) That’s one of the ways.
(Caryn) How do you say it?
(Doron) I say Doron.
(Caryn) Doron. OK, well, I know—I’m not sure where the origin is of your name is—but I know other people that are named Doron(e) and it means gift.
(Doron) Yes, that is what we found is the derivative. However, my mother swears that it is a Greek derivative though I’ve only seen it as a Hebrew derivative. I’ll take what I can get as long as it’s a good name. I like it.
(Caryn) Well, I like it and I think you definitely are a gift.
(Doron) Oh my goodness, thank you.
(Caryn) That’s what I was leading up to anyway. I mean, anybody that’s giving the world these great…and we love cupcakes!
(Doron) Oh, you’re so sweet. Thank you so much for building this platform for us. This is a wonderful way to offer our information to tons of other people that really care about their bodies and their food.
(Caryn) Right. And I just can’t say it enough—this is all I talk about day in and day out—but you can have your cake and you can eat it too. It doesn’t have to harm anybody. There’s no reason to use milk from tortured cows. There’s no reason to use eggs from battered hens. It’s just not necessary and you’re proving it day in and day out.
(Doron) Yes, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. We’ve been here for ten years and we’ve been doing it successfully every day and come and try it!
(Caryn) That’s why you’re not just a gift to humans but you’re a gift to the animals too. OK, so it’s Doron. I’m going to say that right now. Doron, thank you so much for spending some time with me on It’s All About Food.
(Doron) Well, thank you so much.
(Caryn) And I hope to get to Washington, DC and definitely load up on some of your treats. But if I can’t get there I can get them online, right?
(Doron) You can get them online. We’ll happily send you your cupcakes or your cookies or your brownies.
(Caryn) Look at that; problem solved. And the Web site is…
(Caryn) stickyfingersbakery.com. Thank you. I wish you a lot of luck with your new cookbook.
(Doron) Thank you so much. Have a great week.
(Caryn) And I hope the Food Network grabs you soon.
(Doron) Oh, me too.
(Caryn) OK, thank you so much.
(Caryn) Bye-bye. That was Doron Petersan, the owner of Sticky Fingers Sweet Bakery and she has this gorgeous new cookbook out—Sticky Fingers Sweets: 100 Super Secret Vegan Recipes. But they’re not secret; because they’re all in this book.
I just want to highlight a little bit here about what I was just talking about. There’s 60 billion or so, give or take a few, land animals that are grown every year, mostly in factory farms, in confined, filthy, horrific conditions. Many of them are chickens: chickens either for laying eggs or chickens for meat and we know more and more that this isn’t necessary. We don’t need these animals for any nutrients. We can get all of our nutrition from whole plant foods—all of them. We don’t need the cholesterol that these animal foods give us. We don’t need the saturated fats. We don’t need the acidic animal protein. We don’t need animals for our food. When it comes to heavenly baked treats, we don’t need milk. There are so many different non-dairy milk options out today; they’re everywhere. I see them in all the stores, not even just health food stores anymore. There’s soy milk of every flavor: unsweetened, sweetened, vanilla, chocolate, eggnog. And then you have rice milk, and hemp milk, and oat milk. You can make it yourself or you can buy it in the store. There’s no need to consume the bodily fluids of another animal. No other mammal consumes its own milk as an adult. Just think about that. The only mammals that consume milk as adults are the domesticated ones where we pour some milk in a bowl for them to eat. It’s not natural. We know that there are so many health effects that are not good for us that are linked to dairy consumption. Eggs, the eggs that are grown in factory farms with hens that barely see the light of day. The light of day, excuse me. They are debeaked and crammed in these cages with no room to move. They’re fed all kinds of garbage—literally. They live in their own garbage. And they lay eggs. Those eggs are laced with…what? E-coli. Salmonella. Who needs that? We don’t need eggs. There are so many wonderful, nutritious plant foods that can give the properties that we want from eggs. If you want a binder in a baked good, there are different choices. There are a number of starches out there: corn starch, arrowroot, potato starch, tapioca starch. You can buy Ener-G egg replacer, which is a combination of starches that works really nicely. I love using ground flax seeds. You can use the golden version, ground-up. You usually don’t see them in the baked goods, like a light flour cookie or a bread. Or you can use the brown flax seeds, and they’re nice too, but they’ll give you a little brown fleck in your baked product. Apple sauce works well. Bananas work. It depends on what you want to achieve. Then you can make all kinds of egg products, like “scrambled eggs” with tofu. It’s endless. We do not need to exploit and torture at all. And there we go. You’ve been listening to me, Caryn Hartglass, and I invite you to visit http://responsibleeatingandliving.com. Lots of great recipes up there. That’s all for this week. Thank you for joining me. Have a really delicious one. And have a cupcake! A vegan one. Why not? Have a great week.
Transcribed by Jennie Steinhagen 01/18/2013