For Part 3 of our 5 part Meet the Judges series we get to know the Ottawa Citizen’s own Ron Eade.
Ron Eade has been the food editor at the Ottawa Citizen, the capital region’s largest newspaper, since 1998. He is also the authour of Omnivore’s Ottawa, a blog encompassing all things food in the Ottawa region.
While Ron is far from vegetarian, he does have an appreciation for good food in whatever form, and has attended Veg Fest as a patron in both 2009 and 2010. In 2011 he joins the NCVA as a guest judge for the NCVA Cupcake Challenge.
At home he regularly experiments in the kitchen and tests new dishes on his wife, Nancy, and young son, Graeme. Most of those dishes are not vegetarian.
On May 1, Ron will be found eating far too many cupcakes for one person, along with the other NCVA Cupcake Challenge judges. Already announced: CBC’s Stu Mills, and the incomparable Auntie Loo. More to come!
We’ve had such an AMAZING response to the Cupcake Challenge and we’re really looking forward to seeing and of course TASTING all your creations!
For those of you that haven’t signed up for a chance to have your cupcake named Ottawa’s best vegan cupcake, please click here
We kick off the Meet Our Judges series with none other than Ottawa’s own queen of vegan cupcakes….Auntie Loo!
Auntie Loo’s is a small vegan bakery here in Ottawa. Ms. Loo learned to cook at the knees of her family members, and the majority of what she produces are these very recipes- veganized! Auntie Loo firmly believes that if you want a dessert, it had better taste like one. Auntie Loo’s uses organic products whenever possible, and works with and purchases from small local businesses.
Most people want to know the story, so here it is: Put up to having a vegan treat table at the 2004 Ladyfest Ottawa Craft Sale by her sweet-toothed roommates, Ms. Loo had never even considered baking as a career. Overwhelmed by the response, Auntie Loo’s was born.
Nowadays, Auntie Loo’s Treats can be found in several locations around Ottawa, including her storefront at 507 Bronson Avenue.
The NCVA represented at the Algonquin College Environmental Awareness event, hosted by their Environmental Studies program on Feb. 1, 2011. It was heartwarming to see so much interest in vegetarian diets and what that means for our planet and the protection and sustainability of the environment. Equally as comforting was the fact that we were among friends; there were 3 other vegetarian-related booths at the event, one of which was a vegan cupcake bake sale (see photos below). Clearly, we’re in a time of change…
Reaching out to the student body and promoting a healthy and environmentally-conscious diet were the key messages on the table that afternoon. Also on the table were no less than two different kinds of vegan brownie samples (provided by baking enthusiast extraordinaire, Erin), which attracted even the most resistant skeptic in the crowd. It was also an opportunity to promote the NCVA to others, increase our membership base, and meet new friends of the NCVA. We sold some of our popular “Eat Like You Give a Damn” T-shirts and compiled a considerable list of passers-by highly interested in our association. It was amazing to see how many people hadn’t even heard of us. Hopefully we can encourage more volunteers to table at similar events in the future, so that we may connect with an even wider demographic.
NCVA membership just got sweeter, when Ottawa’s beloved Auntie Loo announced that she wanted to show NCVA members some love with a 10 per cent discount. The discount applies to anything purchased at her store front (507 Bronson Avenue) or ordered, except for wedding cakes.
Auntie Loo is a great example of a home-grown, vegan business. She even recently won “Best Bakery” recognition in Capital XPress, as voted by readers. Here’s a story we published about her in our most recent newsletter, Capital Veg News:
Made locally, with love, at Auntie Loos
By Pamela Eadie
There’s nothing quite like fresh, made with love baked goods. And nobody knows that better than Amanda Lunan, more commonly known as Ottawa’s “Auntie Loo.”
While her baked goods have been available at Ottawa area natural food stores for several years now, Auntie Loo opened her storefront one year ago, much to the delight of vegans and cupcake enthusiasts. It was the culmination of many years of hard work and perseverance.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I was in a band and working at a coffee shop. I would make these cakes for my friends, and someone told me I could make a lot of money selling them,” Auntie Loo explains.
“But I figured nobody would want my crappy cake.”
Was she ever wrong. The same friend talked her into selling her creations at a Ladyfest Craft sale in 2004. She was a hit. Inspired, she completed a small business diploma program at Algonquin College, and joined the Youth Entrepreneurship Program, which gives young people a salary while they get their business started.
She baked her heart out while renting space at a bakery that was closed overnight. Fellow vegan baking aficionado, Brad Campeau of B.Goods cookies, mentored her. She built a loyal following through LadyFest and other events, and by having her goods in health food stores.
But then the Youth Entrepreneurship Program ran out, and she was at a crossroads. “It was do or die,” she says. With help from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, she was able to find and rent her own retail location, on Bronson Avenue.
She’s also expanded her wedding cake business, with help from her “right hand man” Kate Veinot. Auntie Loos currently has two part time employees, and two volunteer pastry students from Algonquin College.
Her repertoire of treats is constantly changing with the seasons, but the one constant is that they’re always vegan. There are also soy-free and gluten-free options. Treats include a wide variety of cupcakes, squares, pastries, brownies, and cakes. She caters special events and welcomes special orders.
“I never expected a response from the community like this. It’s been awesome,” Auntie Loo says. “People like to come in and see where the food is coming from. It’s important to me to be really transparent.” Auntie Loos uses organic products whenever possible, and works with and purchases from small local businesses.
Most of her clients are not vegan, but, “when they’re buying a cupcake from me, they’re not buying one that has animal products. Most people who come in don’t care. They just like that it tastes good.”
Her love of animals has inspired her along the way. “I really love animals. The reason I went vegetarian was because a cow truck passed me on the highway when I was five years old. That’s when I realized how meat was made,” she says. She’s been vegan for more than 10 years.
These days, she’s at the forefront of Ottawa’s burgeoning vegan community. “It’s my contribution,” she says. “I just think it’s important that people make informed choices.”