Epiphany Bakery: Home Baked, Gluten-Free Love from Ruth Wardein’s Kitchen
Apr 01, 2014 04:21PM
● By Linda Sechrist
Home-baked, fresh-from-the-oven bread, rolls and pies were part of the everyday menu in Ruth Wardein’s childhood home. An interest in her mother and grandmother’s mixing bowls, measuring spoons, spatulas and flour-covered hands shaping dough developed into a fascination once Wardein was tall enough to rest her tiny chin on either of their kitchen countertops. Now the owner of Epiphany Bakery, in Naples, she carries on the family baking tradition—without the gluten.
The self-described “ballerina-gone-baker” is quick to confess that becoming a baker was never her lifetime dream. “I grew up dancing and began teaching ballet when I was 16 years old. I’m on break from teaching because my bakery business is flourishing,” says Wardein, whose popular recipe for Paleo bread is also a big hit at the Saturday farmers’ markets on Third Street South and at the Shoppes at Vanderbilt.
Wardein and her partner, Andy Amick, love selling at the markets. “We are both amazed by how everyone started out as customers and quickly blossomed into friends. We wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for their support, encouragement and feedback. It’s amazing how people stand under our tent for nearly an hour to share their stories about their journeys back to health. We’ve learned so much about how good food can make people come alive with excitement,” notes Wardein.
Wardein went gluten-free in 1998, several years after her dad gave up anything containing gluten for health reasons. “Previously, I baked gluten-free brownies, banana bread, cookies and cakes on holidays and family birthdays so that my dad didn’t feel left out. In my Italian family of origin there are five children, and I have three of my own. There is always some reason for a family gathering, where we all congregate around a table and enjoy a meal,” Wardein jokes.
When one of her sisters and a friend approached Wardein about paying her to bake regularly for their family on a weekly basis, she laughed until she discovered they were serious. “It occurred to me that if I had 10 people who paid me to be their personal baker, I could send them a menu of items on Monday and they could pick up their order on Friday. I did that for a few months until word leaked out about a gluten-free baker in town, and then I started getting calls and emails daily about where my bakery was located. I knew that my little business was growing and that I needed help with the accounting work and computer ordering. I called Andy, who is a stay-at-home dad with a degree in business management. We make a great team,” advises Wardein, whose orders increased after several things occurred.
“Our friend, Dr. Brian Thornburg, a local pediatrician, sent my menu to his clients, and Andy and I threw a tasting party at the home of someone in the local celiac group. When I heard from the local newspapers that asked about the location of my bakery, I told them that I was baking only for my friends while I was awaiting the arrival of my third child, my daughter Clara,” she says.
The 2011 Florida Legislature’s enactment of House Bill 7209, which allows individuals to manufacture, sell and store certain types of “cottage food” products (cakes, breads, cookies, candies, jams, jellies and fruit pies) in an unlicensed home kitchen gives Wardein the freedom to bake for more than just her friends. “I spend five days a week baking gluten-free for the farmers’ market. With the number of calls I receive from individuals, restaurants and hotels throughout the U.S. and from as far away as Canada and Hong Kong, I could bake myself to death,” jokes Wardein, who is now working to expand the business. “My childhood friend, Heather Burt, joined Andy and me more than a year ago. I am so proud of my Epiphany team. We each have different strengths, so we work great together. I feel rewarded in many ways, but largely in the form of gratitude that people share with us at the farmers’ markets every week.”
For more information about Epiphany Gluten Free Bakery, call 239-398-4428 or visit Facebook.com/EpiphanyGlutenFreeBakery.