Gluten-free Bakery Find Its Niche in Down Economy
By Dan Ricigliano
Nancy and Joe Mangiano are the proprietor's of Vin-Chet's Bakery in Buffalo, New York. Through hard work, countless man hours and a lot of elbow grease, they have thrived during dark economic times for restaurants around the country. The Mangianos' success may be partially due to their efforts in sparking a local gluten-free movement, as well as increasing awareness about food allergies among Buffalo residents.
Q: How did you come into ownership of Vin-Chet's?
A: Vin-Chet's was founded in 1946 by Vince and Chet. It was a well-known pastry shop back then. We took it over in 1998. We started with regular pastries and followed through on their tradition, until several years ago when the economy took a turn, that's when we found our niche.
Q: What are the culinary inspirations for the type of bakery that you have?
A: Italian and Polish. If you're talking bakery, its definitely Italian, where our crumb cakes have a slightly Polish feel to them. The original owners we Italian and Polish and we try to continue their legacy.
Q: How did you spark the gluten-free movement here?
A: It started about three years ago, right when the economy took a turn for the worse. I was working out at a gym called Wolf Fitness, the son and the owner (the father) approached me about gluten-free because they suffered from celiac disease. I at first had no idea what that was, or even the idea of making baked goods without flour! I put it off for a little bit, then I said, maybe we'll try it, and he gave us one of our first recipes. One of the breads that we do is due to him. We started small with just a couple of loaves of bread, and soon we were doing more and more gluten free as we ourselves learned more about it. Word of mouth really saved us as a bakery, and so did the support of the Western New York Celiac's Group.
Q: What advice would you give to young bakers looking to own their own bakery?
A: You have to have stamina, determination and it has to be something you really love. You don't do it for the money, it will come. Just follow your desire.
Q: Why do you think you've been successful in creating gluten-free food?
A: I think it's because we make food taste good. We are dedicated to the utmost safety and the best taste. We went to meetings and have talked to doctors about understanding [celiac] disease to the fullest. We try to please the customers by thinking like them.
Q: Where do you see yourselves in five years?
A: Hopefully, completely gluten free. We're in the process of achieving a certification by the Celiac Association and it's a label we'd put on our product. It lets the customer know they are getting the absolute best in gluten free.
Celiac is a rising concern in the culinary arts community as more and more chefs and restaurants cater to customers following a gluten-free diet. Increasingly, culinary schools are also offering training in gluten-free baking and other niche diets that are rising in popularity across the U.S. With the right culinary courses, you may be able to make a successful career out of a new health or diet trend just like Nancy and Joe Mangiano.