This past weekend, after weeks of busy schedules, I was so excited to be able to interview the wonderful Michelle Celemencki at the Laughing Bean in East Vancouver. Michelle Celemencki is the founder and owner of Arielle’s Sweet Tooth, a baking company that specializes in being all-natural and gluten-free. Over the weeks I had the opportunity to taste-test several products and I could not believe my taste-buds! Although not celiac or gluten-free myself, I found myself reaching for Michelle’s baking over anything else in the house. Two must tries are the pumpkin spice cupcake and the pecan tart – literally to die for! Michelle is the most passionate and spiritual person I have ever met. She taught me so much about chasing dreams and doing what I love in the hour and a half interview.
Read our interview below and try not to get hungry!
1. Did you know you always wanted to be a baker?
I think I did, you know. I was just telling this to Arielle (my daughter). She asked “When you were my age what did you want to do?” I told her, well a baker! I had my little Easy Bake Oven when I was like ten and I LOVED making these little peanut butter cakes and I also had this amazing aunt who baked and baked and baked amazing stuff and I would always go over to her house and help. And from then, on whenever I would go into a cooking store or anything, it was like Candyland! I also remember growing up ripping pictures and recipes out of magazines at the doctor’s office thinking “They won’t miss this!”
2. How and when did you start your business and what are some tips you would give to whose wanting to start their own business?
I started my own business literally, it launched May 22nd 2013. So like 7 months ago. But I was practising before that, trying stuff out, seeing if it worked. I find one of the tips of starting your own business is be realistic also do it because you want to do it and it’s a passion. Yes, you have to think of money but don’t use money as your driving force. What you do should be your drive and if you happen to make money from it then that’s fantastic! Also, have a plan and write everything down in a journal. There will be surprises and things coming up unexpectedly but have a plan. Finally, know your product, know your business, and try to think ahead to what could happen. Be two steps ahead. I learnt this the old school way from my parents who ran their own flower shop. From a very young age I learnt how to run a business. But, it has to be in you. Not everyone is meant to be a business person. It has to come naturally.
3. Tell us about Arielle’s Sweet Tooth.
Arielle’s Sweet Tooth is named after my daughter and she has a massively, huge sweet tooth like myself. I make products that are basically all natural. Like I use whole nutmeg that I grate right before I need it, I use real flax seed that I grind right before use. I don’t use xanthan gum in any of my products, I use psyllium husk which is a natural, Indian seed that binds things, and it’s got lots of fibre so that is my binder. I use all natural flavours and any kind of coloring it will come from beets or strawberries. If I can’t pronounce it or it’s got a number attached to it – not going to happen! I also make products that are good for all people. So if you are vegan, or dairy-free I have something for you. Basically I do a lot of cupcakes, cookies, brownies, bars. I am getting myself into more savoury options like quiches.
4. What has running your own business taught you about yourself?
HAHA – patience and perseverance! I did not even realize how tenacious I was. If something didn’t work out I would try it over and over again. Sometimes I am making the same thing five times. Many times before I would just give up. But with this one I learnt to stick with it. I also learnt gratefulness. Just that I’m doing what I want to do. I’ve learnt to be grateful through this business even for the smallest thing. I am truly grateful.
5. You have a lot of creative baking ideas. What inspires you?
Sometimes it is pictures, sometimes it’s people, sometimes it’s ideas, sometimes I’ll like a recipe and adapt it to my own. Sometimes times I will create it because I will want it. I’ll think “I want this!” My chocolate cardamom cupcake was inspired by my friend’s candle. She has this cardamom orange candle and by mistake it was stuck in my purse or a week with a bar of chocolate. The candle infused the chocolate bar so when I bit into it I thought “My goodness! I am making a cupcake from this!” Crazy inspiration that I adapt from everyday things.
6. What has been your most rewarding or exciting experience thus far?
Literally is when I am in the presence, maybe at the coffee shops that I deliver to or I’m doing catering and I have people come up to me who are grateful that what I’ve made has touched them or warmed them or that they are so happy they can eat something and it is so pleasurable. Regardless of their condition, celiac or gluten-intolerant you want to be happy. Food is one of life’s best indulgences, you need to love it! This is the most humbling experience when people say to me “This is amazing!” and, you know, there is still a part of me that doesn’t believe it. Like are you talking about me? I had one of my coffee shops tweet I was the best in Vancouver! I couldn’t believe it. The best experience I ever had was taking my daughter out for her birthday and she had a non-gluten-free cake with double chocolate. I mean it looked delicious and I asked her how it was and she said “It is nothing like yours Mom! I am being serious!” I love that. My reward is to see people happy.
7. “Gluten-Free” has turned into a sort of trend, but for thousands of people it is a serious matter. Could you explain what gluten is and how it affects the body?
About four and a half years ago, I did a wild rose detox and that’s how I found out I was wheat-intolerant after taking wheat and dairy out from my system and reintroducing it. I found that wheat just killed me and as the years progressed, the intolerance grew and grew and grew. As the years went by if I quickly introduced wheat back into my diet, say for a pizza, I was done! I would feel like I had the flu. My skin hurt, my body hurt, your stomach churns – It is terrible! So I started buying gluten-free items and they are really expensive! And they weren’t that pleasing! I said to myself “I can do this! I can make things taste like you’d have no idea they were gluten free at all!” Having a French-pastry background I take food very seriously, like we should get enjoy food!
8. What are your other hobbies and interests?
I do work at a consignment store just to get myself out of the kitchen. It sells clothes so it definitely still helps people, which is what I like to do! I like to read, though it takes me a long time to read a book. Right now I’m reading a book my friend just launched called “Your Irresistible Life” and it is amazing and will change my life. It’s all about how you use yoga and food and how you can change your way of life just by getting up. My hobbies are going to the gym (when I can get to the gym), movies, and nature. Just get me into the wild with the trees and I am good. I love springtime with my daughter and partner, and traveling. I try to do something new every day. I try to get out of my comfort zone. It’s an awful feeling but heads results.
9. What do you love most about Vancouver and miss most about Montreal?
What I love about Vancouver is its dedication to health and wellness and spirituality. I actually found myself in Vancouver. I’ve lived in Toronto for seven years, I left Montreal in 1994 and I found who I am here through this whole process the city gives you. I just love how it’s such a young city and there is so much opportunity here. I think the city has a greatness and the people are so friendly here to the point where it is very easy to make friends and I have made an amazing group of friends here who are this support system. There is this wonderful, comfortable, vibe I can comfortably glide through. In Montreal I miss my family. I miss the uniqueness of the city where you can always march to the beat of your own drum. You just “are” in Montreal”. And I miss the bagels! HAHA!
10. Where do you see Arielle’s Sweet Tooth in 5 years? Have you thought of opening your own bakery?
Yes! I have. I see myself in hospitals and schools. People that need gluten-free products. I see myself on the “O” Network with Oprah. I promise though, to stick to my guns about home-made baking. Nothing will ever be processed, I will not change. There will always be little imperfections because that is what home-baking is. I want to do more catering and more experimenting. Who knows – maybe an Arielle’s Sweet Tooth of Montreal!
To learn more about Michelle Celemencki and her gluten-free products, visit www.ariellessweettooth.com or stop by the following locations to try her amazing baking for yourself!
- Parthenon Supermarket – 3080 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC
- Vinci’s Caffè, Gallery & Catering – 194 West 3rd Ave., Vancouver, B.C
- Tony’s Coffee – 805 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC
- Laughing Bean – 2695 E Hastings St., Vancouver, B.C.
- Connections Coffee House – 5063 Anola Dr., Burnaby, B.C.
Written by: Micaela Monk