by Jeff SanGeorge
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Angie Kenny, the woman behind Zen Cat Bakery. Zen Cat has been getting some press lately due to the fact that Angie has moved the bakery to a new location. But its not the move itself that’s gotten people’s attention, but where she’s moved it to; the Glenwood neighborhood of Greensboro, NC. Glenwood is a transitional neighborhood which was once great, and then fell into decline in the 1980′s. Now Angie is among a small group of people who are staking a claim in the neighborhood, and working to transform Glenwood into the place it once was; a destination, and a great place to live, work, and shop.
What is Zen Cat Bakery: Zen Cat is a Gluten Free and Vegan bakery. Which means they use no eggs/dairy/animal products. Their new address is 1313 Grove Street, Greensboro NC. Zen Cat Bakery’s products are available at Coffee shops, restaurants and stores in Greensboro and Durham, NC. They are currently taking orders by phone and through the website only, no walk-ins. More aboout Zen Cat Bakery at their website: www.zencatbakery.com
From the Zen Cat branding, to the streets and coffee shops of North Carolina, to the social media community, Angie Kenny has made quite a stir with her line of gluten free and vegan foods. I wanted to talk with Angie to get a glimpse behind the Cat logo, to what makes Zen Cat different.
Where did the Name of your company come from?
I played the “name the bakery game” for 2 months before Zen Cat appeared as the right name. It came to me almost at midnight on New Year’s Eve and I knew it when I said it out loud. The name is catchy and fun…and memorable. Zen Cat has come to signify the balance or “Zen-like” attitude one has to have when making a significant dietary change for life…like going gluten-free.
What do you like most about your job?
I love that I get to play around in a kitchen all day, making good things to eat, and experimenting with recipes. I get to be a scientist! I love that a cake or a cookie can bring tears to someone’s eyes, and in the gluten-free world, I know that a cookie means a great deal. Food can be emotional; I want to incorporate the “All-Love” aspect (as in Zen Cat’s motto: Gluten Free + Vegan + All Love.) in baking, because I am interacting with something that people hold close.
Why did you move the bakery?
To have a real Zen Cat Bakery kitchen has always been the goal, and after 2 years of sharing space in a busy catering kitchen, I’ve outgrown the time and space constraints. My new kitchen will allow for growth and efficiency.
And – the best part of all, the new kitchen facility will be a dedicated gluten-free zone!
What aspect of this move has been most exciting for you?
Growth! Allowing for more possibility in the GF baking world.
Space planning – the process of designing my own kitchen and work space has been fun. I have an interior design degree – so I am excited to incorporate efficiency into the design of the interior space. I also want the new kitchen to be a fun place to work for me and the Zen Cat bakery team.
Why did you choose this location?
It’s affordable, it’s off the beaten-path. My building is not the typical “shopping center strip mall” storefront. It’s unique and has some history to it. I can ride my bike or walk to the bakery – because I live in the neighborhood! I am a pioneer of sorts bringing a business like Zen Cat to Glenwood.
What do you like most about the Glenwood Neighborhood?
The people! My friends and neighbors are so passionate about Glenwood – there’s such a history here.
What is currently happening in Glenwood that is contributing to positive growth?
We all hope UNCG will be a good neighbor as it inches closer into Glenwood. Their expansion will hopefully bring more safety, more foot traffic, more positive energy, more commerce opportunities to the neighborhood. And… the Glenwood Community has been very proactive on seeing that the changes are most desirable for the neighborhood.
What do you think Glenwood could become?
Twenty or thirty years ago Glenwood was a “sustainable” neighborhood. There was a grocery store, restaurant, dry cleaners, barber, BAKERY…all near or on Grove Street where Zen Cat is located. In the 7 years that I’ve lived here, I’ve dreamed it could become that again…a very cool place to eat, shop and hang out. A destination.
What is your “gluten free philosophy?
Zen Cat Bakery’s mission is to create gluten-free foods that taste great – not just to people that have to be gluten-free. If it doesn’t taste great, I rework the recipe…or don’t sell the product.
What is your best selling product?
Brownies! They are unbelievably rich and thick, just like any brownie should be – but without eggs or butter…or gluten! I worked on this recipe for 1 year until I was happy with it.
I have to mention the Chocolate Truffles – there are Zen Cat Truffle addicts out there!
How important is it that your products are healthy?
Very important….I use organic and less processed ingredients when I have a choice. I am starting to add bakery items that are solely sweetened with an alternative to “Organic Evaporated Cane Juice” (that’s sugar…organic and less processed), like agave nectar or maple syrup. There’s a trade sometimes – as agave nectar is a processed product.
I want people to feel good about eating a Zen Cat cookie. It may meet their dietary plan (no eggs or gluten), but they can also feel good that organic fruit and other organic ingredients are used in baking.
What is your favorite product that you make, why?
Zen Cat’s Pumpkin Bread and the Oh Snap! Triple Ginger Cookies. These 2 desserts are the reason I started the bakery. I missed ginger cookies and my grandmother’s pumpkin cake when my diet shifted to gluten-free.
What products are you excited about adding to your future offerings?
More bread options – including the Sandwich Rolls! I’ll have the time and space and a proofer (and a bread maker…are you out there?) in order to produce great tasting gluten-free and vegan breads.
Those of us lucky enough to be in the area look forward to Zen Cat bakery’s tasty treats. Zen Cat’s foods can also be bought online at their Etsy.com store.