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September 2005
It’s a Vegan Wonka World!
The Satya Interview with Danielle Konya


Danielle Konya icing Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Bombs.
Chocolate Strawberry Cake. Photos by Timothy Wynarczuk

One naturally wonders if there are gleaming Wonka-like contraptions of Danielle Konya’s own invention churning, tooting and whistling, producing her endlessly new and extraordinary baked delights. Are crews of vegan Oompa Loompas mixingvanilla whipped cream beside a bubbly chocolaty waterfall? Is her bakery full of twisted lollipop trees and pink-sugar teacups? Are there vegan marshmallow pillows on dark chocolate benches? And most importantly, how can we win a golden ticket to enter?

All we know is that hoards of the most decadent novelties, including vegan choco-minty Grasshoppers, Chocolate Peanut Butter Bombs, Strawberry Shortcakes, Brownie Chunk Cheese Cakes, and Death By Chocolate cakes arrive at NYC establishments every Tuesday. And with dollops of frosting or pieces of chocolate candy sprinkled on top, there is no limit to the selections of cakes, brownies, and confections offered. Welcome to the Vegan Wonka World of Danielle Konya.

In between working her magic, Danielle took a few moments to discuss with Kymberlie Adams Matthews her company, Vegan Treats, and devotion to making scrumdidilyumptious sweets.

Why did you decide to go vegan?
I made the decision to become vegetarian at a very young age after seeing a live lobster be boiled. It scratched at the pot and made the saddest noise I’d ever heard. It occurred to me at that moment that it wasn’t necessary for something else to suffer in order for me to have dinner. Years later I became interested in eating healthier and picked up a vegan cookbook. I was shocked and very disturbed to learn about the way animals are treated in the dairy and egg industry that I’d been patronizing my whole life. I was vegan by the end of the book. I’ve been vegan ever since.

How long has Vegan Treats been in business and what prompted you to start the company?
Five years. It started because I baked all the time and it got to the point where my friends would come over and expect dessert. They’d barely be in the door and were asking, “Where are the vegan treats?” Later I brought slices of cake to a restaurant I frequented whose desserts weren’t that good. I had no desire to bake for a living but at the time the extra money was a plus. The owner asked if I’d bring a few more cakes, and a few more. And the next thing you know restaurants are calling, customers are inquiring, magazines are writing stories, I quit my other job... I’m a baker.

Have you had many surprises along the way of developing your business?
I guess the biggest surprise is how successful the company is becoming and how loyal my customers are. I always baked for fun and it’s very rewarding when something you’re so passionate about becomes loved and appreciated by other people.

Do you work with a team of Oompa Loompas?
[Laughter.] No, my mom. I love it; she’s my best friend. She’s a really hard worker and is fast and efficient, like me. She fills the shoes of about four employees.

What are some of your favorite treats?
I have gotten sick of all the things I used to love, for now my favorite things to eat are ‘milk’ chocolate peanut butter cups and brownies. Before Vegan Treats was a real company, I would make bowls of the peanut butter mousse and eat the whole bowl with a spoon. Now I can barely look at it.

Which are your best-sellers?
The chocolate peanut butter mousse bomb is definitely the most popular cake we make, and then I’d say the death by chocolate, chocolate-encased strawberry shortcake, and brownie chunk cheesecake. Our brownies are really delicious.

Was Willy Wonka the biggest inspiration for your career?
No, probably one of the biggest is Samantha Burns, a pastry chef who owns a patisserie called Sugar in Phillipsburg, NJ. We worked together in a café in an art gallery where she made the most amazing non-vegan desserts I’ve ever seen. I didn’t realize how much the grace of her presence would affect my business so many years later. I think that pastries should be as pleasant to the eye as they are to your taste buds. Presentation is a big thing for me.

Now, we are talking about making hundreds of cakes every week…be truthful, is there a weird and wonderful factory involved here?

All of my work is done in my bakery. It started at home in my kitchen and after spreading into the living room, dining room, and hallway... it moved to a small bakery, which I’ve also outgrown. Now we’re opening a retail bakery and café September 1st in Bethlehem, PA. It will be worth your drive from NYC to come check it out. We’re going to have a lot of single-serve French pastries, cakes, pies, cheesecakes, brownies, cupcakes, cookies, pudding, soft-serve ice cream, ice cream cake, milkshakes, soy cappuccinos, etc. You won’t leave hungry.

One of the most common complaints about tofu is that it’s too bland. How on earth is it possible to transform it into chocolate mousse or cheesecake?
Tofu is bland, I agree. But, you can change it into anything, that’s what makes it special. There hasn’t been a single carnivore who has ever detected tofu in anything we make. You’d never know.

See, that’s the whole Wonkaness of your bakery—creating something so scrumdidilyumptious out of tofu. What are some of the other enchanted ingredients you use to make your desserts?
Isn’t that the question of the hour—I’m going to release a cookbook some day, I promise.

Do you think attitudes toward soy products—and veganism—are changing?
I hope so, the people who have eaten my desserts have—and I have a lot of carnivorous patrons, which makes me so happy. A lot of people just don’t get it, but I just keep the sweets coming. I’ve baked a lot for colleges and schools. A lot of people eating don’t even know or care about veganism; they just like the dessert, which serves the purpose in my opinion. If I get people eating less dairy and less animal products because they found an alternative they like better, then I feel I’ve done my job. I can’t change the world but I can offer an alternative, which makes a big difference.

Where do you see yourself in five years, floating to the top of the world in a Wonkavator?
In five years, I hope to open another retail bakery in NYC. I’m hoping for mass distribution and Vegan Treats desserts in every grocery store, market, and subdivision. Someone once told me to dream big and I’ve been doing it ever since.

For more information on Vegan Treats and where you can find them, visit www.vegantreats.com.

 

V is for Cookie

 

Photo by Kevin Lysaght


Many of us desire snacks to satisfy a sweet tooth. Whether it be the crunch, munch, or sugariness we seek, cookies seem to satisfy it all. Being vegan used to limit the delicious cookie options. But today there are dozens of widely sold brands with the vegan label—‘V’.—K.A.M.

Allison’s Gourmet cookies are amazing—moist, sweet and flavorful. The Pecan Heavenly Fudge Brownies have the most perfect consistency and nothing compares to the mint chip cookies. We wish Allison lived in our office, but luckily we can order her tasty, fresh goodness by mail.
Barbara’s Bakery simply cannot be beat, especially when it comes to eating animals—animal crackers that is. We all tried her Snackimals in vanilla, chocolate chip, and wheat-free oatmeal and unanimously voted them the number one snack for any time of day. They remind you of your pre-vegan days and the old McDonald’s animal cookies, but much better, of course.

Nana’s is a great cookie that is actually good for you. Free of dairy, eggs, hydrogenated oils, salt, refined sugars, and in some cases, gluten—Nana’s cookies are moist and delicious. Try our favorites: Double Chocolate, Coconut Chip, and Cranberry Orange.

Simple Treats do wonderful things with chocolate, and their baked goods are…naturally delicious. The variety of flavors to choose from is unparalleled—as they can be custom made. Try the heart-shaped Rocky Road Brownies!

Sunflour Baking Company cookies remind you almost of raw cookie dough—and I mean that in the best way. These cookies are incredibly rich and sweet. Two thumbs up to the Carrot Spice, Lemony Lemon, and Mocha Java.

The Raw Bakery
is a raw foodist’s answer to junk food. With their Snicker-like Snakkers Bars, Almond Joyish Coco Joy Bars and Raw Macaroons—which taste like a fine marzipan—you simply can’t go wrong. Vegans take note there is honey in some of their products.


© STEALTH TECHNOLOGIES INC.