Introducing Quincy Barker to the Zengarry Kitchen as our December Zen Chef of the Month! Through this monthly series, we celebrate chefs, foodies and nutrition influencers in the vegan food space.
What inspires you most when baking?
Baking brings me joy and inspiration in various ways. Baking is a therapeutic activity I can do alone to unwind, allowing me an opportunity to be creative and ultimately a rewarding result that I can share with my family, friends and neighbours. Seeing their joy while enjoying something I created continues a cycle of joy and positivity that inspires me to bake feel-good treats for those around me.
What is your number one piece of advice for someone new to vegan or better-for-you baking?
My number one piece of advice for someone new to vegan or better-for-you baking would be: start small. There are many staple items that are an easy and accessible place to start, such as replacing your regular milk with a plant-based milk, using a flax egg instead of a regular egg, coconut sugar or date sugar instead of brown sugar or subbing regular butter for vegan butter. Start with your favourite recipe and replace one ingredient with a healthier or vegan alternative. If successful, replace two or more ingredients until the recipe is completely vegan and a “better-for-you” version. Most recipes can be made vegan and/or subbed with more nutritious ingredients quite easily. You may need to experiment with brands to find what you like, but it can be a fun experience, especially when you find “the one” to replace that traditional ingredient. Have fun with it and celebrate your successes!
You share so many drool-worthy vegan desserts! Which one is your family’s favourite?
This is such a difficult question, but a vegan dessert that was quite the success at home recently was the Carrot Cake Loaf with Fauxmagerie Zengarry Cream Cheese Icing. This loaf is vegan, refined sugar free, can be made gluten-free and even contains your fruits and veggies (banana and carrots)! The star of the show was definitely the thick and fluffy cream cheese icing that had the perfect amount of ting, tang and sweetness to it.
If you could bake with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and why?
If I could bake with anyone today, I would have to choose Angela Liddon, the author of the “Oh She Glows” cookbook series. I really got into “better-for-you” baking after receiving her first book. She taught me how easy it is to incorporate healthier ingredients into your baking. I also felt much better eating a healthier treat that wasn’t full of refined sugar or dairy. I find her recipes to be pantry-friendly and accessible which has inspired me to do the same when brainstorming recipe ideas for my own audience. Having the opportunity to bake and learn from Angela would be an amazing and inspiring experience.
One of my goals is to create accessible, simple, pantry-friendly treats that are vegan (or at minimum, dairy-free!) so people can find the joy in dessert while powering their bodies with natural fuel in the process. My recipes are not overly complicated and I feel that everyone can be successful when trying it themselves. I do like to indulge at times so not everything is always necessarily healthy, but that’s ok too! I continue to experiment with natural sweeteners, flour alternatives and attempt to make life a little more indulgent but balanced.
What is your favourite vegan restaurant and/or dish?
I am so lucky to live in Toronto, which has such an amazing food scene! The Chase Hospitality Group has a number of vegan restaurants in the city or vegan offerings at their non-vegan restaurants. The Chase is my favourite restaurant of theirs as they always have incredible plant-based dishes, followed by Planta Yorkville and Planta Cocina. They also have a burger spot called Planta Burger that has incredible milkshakes made with oat ice cream and oat milk! I could rotate through these restaurants continually and never get bored. If you are in Toronto, check them out!
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