You don’t normally want someone to cry when they come into your bakery, but for Susan Fulton and Mary Gibson, they seem to enjoy the reaction.
“For a lot of people, this has changed their lives,” Fulton said.
About four months ago the two opened their gluten-free bakery, Gourmet Girls, at 5845 N. Oracle Rd., where they serve breakfast and lunch in a completely gluten-free environment.
In 1999, Gibson purchased a three-deck hearth oven and placed it in storage, all with the hope and idea that some day she would start her own bakery and bistro.
Fulton comes from a family of food addicts, like the ones that could and would whip up a chocolate soufflé in the middle of the night just because they could. Being around that, she also had the dream of baking, owning and running a restaurant.
The two met at a business referral group about four years ago where they realized they had the same dreams and aspirations.
The two didn’t jump right into opening Gourmet Girls. They first began with a catering company. After about a year and a half, the two, taking their interests in alternative health, started making and baking gluten free goods and selling them at the St. Phillips and Oro Valley Farmers Markets.
“We had a client that wanted us to mess around with some gluten free flours, and so we did,” Fulton said. “We started looking at the market of what was out there and we realized that the products weren’t very interesting and they weren’t very tasty. It was a challenge, we can do better than this.”
The two then started down the path of trial and error of trying to get their baked goods to taste and feel like its gluten counter part.
“We like to think that there’s nobody that can tell that these things are missing their gluten,” Fulton said.
The challenge that Fulton and Gibson face each time they try and create a new pastry or mimic a type of bread, is trying to get both the taste and “mouth feeling” because gluten is what given breads its lift, density and holds everything together. When baking with gluten free flour, the mixture acts more like cake batter than dough.
Over a two-year span, the two made numerous friends and family members succumb to their pleads for taste-testing as they refined their recipes and cooking techniques all the while selling their developed delights at the farmer’s markets.
When Gourmet Girls opened its doors, they said they had a line waiting outside the door.
But they aren’t going to be content with selling their baked goods to those in Tucson. They are looking at the wholesale side, online ordering and expanding their pies.
“So we are going to be the gluten free Marie Callender’s,” Gibson said.
Aside from those who see a personal health benefit from making their diet gluten free, the demand has come from people who are sensitive to gluten. When they consume gluten, it can create inflammation in the body and affect numerous organs. There are also those with Celiac Disease who must eliminate all gluten from their diet.
“They have somewhere they can go and they are safe and they don’t worry about contamination,” Gibson said. “They can eat out with their friends and not have to have a huge deal with the waiter, feel embarrassed because they have to ask all these questions. Or not get sick during the meal.
“It’s huge for people who have felt abnormal or different, or just felt out of it for so many years and suddenly they can act like regular people again.”
Gluten free bakery/ bistro
Where: 5845 N. Oracle Rd.