With gluten intolerance becoming more and more common, Symone Atondo wondered if the substance was causing her constant under-the-weather feeling she had been experiencing roughly eight years ago.
She decided to exclude gluten, a group of proteins found in wheat and other grains, from her diet as an experiment to see if it was the culprit. After 30 days without it, she felt great. Until she ate a Ritz cracker. Three days later, she had a head cold.
Atondo continued the experiment for the next month, eating another cracker at the end of 30 days, and, sure enough, she was sick again.
“I just stopped eating gluten altogether,” she said.
Atondo’s intolerance inspired her to start experimenting with gluten-free baking, eventually leading her to the Culinary Arts program at Flathead Valley Community College. While FVCC didn’t offer a gluten-free specific program, she says instructors let her experiment with gluten-free recipes.
In 2017, she bought Rae Rae’s Bakery in Whitefish. After changing the name to Red Poppy Gluten Free Bakery, she headed south to set up shop in downtown Kalispell to sell gluten-free goods exclusively.
Using the flour blend that previous owner Tina Stetson formulated, Atondo has since expanded on those recipes to create delicious gluten-free baked goods. Instead of wheat-based flour, she uses a combination of teff, tapioca and millet grain flours to accommodate dietary needs. She avoids rice flour, which she says creates a dry and crumbly product, and she doesn’t add any extra ingredients to compensate for the gluten-free flour.
“I don’t add anything extra,” Atondo said. “The combination of flours works perfectly.”
With her special recipes, she makes a variety of gluten-free goods, including cinnamon rolls, birthday cakes, pizza crusts and artisan breads. Lemon pound cakes and pumpkin bread are among her best sellers.
In addition to selling goods at the bakery, Atondo and her crew of three make deliveries twice a week to restaurants and grocery stores. She sees a steady flow of business selling to places such as Bonelli’s Bistro, Rosa’s Pizza, Backslope Brewing and Super 1 Foods.
Atondo also sells vegan bread, scones and donuts, but she won’t divulge her secret ingredient that compensates for the absence of eggs.
Cake decorating is her favorite part of baking. She uses a dairy-free, vegetable oil-based butter cream for her frostings to create a vegan frosting. She also doesn’t use any soy in her products because it’s another common allergen.
She’s also working to create the perfect gluten-free croissant, one of her favorite goods, which she expects to have in her bakery soon. When she discovered she was intolerant to the fluffy, gluten-filled item eight years ago, she thought she would have to say goodbye to it forever.
Atondo says she has consistently satisfied customers with her gluten-free bakery, and she even has gluten-tolerant customers that eat her goods.
“I’m happy to be here,” Atondo said. “People come in and are so happy to find something they can eat (and) they really like the product.”
Red Poppy Gluten Free Bakery is located at 45 Sixth Ave. W. #3 in Kalispell and can be found on Facebook.