When vegan chef Brandie Bronston was growing up, love was always shown through food, and if you’ve had the genuine pleasure of meeting her, you know that this tradition continues in her love of food and sharing with others. As we stand in her beautiful bright kitchen, she drinks out of a mug that reads “it’s all good” made by local artist Julie Ankrom of Brim Papery, while chatting with ease.
“I’m going to put together a care package for you so you can take more goodies with you,” she smiles wide. Bronston is a natural hostess, and generous to a fault. Her house, beautifully renovated by partner Ivan Houpe, is lit with candles, and the smell of cinnamon wafts through the rooms. Mellow music plays in the background, creating a relaxed and warm atmosphere. She credits her parents Brenda and Martin for teaching her this bounty of spirit, and even to this day she knows that, “if I need help with a recipe or have questions about how to prepare something, I know I can always call my mom and dad.”
Her mother’s influence is particularly strong in Bronston’s catering company, Seconds Vegan Bakery. Growing up on a farm, as the only girl among three brothers, “[my mother] didn’t have much growing up but paper dolls, family, and the animals on the farm. The one thing she loved was cooking, but baking in particular.”
Bronston’s entire family still looks to her mother during the holidays for affection in the form of favorites such as corn pudding, taco salad (“seriously the best”), but most importantly, her zucchini bread. Brandie recalls her paternal grandmother, “Momma Kate” calling in her request for some of mom’s zucchini bread. “And being the sweet person mom is, she would oblige and make a batch– one for my grandma to snack on right away, and the other to freeze and savor later. To this day, my 92-year-old grandmother still calls my mom up to make her zucchini bread.” Brandie pulls out an old, crinkled around the edges sepia beautiful photograph of two darling girls– one with a bow in her hair is Bronston’s maternal grandmother, Elsie. Looking closely, the smile in the photo is echoed in person.
Bronston has been vegan since 2013, but partner Houpe has been since 2011, so the transition wasn’t too hard, as she cooked vegan meals for him often. “What finally made me go vegan was in 2013 when my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. I thought about some of the research linking dairy and cancer, and made the change.” I ask if she misses anything in particular. She sighs and grins. “Cheese. I LOVE cheese! That was hard. I still miss it. A lot of vegan cheese brands are gross, but a few melt.”
While Bronston worked in construction management for eleven years, and has recently moved into a marketing position within in the same company, it is cooking that is her passion. During our visit she has prepared homemade biscuits, cinnamon rolls, and the beloved family favorite, zucchini bread. “I hadn’t had the zucchini bread since becoming vegan. I recently asked my mom for the recipe to see if I could make it vegan for my own family, as my mom puts a smile on everyone’s face by making it for our family. I can now make a version in a way that everyone may enjoy it for generations to come. Just as my mom has fed generations of family, I hope to share this recipe when I have a child, and then they can pass it on as well.”
Bronston has always demonstrated her love for Houpe’s family through cooking for their events, as well as hosting Friendsgiving in the couple’s welcoming home. As it goes, her creations were photographed and show on social media. The mouthwatering pictures caught the eye of one of her neighbors, and so she began catering holiday events for him, and the Seconds Vegan Bakery business just grew from there. She obtained her home bakery license in 2015. “I’d love to eventually have a brick-and-mortar restaurant,” she says wistfully. Having had Bronston’s baked goods before, I count myself as one of her many fans, especially of the popular cinnamon rolls. I insists the photographer-du-jour, Anthony Codispoti, put down his camera for a moment and try one. He takes a tentative bite. “This is vegan?” he says incredulously. “That was so good, thank you.” Brandie smiles modestly and sincerely thanks him for his genuine praise.
“I want people to know that vegan food can taste good,” she says emphatically. “People assume it all tastes like cardboard. I like making healthy comfort food, soul food, and it doesn’t have to be made in the traditional methods to still taste good.” She grins and says to us, “You’re going to have to come back. I’m going to have to cook for you and not just bake.”
By this point in the amazing day she’s practically convinced Anthony and I to be vegan. Her joy and kindness is infectious, and her love for others is deep. I can’t help but think how proud her parents, Momma Kate, and her late grandmother Elsie would be of her– watching her move around the bright space with confidence, creating food out of the same love passed down through the generations.
As Bronston packs up a huge bag filled with the delicious vegan zucchini bread and other goods she has so generously prepared for us, she smiles as we reminisce about traditions and love.
“This recipe has meaning to me and the generations before me because it means love. It brings all of us together. And what more could you want than to bring the people you love together?”
Seconds Vegan Bakery website is currently being upgraded to meet with the increase in demand, but you can find Brandie Bronston and inquire about bakery goods through the link to her current contact information on her Instagram account @secondsveganbakery.