You can’t compromise on quality! This was something I understood deep inside, but I had never heard anyone say it until I was talking with Vanessa Gwin many years ago.
I met Vanessa (VG) in 1979 when I began working as a prep cook at a local restaurant. At first I was purely blown away by how cute & tiny she was, but after a couple of days I realized I was working with someone unlike any I had known in my many years of kitchen work. Not only did she have a tremendous amount of kitchen skill, but she was undeniably the hardest working person I had ever been around. All of this was too much for me to witness from afar and after weeks of crying & begging on my part, and cursing & refusals on her part, she finally agreed to go out with me. I was in heaven until she told me she would be leaving in a few weeks to attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York. After her graduation in 1982 she made the fateful decision to come back to Knoxville and we were married.
The first incarnation of VG’s Bakery came just weeks after the birth of our first child in 1986. Vanessa was taking an extended leave from her position as sous chef at the Hyatt to bond with our daughter when she began to do some baking for a friend’s café. The next thing I know she, with Katie in tow, is delivering her baked goodies to several small eateries around town. This lasted for several months until one of her customers offered her the executive chef position at their bed and breakfast. The job was too good to pass up, so VG’s Bakery was put on hold for a few years.
Several years later we decided to have another child and were blessed with our son, Riley. I began working for a company in Chicago that required a great deal of travel, so Vanessa began working as a life skills teacher at a wonderful school where Katie had been attending since she was two. But Vanessa has a flame inside that was beginning to grow hot, and soon she was taking menus of her baked goods to coffee shops and specialty stores all around Knoxville. This time there was no stopping VG’s Bakery! I was deep in the heart of Alabama when she excitedly told me that a store wanted 10 dozen of a small pastry, rugelach. The next day she was amazed when the store wanted 20 dozen more! The next day there was the promise of great injury to me if I didn’t come home immediately to help her make the 60 dozen pastries needed the next day. Many more customers began ordering more and more product until finally we had to decide whether we were going to be “hobby” bakers or were we going to be a “Bakery”.
Neither Vanessa nor I had any experience running a business, but we were both completely passionate about real, quality baked goods. Besides, it was 1999 and the whole world was going to blow up on January 1, 2000 so we opened the doors to VG’s Bakery on November 2, 1999. We are now in our 17th year in Farragut, and we now attend Farmers’ Markets 5 days a week, spreading our joy of baking all across Knox County. There have been many challenges over the years and I am sure there will be many more in the coming years, but with our commitment to quality and our pursuit of excellence we are confident we will be your bakery for generations!