Face Time: Doron Petersan

February 9, 2012

You don’t have to be a vegan to appreciate the sticky buns, cakes, muffins and other treats Sticky Fingers owner Doron Petersan creates in her dairy-free Columbia Heights bakery (1370 Park Road NW; 202-299-9700). The champion of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” (she’s notched two wins in three appearances) shares 100 of her recipes in “Sticky Fingers’ Sweets” ($28, Avery). The busy baker (who, with her husband, recently adopted a son, 6-month old Ezra) took a coffee break with us.

Why write this cookbook now?
It’s a great opportunity to show people how vegan baking can be done, tastily. There’s such a huge emphasis on health right now. In the media, it’s so much more common to hear about people who are eating vegan, like Bill Clinton and Mike Tyson.

So if someone wants to try veganism out, any tips?
It’s about finding foods that you enjoy, but at the same time opening up your palate to other flavors you don’t know about. Also, making sure you still enjoy the foods that you enjoyed [before]. If you know you hate prunes, don’t go and eat prunes just because they’re vegan. Focus on eating foods you already enjoy that don’t happen to have meat or eggs or dairy in them.

Did you ever feel you were treated differently on “Cupcake Wars” because you’re a vegan?
No. It’s a true competition. We were definitely the underdogs. The judges know that our products are nontraditional, so we’re always worried we have that mark against us, but we’ve proven twice now that we can win against traditional bakers.

Is being on the show as tough as it looks?
Yes. It’s not horrible, but it’s exactly what it looks like. It’s totally harried, and you’re rushing against the clock, and you’re racing other people, and it’s absolutely terrifying — while people are sitting there staring at you.

Do you think you’ll ever reach a point where you don’t feel you have something to prove?
Vegan baking is becoming more accepted in the culinary world. But I don’t think that anytime soon we’ll be in a position to not prove that we have what it takes to go against traditional baking. There’s a lot of years behind eggs and butter and cream.

How have you been balancing your job at the bakery with being a new mom?
With a lot of balance. It’s really awesome; it’s a really fun new position to be in. Exhausting, but really fun.

When you aren’t at Sticky Fingers, where else do you like to eat?
I live over in Trinidad, so I love the H Street corridor. I love Toki Underground, Mandu and Kushi.

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Katie Aberbach | February 9, 2012