Veganism saved her life, now she makes a living from it

For many, the vegetarian lifestyle is a choice. For Mika Altidore, it was a necessity that saved his life. Years ago, Altidor determined a very different lifestyle. She was successful in her career as a professional stylist, but her standard American diet of animal-based comfort and convenience foods did her no favors.

After experiencing severe abdominal pain, she was diagnosed with several large fibroid tumors and faced with one option: surgery. Altidore decided to choose his own path to avoid going under the knife. His insight not only cured him, but gave birth to a vegetarian entrepreneurial spirit. With her partner, Victor Munoz, she launched Polk County, FL’s first and only vegan establishment—Victor and Meeker’s Bakery.

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A little Haitian, a little pizza

Altidore wasn’t raised a vegetarian, but he explained that growing up in a Haitian family, he didn’t eat much meat—at least, not compared to the typical American diet that often includes meat as the centerpiece. Every meal. “Like I ate traditional food griot Which is spicy fried pork. [We also ate] Fish, rice and chicken. And of course rice and beans!” she said. Although she tried to cut back on some red meat and poultry as an adult, she admitted to having “a weakness for comfort food and pizza.” At the time, it definitely wasn’t vegan pizza.

Surgery or plants

Altidore faced the health implications of her diet after being diagnosed with several large masses around her uterus. Her doctor informed her that the only option to remove these tumors was a hysterectomy, but she was determined to avoid surgery unless absolutely necessary. He turned to a whole-foods, plant-based diet instead.

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In time, he healed himself and became convinced of the true power of a vegetarian diet. After all, he was living proof. He decided that going back to his old ways of eating wasn’t an option, but he still loved the foods he loved — things like pizza, tacos, and burgers. Living in an area of ​​Florida that was relatively devoid of quality plant-based options, Altidore and his partner Munoz began experimenting in their own kitchens.

Vegan Bakery was born

When asked about the decision to open a vegan bakery, it was an easy decision for Altidor.

“It was getting old to drive an hour to another vegan establishment,” Altidore said. “I knew I wasn’t the only person in Central Florida who felt this way.”

Her confidence grew when Munoz asked her to make vegan banana nut bread to sell at his produce stand, and the baked goods took off instantly. “Customers loved it, and it started selling every day,” he asserted. Muñoz eventually took a larger role in the venture, investing his savings and taking over as head baker. He injected his Mexican culture into the menu by veganizing savory items like his favorites like conchas, churros and enchiladas. Today, the menu borrows several global culinary hits. Better than chicken and waffles (that you can top with peach cobbler!) and meatloaf with sides from Brussels sprouts to cornbread. However, there’s also an Italian-inspired gluten-free lasagna, German-style soft pretzels and Mexican empanadas.

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The bakery ingredients are still rich as well. Altidore noted that the daily donuts and cinnamon rolls are customer favorites, but it’s difficult to choose between the mouthwatering array of sweet and savory products. Other delights on the extensive menu include cannolis, cake slices, churros, tiramisu, and an over-the-top celebration of Vogue via a gluten-free peanut butter Oreo churro cake jar. For reference, this is a deliciously decadent layered jar of churros for cakes, frosting, sandwich cookies, peanut butter and garnishes. It will turn a bad day right around, if only for a moment.

Cookbooks and beyond

Like all businesses, Altidore struggled during the height of the pandemic, but the pair survived by turning to local delivery and single-home catering. The pair also produced a cookbook which was released in December 2020. title Vegan Rush: Baking Vegan Fun, the delectable collection of treats includes bakery hits as well as Altidor’s favorite fudgy brownie recipe—vegan from his past life—and his fabulous Red Velvet Bar. If you can’t get to Central Florida anytime soon, this book gives you a taste of what Victor and Meeker are all about. Insider Tip: She’s coming out with a second cookbook this summer!

Altidore has overcome major obstacles to get to where she is today, but her passion for vegan lifestyle and baking fuels her daily work.

“[I think about] Making a birthday cake for a little girl with an egg allergy or a donut for someone with a dairy allergy and being there for so many more,” Altidore said. “We are the only 100-percent vegetarian restaurant in Polk County, FL and it amazes me every day how delicious our food is.”

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