Among many of Fresno’s top bakeries, one thing is often missing — gluten-free options for customers who crave a pastry they can actually indulge in.
Varouj Kachichian, who recently launched an all-gluten-free bakery, Indulge Right Foods, realized there was a significant demand for gluten-free pastries and baked goods in the Valley.
“We went all completely gluten-free, obviously, because there’s not something like it in Fresno,” said Kachichian.
“If you are gluten-free in Fresno, you’re relying on mostly supermarket products, or every time you’re out of town, you have to pack and bring it back.”
Huge Need for Gluten-Free Products in Fresno
Kachichian has owned and operated several bakeries, cafes, and restaurants in Fresno and San Francisco over the years.
As a 32-year chef, he was apprehensive to dabble in anything that has to do with baking, because it can be so time-consuming.
However, it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity 12 years ago that he began to change his lifestyle, diet, and ultimately his business practices and use of baking products.
He became a certified gluten-free practitioner, and two years before the pandemic, Kachichian started manufacturing his own gluten-free, sugar-free, and keto-friendly baking products.
In addition, he was able to expand and convert much of his office and manufacturing space by opening a gluten-free bakery next door.
“This particular unit was basically just our office, so I just figured I would convert it,” said Kachichian. “It happened that in one day I had people asking me when I’m opening a bakery. So finally I was like, OK, that might be a sign I need to open a shop.”
Big Demand Keeps Kachichian Busy
Kachichian’s bakery has now been open for more than a week.
He says he started with a small menu even though he had hoped to offer special items from the beginning.
Unfortunately, Kachichian is still looking to hire more bakery chefs to help him catch up with demand.
On the first day that the store opened, Kachichian says they ran out of bakery goods in the first few hours, and customers kept returning for more.
The shop offers gluten-free bread loaves, muffins, brownies, cookies, cinnamon rolls, tarts, and cakes, among other desserts.
For those interested in baking at home. there are Indulge Right’s vegan and non-vegan, sugar-free caramel and chocolate sauces, and unique gluten-free flour blends.
For Thanksgiving week, the bakery is selling bags of gluten-free stuffing, as well as gluten-free apple and pumpkin pies.
A Change in Lifestyle is Good for Your Gut
For a long time, Kachichian did not take his diagnoses seriously and considered “gluten-free” products to be nothing more than a fad.
For years, he ignored doctors’ advice to switch to a gluten-free diet before eventually giving in.
Almost immediately, his health improved without having to compromise the foods he enjoyed most.
“When I actually went gluten free, all my problems, so to speak, my back pain, neck pain, joint pain all just disappeared, right?” said Kachichian.
“So that changed my entire health … but that prompted me to find out, like, what is it? How is it that one ingredient could make such a big difference?”
Why Is Gluten-Free Baking So Difficult?
Despite the changes to his diet, Kachichian was wary of opening up a bakery.
In general, baking is quite challenging and time-consuming. Moreover, it can become much more confusing when you take away the one ingredient commonly used for baking.
In fact, if you have ever tried your hand at gluten-free baking, you often find that it is not so easy to replicate the same tasty recipe as the original.
And, of the few gluten-free products that you can find in stores, items can often taste stale, lack flavor, or in some cases are devoid of all taste.
Kachichian says gluten-free baking is even challenging for most chefs with industry experience.
Old tried and true recipes for common pastry staples need new recipes, new machinery, equipment, and a whole set of new ingredients to replace what one ingredient can usually do.
“When you’re mixing dough, you can’t mix it just like regular flour. So a lot of the understanding that you have as a trained chef from a gluten perspective or a pastry chef kind of goes out the door,” said Kachichian.
“If you follow the same thing as regular baking, you’re not going to get get it. It’s totally different. and we’re fortunate to have most of the equipment that we need to be able to do it so we’re not struggling with it, and as demand grows, we can grow with it.”
Shop Owner Hopes to Expand Gluten-Free Options in Fresno
Given the success of the bakery’s opening, Kachichian hopes he can expand his products throughout Fresno by providing local Valley restaurants with gluten-free flour blends.
“My biggest thing has been not being able to eat like a normal burger. There are some buns out there that you almost have to eat the bun separately because by the time it hits the table, it’s already absorbed the juices from the burger, and it’s falling apart,” said Kachichian.
“We would definitely love to reach out and make sure pretty much every restaurant has some options to offer so that when we’re out dining, we’re not feeling deprived,” said Kachichian.
Indulge Right Foods Location
The shop is located near the northeast corner of Shaw and West avenues behind Dutch Bros at 5096 N. West Ave.
The bakery is open Wednesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.