ST. PETERSBURG, FL — A St. Pete woman transferred her passion for animal activism into vegan baking after she spent time working for a non-profit animal protection organization.
“Food, Inc.” inspired the steak-loving Natalia Lima, 34, to become a vegan 10 years ago when she watched the documentary film that examines corporate farming in the United States.
“I used to be the biggest meat eater, loved it,” Lima told Patch. “I’d go to the Brazilian steakhouses and that was my jam. When I watched ‘Food, Inc.’ it was the first time I saw slaughterhouse footage. That was it. I cried for the entire movie.”
The image of a cow at the slaughterhouse stayed in Lima’s mind. Before the film ended, she knew she would never go back to eating meat.
Lima said the many vegan options that are available in St. Pete currently were not around 10 years ago. She didn’t have any experience in baking, and the vegan-friendly cookies, cakes, and sweets she tried tasted like sandpaper. Through learning, trial and error, she started baking goods for the vegan diet that tasted great.
“When I tasted those sad little cookies, I said, ‘Yeah, this isn’t going to work for me for the rest of my life’,” Lima said with a laugh. “I have to do something about this.'”
Her friends, who weren’t vegan, started asking her to bring her creations to parties and get-togethers and that’s when Lima saw she had a potential business, and began Curious Cat Bakery in January of 2019.
She started it as a side job as she worked as a full-time publicist. At the end of 2019, she left the publicist position to focus solely on her business.
“I started noticing that a lot of my customers aren’t even vegan, they just like the taste,” said Lima. “This is a way of activism for the animals, just in a different capacity than I was doing.”
Lima keeps baker hours and makes her baked goods at a commercial kitchen in the Tyrone area just about every day.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, she took advantage of selling her goods at vegan markets, Saturday and Sunday markets but once those were canceled, she adjusted with the times and started pop-up services at various locations. Curious Cat Bakery provides vegan pastries for Book + Bottle, Blush Tea and Coffee, Fresca Vida, Kelly’s Bake Shop and The Green Table.
“When this first started, I noticed that people couldn’t go out to brunch because everything was closed,” said Lima. “And that was a sore point for everyone, so since we couldn’t go out, I started doing these brunch boxes, and I would deliver these boxes all weekend long. I would drive around four to five hours dropping off these brunch boxes.”
Lima shared that some people who are hesitant to throw a birthday party or be around their friends to celebrate birthdays during the pandemic have found social distancing ways of showing love by ordering a birthday cake from Curious Cat Bakery and have it delivered to their birthday friends.
Last year, Lima created a fun event that challenged participants and herself to create vegan versions of the desserts featured on “The Great British Bakeoff” on Netflix. She’s excited to bring that back when the series airs its latest season later this month.
Curious Cat Bakery produces all vegan desserts and sweets that include brownies, chocolate croissants, cakes, cookies, chocolate truffles, cupcakes, etc.