askatu bakery

Meet Estela Martinez, owner of Askatu Bakery in Belltown.

Askatu Bakery Cafe is a unique bakery where all of the baked goods are allergen-free! If you’re allergic to wheat/gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts/tree nuts, fish, shellfish, corn, potato, sesame, and/or xanthan/guar gums, you’ll find that you can eat any of Askatu’s delicious goods.


Learn more about Estela and Askatu Bakery and her shop in this week’s Small Business Spotlight Q&A!


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


How did you get into allergen-friendly baking? 

So I have four children, and all of them have at least one food allergy or intolerance. But my second oldest, when she was an infant, we found out that she had her first 10 food allergens when she was two months old. And at that time, there was no formula that was hypoallergenic enough to give to her because of the food allergies that she had.

So I could not eat anything that she could not eat. I could only eat things that were supposedly OK for her. So I eliminated the first 10 from my diet, and it wasn’t enough. And by the time we figured out all of her food allergies, it was over 50. So in order to get enough nutrition for myself and for my baby, I had to figure out how to eat with a lot of different foods and how to bake with a lot of different flours so my baby could be healthy and we could eat delicious things.

So, after several years of eating and cooking and baking without so many different foods, she started school. And as you know, when people go to school, there are birthday celebrations and other celebrations.

And she, of course, could not eat what her classmates would bring to school. So I would always send her with something that she could eat so that she could partake in the celebrations. By the time her birthday came around, which was in December, I made some chocolate birthday cupcakes to send to class.

And at the time, one of her classmates was a gluten-free eater and had some other food intolerances. And her mom happened to be in the classroom at the time helping out. So when I was going around with my daughter passing out cupcakes, this particular mom said, “oh, no, my daughter can’t have that because she has some food issues.” 

And I was like, “Oh, well, what are her issues?” And she told me. And I said, “This doesn’t have any of that, so she can have it. My daughter can’t have that plus more.” And she was shocked.

It sounds like you filled a need that no one else was doing?

Yes. After that day, this mother kept hounding me saying, “Nobody is doing this. Nobody excludes as many things. And even if they just exclude one or two of those things, nobody tastes as good. You have to put this out there. You have to open a business.” People need this. And I was like, no, no, no. I’m just doing this for my family. I was a very, very reluctant business person.

But she kept hounding me. And then as my daughter got older, her classmates started asking their parents to have me make their birthday cakes. Or she would bring snacks to school, and they wanted to eat her snacks.


When did you decide to turn this into a business?

I was in California at the time when I first started. And I thought maybe I can do some mixes, that might be the easiest thing. So I looked into what that would take to have it co-packed in a facility. But at the time in 2010, there was no facility that excluded everything that I needed to have excluded. And I didn’t want there to be any cross-contamination.

So I had to shelve that. But then they passed a cottage food industry law in California that allowed you to have your home kitchen certified. So then I started doing that and selling it the local farmer’s market before moving up to Seattle.

Askatu became an allergen-free bakery that excludes the top nine allergens,  plus more. For instance, we also don’t use potato and corn and their derivatives in our bakery, knowingly, that is. Because while they’re not top nine, food allergens are also really, really big intolerances for people.

askatu heart cake

Is there anyone else doing what you’re doing? And how has the response been so far?

There are no other places that exist in the state of Washington that do what we are doing. On top of that, food allergies, particularly those that cause anaphylaxis, have been recognized as a disability by the American Disabilities Act. But it’s really hidden and often made fun of.

It’s often the butt of jokes in TV shows and movies. And it’s not really taken seriously. But it is really powerful.

And I get choked up about this. For example, some people have aerosol allergies to nuts, so just walking into a place where there is a nut exposed can send them into anaphylactic shock.

So to have some place where somebody can walk in and feel safe and sit down and enjoy a treat or a cup of coffee or a meal and to see the gratitude and appreciation, that’s what keeps us going. It’s those types of instances. And when we have children coming in with their parents from out of town who found us specifically so that their child can have that experience of going into a bakery and getting whatever they want. They can’t do that where they live. We’ve done a lot of first birthday cakes for people.

What’s a memorable story about one of your customers?

There was a girl who had her first birthday cake with us, and she was turning 29. And she shared with us that growing up, she would have a birthday party with birthday cake for everyone else to eat. And she’d blow out the candles, but would get a cup of Jell-O because that’s what her parents knew was safe for her to eat.

So she was so excited to be able to order a cake, and then celebrate with her friends with a birthday cake that she actually got to eat.


Why is it important to you that people #SpendLikeItMatters?

So, I learned from an early age that the personal means a lot. Making that connection, and spending with intention. Not just because it’s great food, or it’s a product that you want, but because it’s somebody you want to support. It makes a bigger impact than you can imagine.

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