For many, the vegan lifestyle is a choice. For Mika Altidor, it was a necessity that saved her life. Years ago, Altidor prescribed to 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 wasn’t doing her any favors. After experiencing severe abdominal pains, she was diagnosed with several large fibroid tumors and faced with one option: surgery. Altidor decided to choose her own path to avoid undergoing the knife. Her intuition not only healed her, but sparked a vegan entrepreneurial spirit. Along with her partner, Victor Munoz, she launched Polk County, FL’s first and only vegan establishment—Victor and Mika’s Bakery.
A little bit Haitian, a little bit pizza
Altidor wasn’t raised as a vegan, but she explained that growing up in a Haitian household, she didn’t eat a lot of meat—at least, not in comparison to the typical American diet which often includes meat as a focal point of every meal. “I ate traditional dishes like griot which is spicy fried pork with plantains. [We also ate] fish, rice, and chicken. And definitely rice and beans!” she said. Though 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, this was definitely not vegan pizza.
Surgery or plants
Altidor was confronted with the health implications of her diet after being diagnosed with several large masses around her uterus. Her doctor informed her that a hysterectomy was the only option to banish these tumors, but she was determined to avoid surgery unless absolutely necessary. She turned to a whole-food, plant-based diet instead. Over time, she healed herself and became convinced of the true power of a vegan diet. After all, she was living proof. She resolved that going back to her old way of eating was not an option, but she also craved the foods she used to love—things like pizza, tacos, and burgers. Living in an area of Florida that was relatively devoid of quality plant-based options, Altidor and her partner Munoz started experimenting in their own kitchen.
The vegan bakery is born
“Driving an hour to another vegan establishment was getting old,” Altidor said when asked about her decision to open a vegan bakery. “I knew I was not the only person in Central Florida who felt this way.” Her confidence got a boost when Munoz asked that she make vegan banana nut bread to sell at his produce stand, and the baked good instantly took off. “Customers loved it, and it started selling out daily,” she emphasized. Munoz eventually took a larger role in the venture, investing his savings and taking over as head baker. He also injected his Mexican culture into the menu by veganizing his favorites such as conchas, churros, and savory items like enchiladas. Altidor noted that the daily doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, and “famous” pizza rolls are customer favorites, but it’s difficult to choose between the mouthwatering array of sweet and savory goods. Other delights on the comprehensive menu include cannolis, bagels, cupcakes, and a colorful, flaky unicorn croissant dressed up with rainbow sprinkles, filled with pink cream custard, and adorned with adorable unicorn ears and a horn.
Cookbook and beyond
Like all businesses, Altidor conceded that the pandemic deeply affected their bakery, but the duo survived by pivoting to local delivery and single-home catering. The pair also created a cookbook that was released in December 2020. Titled Chasing Vegan: Baking Vegan Fun, the gorgeous collection of treats includes bakery hits as well as Altidor’s favorite fudgy brownie recipe—veganized from her past life—and her sumptuous Red Velvet Bars.
“[I think about] making a birthday cake for a little girl allergic to eggs, or a doughnut for a person allergic to dairy, and being there for so many others. We are the only 100-percent vegan eatery in Polk County, FL, and surprising non-vegans with how delicious our foods are drives me every day.”
Altidor overcame major obstacles to get where she is today, but her enthusiasm for the vegan lifestyle and baking fuels her work every day.
Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and fitness enthusiast living in Orange County, CA.
Photo credit: Victor and Mika’s Bakery