Three years have passed since Cloe Wiebe started Crumb Queen.
However, her culinary venture began long before she founded the thriving bakery now located at 166 Osborne St. Wiebe honed her skills at various Winnipeg restaurants, including Bronuts and Deer + Almond.
Wiebe’s culinary roots trace back to her childhood. “I’ve always baked,” she says. “My mom baked us cookies every day for me from school. She’s a very good baker. I would bake with her, and I think I just had a little knack for it.”
Wiebe worked as a cook for tree planters in British Columbia in 2020. When she returned to a pandemic-induced lockdown, she started to explore her culinary skills further.
“After tree planting, I was working at Mottola Grocery, helping them open their bakery, but I was just bored at home, because we were deep in lockdown,” she says.
Wiebe spent hours baking, experimenting and sharing her creations with friends. She experimented with crullers, which became a staple for her business.
“I would work like 10 or 12 hours a day and then go home and just keep working on stuff and bring it to my friends, or we would do little trades,” she says. “Or I’d just post what I made on Instagram.”
After countless shares and direct messages, Wiebe started taking orders from friends and eventually strangers. Her business took a turn when she received an offer to use the kitchen at Deer + Almond for her pop-ups.
Their chef, Mandel Hitzer, “reached out, because he knew I was using my studio-apartment kitchen,” Wiebe says. “They were locked down, too. So he was like, ‘You know what, you can just come use the kitchen if you want to, whenever you want.’”
Wiebe says Hitzer’s gesture contributed to Crumb Queen’s early success. “If it wasn’t for the lockdown, I think all of these restaurants wouldn’t have had enough space or room for me,” she says, “and I would not have attempted to do it.”
As orders poured in, and Crumb Queen gained more popularity, primarily on Instagram, Wiebe was surprised by the overwhelming response each week.
The Instagram traction paved the way for weekly micro-bakery pop-ups, featuring honey crullers and sourdough bread.
“It got busier and busier, so I quit my job, and I just did pop-ups,” Wiebe says. “Honestly, I don’t think I would have been able to do it without the pandemic.”
Wiebe and her partner, Andy Koropatnick, recently found a space in Osborne Village that was perfect for their needs. Crumb Queen opened its doors this past fall.
“It was fun decorating the space. We actually painted it twice,” she says. “We brought a lot of art from home, and then we also got our friend Meganelizabeth Diamond to bring in some local artists’ work.”
While Crumb Queen is renowned for its crullers, Wiebe says her passion lies in sourdough bread. “I’m not first and foremost a doughnut person. I love baking sourdough,” she says. “We’ve been really proud about making it, and my partner Andy is able to collaborate by making different sandwiches and fun stuff with the bread.”
Wiebe says she and Koropatnick want to eventually transform the bakery into a restaurant. “We both really want it to be a staple neighbourhood place,” she says.
“And I think I want to convince more people to eat sourdough every day.”
Published in Volume 78, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 23, 2023)