Jeff Funston’s pastry pilgrimage started with just one pie that he baked for himself and his wife during the couple’s first Christmas in their new house. Funston had spent 12 years working in the oil fields before that and had just taken a leave from the industry. He had no formal training in pastry or pies, but he quickly began learning from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook.
“I used that as like a bible for a long time to just build kind of the foundation that I needed,” says Funston.
Quickly that one pie turned into many pies, then some tarts, croissants and eventually even choux pastry. Soon Funston was selling his sweets at farmers’ markets, then wholesale, until his company, King of Tarts, opened its first brick-and-mortar location on Stony Plain Road in August.
Once he had mastered the Williams- Sonoma book and had a strong grasp on baking, Funston was ready for another challenge. When a local cafe reached out and challenged him to make a vegan croissant, he got to work, making his own vegan butter. After that, he kept looking for new creations and new challenges until everything he baked had been “veganized.”
“Now I can just look at any particular recipe and kind of know exactly what I need to replace to make it work for me,” he says.
Funston has since adapted recipes for lemon meringue pies, made with freshly squeezed lemons, butter tarts and his infamous best-seller: the Kouign-Amann — a croissant with “27 layers of sugar and butter” sprinkled with sea salt.
While the cafe and bakery business can have tough hours and plenty of challenges (like finding vegan substitutes for eggs), Funston says he feels like he’s found his calling.
“The fact I get up in the morning and don’t ever not want to go to work, is worth it.”