Palm Trees, Sunny Skies and Gluten-Free: The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chefs Table Tour Visits Los Angeles
The fall leg of NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table tour wrapped up in Los Angeles this week with two restaurant events and one trip to Loyola Marymount University. As with other stops, the focus of the this stop on the tour was to educate chefs and foodservice professionals on the importance of proper gluten-free training and protocols. For those with celiac disease, gluten-free food isn’t enough; it is a necessity for restaurants to avoid cross-contact so that those diners with celiac disease can eat safely.
The trip to Southern California first brought NFCA President Alice Bast and Chef Ambassador Jehangir Mehta to Loyola Marymount University, a GREAT School that has implemented NFCA’s training in all of its foodservice establishments. The NFCA team visited The Lair, the largest dining hall on campus, to tour the dining hall and provide a dish for the Be Well station, which not only serves gluten-free options, but also healthy options as well. Jehangir Mehta served up a delicious gluten-free shrimp wrap for students with celiac disease or those students choosing to eat gluten-free. In addition, Alice Bast sat down with select students and administrators to talk about the tour and bring awareness to NFCA and GREAT Kitchens. The dining staff and team are taking great strides in being accommodating for all students and the GREAT training program has helped them to implement safe, gluten-free cooking protocols in dining halls and convenience stores across campus.
After lunch with LMU students, the NFCA team headed to RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen for a dinner event with Los Angeles media/bloggers. Executive Chef Mohan Ismail worked with NFCA Chef Ambassador Jehangir Mehta to create a delicious, gluten-free meal. The meal started with Chef Mohan’s lobster and papaya amuse, followed by a tapioca chili lime oyster dish by Chef Mehta. The next course was a coconut chicken soup, followed by two family-style main courses, onion seed lobster with shishito fries by Chef Mehta and a Vietnamese duck curry by Chef Mohan, as well as three side dishes. The meal was completed with a dessert course, a mango sticky rice. The evening served as a great platform to educate attendees about the GREAT Kitchens training program and the importance of restaurants getting behind serving gluten-free safely in their establishments.
The fall leg of the tour was an extremely educational experience and allowed NFCA to get in front of media, bloggers, restaurateurs, chefs and foodservice professionals in five of the country’s largest cities. Stay tuned for more information about the spring leg once planning commences.
- The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Team
GREAT Kitchens Gluten- Free Chef’s Table Tour: Stop 4: Ethnic Flavors Reign Supreme in San Francisco
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table continued its journey this week with its fourth stop on the fall leg of the tour, San Francisco. An eclectic, foodie community, San Francisco proved that bold flavors and authentic cuisine could be created safely for the consumer with celiac disease. With the goal of educating the Bay Area’s top chefs, restaurants and foodservice professionals regarding gluten-free protocols and training, NFCA Chef Ambassador Jehangir Mehta and NFCA President Alice Bast set out to speak to media, bloggers and professionals regarding becoming ambassadors and bringing awareness to this important cause.
The first stop in San Francisco was a visit with Joel Riddell with KKSF-AM’s Dining Around program. Joel often speaks to chefs about their restaurants, dishes and provides tips to diners on San Francisco’s most popular dining establishments. While NFCA was in town, Joel took the time to sit down with Jehangir and Alice to discuss the Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour, as well as the importance for the Bay Area foodie community to rally behind serving the gluten-free consumer safely. The airing of that program will take place in early December on iHeartRadio and KKSF-AM.
In the early afternoon, the NFCA team took a short break to visit One Ferry Building and its incredible marketplace. Mariposa, a gluten-free artisan bakery, was found inside and the team took the opportunity to sample sweets, including cookies and brownies. If you are ever in the area, we recommend trying Mariposa or Zest Bakery, two bakeries that are 100% gluten-free and tasty.
That evening, the NFCA team joined restaurateur Anjan Mitra at his restaurant Dosa. Dosa, known for its elevated South Indian cuisine, brought a depth of flavor and intricacy to its dishes and media/bloggers raved about the restaurant’s signature menu items. The evening started with Dosa’s Trumpet Mushroom Uttapam, a traditional South Indian dish that highlighted naturally gluten-free ingredients, including a coconut and tomato chutney. Chef Mehta then presented his dish of the evening, a mushroom grand marnier duck served with tapioca grits. The dish was a crowd-favorite and the unique take on grits had Twitter and Instagram buzzing. The last two dishes were Dosa favorites, including the Salmon Kolumbu and Hyderabadi Lamb. The event provided Alice with the opportunity to speak with media/bloggers regarding the common misconceptions on serving safe gluten-free dishes and the steps that restaurants can take to implement GREAT Kitchens into their current practices. A big thank you to Anjan for opening his restaurant to the group and showing NFCA true San Francisco hospitality!
The second restaurant stop on the San Francisco trip brought the team to Pica Pica, an arepa kitchen that is 100% gluten-free. With traditional Venezuelan cuisine, Pica Pica has made a name for itself across the country for its approach to serving delicious and authentic dishes, all with gluten-free ingredients. With a personal connection to celiac disease, restaurateur Adriana Lopez-Vermut set out to create a unique experience for the celiac or gluten-free customer. Several years later, Pica Pica continues to expand with new locations popping up all over the Bay Area, including its latest in the Castro district.
The menu for the day’s event started with a sample of arepas and discussions from Alice, Jehangir and Adriana about their experience with the gluten-free diner and the importance of communication between the Front of the House and Back of the House in every commercial kitchen. The next course was a chickpea pancake created by Chef Mehta, topped with shrimp. The final dish of the day was a blackened beef, which had been slow cooking overnight. Pica Pica, a fast casual concept is a great example of a concept that is going above and beyond to be accommodation and the team is excited about its commitment to getting accredited with the GREAT Kitchens program.
The last meeting Alice and Jehangir participated in was a brief introduction to Amanda Haas, the Test Kitchen Manager for Williams Sonoma. Over the years, Williams Sonoma has increased its collection of gluten-free products in their retail establishments and are working to include more recipes, tutorials and information. NFCA looks forward to working together in the future to further increase awareness of gluten-free options for the Williams Sonoma customer.
As the tour wraps up in San Francisco, the team looks ahead to a busy stop in Los Angeles for its final part of the fall leg of the tour. See you soon LAX!
- The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Team
P.S. Follow the last leg of the tour on Facebook, Instagram and on Twitter by following NFCA (@CeliacAwareness), Chef Jehangir Mehta (@jehangir_mehta) and that hashtags #GFChefsTable and #GREATKitchens.
The Pacific Northwest Tour Continues: The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Visits Seattle
After receiving such positive feedback in Portland, the GREAT Kitchens team headed to Seattle for its third stop on Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour. With the same mission of working with restaurants/foodservice professionals across the country, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) set out to share information on the importance of not only providing gluten-free options, but also providing ease of mind for those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’) through safe protocols and practices
Upon arrival, the NFCA team headed to KING-TV to participate on the New Day show, alongside one of Seattle’s partner chefs, John Howie. During the segment, Chef Ambassador Jehangir Mehta created a special gluten-free dish, featuring halibut from Washington, as well as lentils and chickpea flour to showcase alternative gluten-free ingredients. Chef Howie created a delicious quinoa salad, featuring fresh vegetables and olive oil, a perfect accompaniment to Chef Mehta’s dish. The show’s host, Margaret Lawson, asked questions about the tour, proper gluten-free protocols and how chefs can get involved with GREAT Trainings. Besides becoming educated through the GREAT Kitchens training program, Chef Mehta spoke on the segment about a call for gluten-free recipes to be featured in an upcoming cookbook. For restaurants interested in submitting a recipe, they can be submitted at www.GREATChefsChallenge.com.
Want to watch the segment? Check out Chef Mehta on the New Day Show at this link.
- The Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Team
After a wonderful kickoff in New York City, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’ (NFCA) GREAT Kitchens team headed to Portland this week for the second leg of the Gluten-Free Chef’s Table tour. Upon entering the city, Beckee Moreland, NFCA’s Director of Gluten-Free Industry Initiatives and Chef Ambassador Jehangir Mehta, were greeted with unseasonably warm weather and a full schedule of activities.
The first day began Monday, October 28 at the International Foodservice Editorial Council’s (IFEC) Annual Conference. IFEC brings foodservice media, communicators and retail food product companies together to discuss food trends, what food topics will be written about in 2014 and provides companies with a chance to introduce their brand/product/service to some of the foodservice community’s most influential individuals. As a part of the conference’s welcome reception, the GREAT Kitchens Chef’s Table Tour presented a delicious gluten-free dish, masterfully created by Chef Mehta, to attendees as they arrived. The dish, an onion-seed shrimp wrap, proved to attendees that safe, gluten-free food can be complex, full of flavor, delicious and prepared properly with no cross-contact worries.
Guests from publications like Nation’s Restaurant News and Campus Dining Today stopped by the table to discuss the GREAT Kitchens gluten-free training program for both restaurants and universities, as well as the purpose of the educational tour. Also, organizations like the National Pork Board and brands like Chobani stopped by to discuss gluten-free options and recipes. As NFCA engaged in ongoing conversations with media/organizations in Portland, the GREAT Kitchens team encountered that Portland restaurants/individuals have increasingly embraced serving customer’s dietary needs, including a booming interest in gluten-free offerings. With that, the team set out to educate Portland restaurants/foodservice establishments on the need for proper gluten-free training to ensure that those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity have access to safe gluten-free options when dining out.
On Tuesday, October 29, the GREAT Kitchens team headed to its first restaurant event, held at Beast in Portland. Beast is owned by Naomi Pomeroy, a chef you may recognize from Top Chef Masters. Chef Naomi opened her doors for a private luncheon specifically for Portland/national food and health media and bloggers, including Portland Monthly and the Portland Business Journal to name a few. The luncheon began with a brief introduction to GREAT Kitchens and the NFCA before heading into a four course gluten-free meal, prepared exclusively for the group by Chef Naomi and Chef Jehangir.
The meal began with butternut squash velouté with fried herbs and creme fraiche created by Chef Naomi, followed by a delicious chicory and apple salad with a brown butter & sherry vinaigrette. While guests sampled their meal, Chef Mehta prepared a cumin red snapper with shishito, beet and a chickpea onion ring. For individuals with celiac, often they go without food like onion rings because of ingredients and access to a dedicated fryer. For this meal, Chef Jehangir created a dedicated frying pot and used a chickpea flour to make the batter gluten-free. For dessert, Chef Naomi created Quince and Frangipane Galette with lemon verbena ice cream. The full meal was a great opportunity to showcase to media that creating delicious gluten-free food does not mean you have to compromise on flavor or technique. In addition, some of the best feedback that was received was how receptive attendees were to supporting NFCA’s mission of making safe gluten-free food for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity in Portland.
Throughout the meal, Chef Naomi and Chef Jehangir both went into detail about exchanging ingredients in their restaurants to serve a gluten-free customer safely. The event truly was a great success and provided the opportunity for media/bloggers in Portland to ask one-on-one questions about celiac disease and accessibility for gluten-free foods in restaurant and retail environments.
The second event on Tuesday was a media/blogger event at Imperial by Vitaly Paley. Chef Vitaly is very well-known in the Portland community, particularly because of his interest in keeping menu items truly farm-to-table, enabling the opportunity for guests to try new items based on seasonality or availability of produce. National foodservice media such as Plate Magazine and Portland media/bloggers came out to celebrate and learn about the tour and indulge in a gluten-free tasting menu. Chef Vitaly overdid himself but creating unique dishes like puffed sorghum (sourced from Bob’s Red Mill), a slow-braised veal and a delicious icebox cake. Chef Vitaly also provided the group the unique opportunity to taste a limited offering of sorghum whiskey that he was commissioned to create earlier in the year. The stop garnered more 20 guests, all of which are influencers in the Portland market. Chef Paley recently released a new menu with gluten-free menu items, as well as added a new grill that will remain free of gluten, and believes executing the proper training is the only way for staff to truly understand the proper protocols for serving the gluten-free guest. It was a GREAT night!
The two restaurant events were a huge success. We look forward to reading the recaps of the evening in the blogs/publications in attendance.
October 30th started off with the opportunity for NFCA to participate in a KATU-TV segment that addresses the gluten-free diner in Portland. Beckee Moreland talked to KATU’s Valerie Hurst about her experience as a gluten-free consumer at a restaurant and went through a menu, discussing questions she asks during a restaurant experience, including ingredients and kitchen protocols. Chef Vitaly also participated in the segment, showcasing his gluten-free menu and sharing his thoughts on the importance of serving all customers in his restaurants, including those with dietary restrictions or celiac disease.
The last event we participated in was a trip to Portland State University. With students and the foodservice staff equally excited for gluten-free options, Chef Mehta cooked alongside Chef Matt Kemp from PSU. Jehangir created a shrimp wrap that was a huge hit by students, who lined up outside his station beginning at 11:00 a.m., with some grabbing 2-3 for their plate. While on campus, the NFCA team had the opportunity to speak with Portland State students with celiac disease and were excited to hear the strides that Portland State are taking to serve these student’s needs. With a “worry-free” station that includes gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free items, students are given the opportunity to have safe, gluten-free dishes. Although a limited selection according to students, the university is making strides in increasing its offerings and the staff is passionate about being accommodating to all students. We look forward to the opportunity to work with Portland State in the future through our GREAT Kitchens training program.
Overall, Portland was a great example of a city taking the right steps in serving the gluten-free consumer, including businesses like Petunia’s and Tula’s, two gluten-free bakeries that NFCA visited while in the city. With dedicated bakeries and other restaurants increasing gluten-free offerings, NFCA found that Portland is in the forefront of making the necessary steps to increase options for people living with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
On to the next stop: Seattle!
- The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour team
The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour has officially started! The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) kicked off the tour at Chef Jehangir Mehta’s New York City restaurant, Mehtaphor, yesterday afternoon.
Gluten-free bloggers, food bloggers and reporters from the New York area came out to enjoy a 100% gluten-free lunch with us at Mehtaphor. And while I was excited to eat all of Chef Mehta’s gluten-free dishes (which, by the way, were fabulous), I was even more excited to have the opportunity to talk about the need for safe gluten-free food preparation. We even proved one of my favorite points – gluten-free does not mean taste free! There were no gluten-free bread or pasta substitutes on the menu, but rather Chef Mehta focused on serving a Mediterranean-style meal that left everyone completely satisfied (quite to the surprise of some of the attendees!). If ever there was a perfect meal to satisfy gluten-free and non-gluten-free eaters, this meal was it.
While we enjoyed Chef Mehta’s dishes, we all had the chance to chat about celiac disease and the medical aspect behind the gluten-free diet. Most of the attendees had some sort of connection to celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’). Some had a deep understanding of gluten-related disorders while others were still learning, which made for an incredibly diverse conversation. If there’s one thing I love, it’s raising awareness of an autoimmune disease that is still vastly underdiagnosed.
I have to admit, I was truly touched by the interest of the folks who attended yesterday’s luncheon. Sure, there was delicious gluten-free food to enjoy, but everyone was genuinely interested in learning about celiac disease and the GREAT Kitchens program. They wanted to understand why this online gluten-free training program exists and how much of a difference training makes for people living with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders. Everyone was engaged with the program, asked a lot of questions and, to put it simply, they cared.
To all those who attended the luncheon – thank you so much for recognizing the need for people living with gluten-related disorders to have access to not just gluten-free meals, but meals that are safe and free from cross-contamination.
Today, Chef Mehta and I hung out at New York University (NYU) to serve gluten-free dishes to students in the Weinstein Dining Hall. There are some photos from the event on NFCA’s Instagram account you can check out now. Keep an eye on the blog for more updates from today’s stop and the rest of the tour. If you are on Twitter, follow NFCA (@CeliacAwareness) and Chef Mehta (@jehangir_mehta) to get the play-by-play of the tour. You can follow me as well at @abast. We’re using the hashtags #GREATKitchens and #GFChefsTable, so feel free to jump in the conversation!
P.S. You can find more pictures from the tour on NFCA’s Facebook page. We’ll be updating the album at each stop on the tour.
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is proud to call Chef Jehangir Mehta, a finalist on the popular Next Iron Chef series, a partner in creating safe gluten-free options in restaurants so people living with gluten-related disorders can eat without fear.
NFCA team members and Chef Mehta will be taking NFCA’s online gluten-free cooking program on the road over the next six months. Introducing the GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour! The tour will cover 10 cities with the goal of educating chefs nationwide on the need for gluten-free menu items that go beyond just using gluten-free ingredients. It is amazing to see gluten-free options popping up on menus across the country, but unless restaurants are educated on the importance of safe gluten-free food preparation, our community cannot dine safely.
Many things have changed in the 20+ years that I have been diagnosed with celiac disease. When I was diagnosed, gluten-free food was not even available in the U.S. Today, we have access to a wide range of gluten-free food, but the next step on our journey is ensuring all gluten-free food is safe for our community. A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for people living with celiac disease; there are currently no pills, vaccines or cures for celiac disease. Research is taking us closer, but for now, we have to ensure the people living with this autoimmune disease can have access to the food that is our only medicine.
It has been 10 years since NFCA first opened its doors and set out on its mission to raise celiac disease awareness and improve the quality of life for those on a lifelong gluten-free diet. In that time, I have met many chefs and foodservice industry professionals eager to understand celiac disease, the gluten-free diet and our need for food to be free from gluten-containing ingredients and the gluten that can enter our food through cross-contact (commonly referred to as cross-contamination by the gluten-free community). These professionals are eager to accommodate their guests, but first they have to know training and resources are available to help.
NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program gives restaurant employees from the wait staff to the chefs the tools they need to serve safe gluten-free food. Our ten city tour will help spread the message that for the 3 million Americans living with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is not a fad, but the only way to restore their health and reclaim their lives. Ranging from cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, we will be working with executive chefs in some of the best restaurants – complete with gluten-free cooking demonstrations, of course!
Stay tuned as we start the journey at Chef Mehta’s Tribeca restaurant, Mehtaphor on Tuesday, October 22. Follow the tour by liking NFCA’s Facebook page and following NFCA on Twitter (@CeliacAwareness) and Instagram (@CeliacCentral). Chef Mehta will also be live tweeting from the road. Follow him at @jehangir_mehta.
To our GREAT health,