Posts tagged ‘spreading awareness’
I really like to stay home. I’m not embarrassed by this statement but embrace the fact that I no longer feel pressure to “go out.” Not only have I had plenty of years spending countless nights and weekends making the most of my free time, but both mine and my husband’s jobs require that I attend events, dinners, receptions and every feasible sport played by college athletes possible. The added benefit to staying home is the control I have over my food. A perfect weekend night is eating an Amy’s gluten-free cheese pizza on the sofa, catching up on all my shows on the DVR. Now that’s indulgence! But, despite typically loving my weekends at home, I was super excited to head out last Saturday night with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) to the studio of Liddy Lindsay, local artist and friend of NFCA Founder and President, Alice Bast. It was such an amazing night!
NFCA brought lots of gluten-free goodies for guests to experience gluten-free food and ask questions about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Everyone was surprised that they were eating gluten-free; comments, like “this actually tastes good” were heard throughout the night. The studio was filled with this wonderful array of individuals from varied backgrounds and lifestyles. Everyone was inquisitive and curious about NFCA and celiac disease. While most people did not know what celiac disease is, they all have heard about the gluten-free lifestyle and most know someone with gluten sensitivity.
As the end of the party neared, it became apparent that no one wanted to leave (always the sign of a good party!). The evening continued for a number of us NFCA art-lovers once we arrived at Pod – a West Philly, Steven Starr, establishment that provides gluten-free options on their menu. So, while a night out typically means worrying about what I’m going to eat, this night was less worry and more “let’s eat!” (Post-party confession – I stashed a gluten-free pizzelle in the car for an after dinner treat and enjoyed it when we left the studio. What a nice way to end the night!)
While it may be a bit out of character for me now, I am looking forward to heading out with my NFCA pals for more events throughout May for Celiac Awareness Month. On May 7th, we’ll be shopping at C. Wonder in the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania with 20% off purchases and 10% of sales going the support NFCA (isn’t that great?). After that, I’ll be heading on up to New York City for a very special evening with Chef David Bouley on May 9th.
All of the ladies at NFCA are buzzing with excitement for the upcoming month and the energy is contagious. As I’m catching on to their excitement of being out-and-about more often than usual this month, I can’t help but be reminded of a famous quote from the infamous Dorothy Day: “Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” I’m so happy to be part of a team that helps people get diagnosed, restore their health and reclaim their lives, especially during Celiac Awareness Month – now that is food for the soul.
I LOVE pizza – cold pizza for breakfast, hot, gooey, cheesy pizza with thick or thin crusts and toppings of all kinds: pesto, pepperoni, olives, onion, even anchovies. So when I was diagnosed with celiac disease back in 1992, when very few gluten-free products existed, I concluded my love affair with pizza was pretty much over. Making gluten-free pizza was a chore I could handle, but it just wasn’t the same. Eating pizza out of the box and sipping an ice cold beer while watching a movie, and hanging with the family or friends seemed impossible or too depressing. During a pity party, I even told my husband, Dave, my last request before I died was pizza delivered to my death bed with a cold brew as my last meal. (What’s one last jolt of poison when your about to take your last breath anyway?) I’m so glad gluten-free has come so far that I can pick a more extravagant last meal….maybe chocolate croissants. Never in my lifetime, did I expect to live to experience gluten-free pizza so accessible and tasty.
Recently, I was honored to speak at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas on behalf of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA). Gluten-free pizza is a HOT trend and operators across the country want to know what it takes to include gluten-free as an option for their customers, so I was thrilled to be asked to attend. Over 7,000 pizza operators attend this show annually to taste the latest, greatest ingredients, find new equipment, and attend educational sessions to learn how to make their business more successful. The energy at this show is over the top and the events are show stoppers. These operators are serious competitors, too. The contests happening right on the “All Pizza, All-of-the-Time Show Floor” included Bake Offs, Freestyle Acrobatic Dough Tossing, Pizza Challenges, and Demonstrations for pizzas, salads, and beer brewing. What an amazing experience.
My educational session, “How Pizzerias Can Serve a Gluten-Free Pie” included 3 panelists. As moderator and speaker, I provided education about serving diners with gluten-related disorders, the importance of training and safe preparation. My panelists, GREAT Kitchens grads (a training course from NFCA on safe gluten-free food preparation) Adam and Debbie Goldberg from Fresh Brothers, LA area, and Willy Olunds, from Willy O’s in Michigan, gave the attendees real life experience in serving gluten-free pizza. These experts gave different perspectives since Fresh Brothers has 8 locations and Willy O’s is an independent operation.
Willy invited me to tag along during his pizza competition in the non-traditional category. (No gluten-free category yet, but maybe next year.) According to Willy and his wife, Carla, this is highly irregular to allow non-participants in the competition area. I felt honored and so impressed with the intense passion each competitor brought to their pie including Willy. His unique corn-based crust and decadent ingredients made for a pretty impressive entry.
Other GREAT experiences included hanging out with the staff at Venice Bakery. (Their booth was amazing and so was the pizza!) I also sat in the front row and watched Iron Chef Redemption challenger Elizabeth Falkner demonstrate kale salad (crispy, fresh, and blanched kale) and actually met her after the demo. She’s really cool. I had some time to check out the exhibitors, so I said “hi” to old friends like Joel Schut from RW Bakers, Pamela and Alison from Pamela’s, and the DeIorio’s team. Best of all I made a new friend, Denise San Filippo (a fellow gluten-free gal) from Schar. Denise and I hit the strip one night and had a fabulous gluten-free dinner at Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris Hotel. From our window, we could see the Eiffel Tower and watch the Bellagio fountain show. (Sometimes this job is grueling!) Our waitress was well-educated about allergens and gluten which gave us confidence in our restaurant choice especially when she answered all of our probing questions correctly. She even brought us toasted gluten-free bread and warm olives for our starter. Denise had the scallops and I tried the Lemon Chicken with shallow Pom Frites. (Shallow means fried separately in a pan not a deep fryer.) It was delicious, especially the fried potatoes.
With every expo and conference I attend, I have the opportunity to meet new people and can’t help but feel ecstatic over the progress we’re making. 20 years ago, I thought I would never eat pizza again. Now, there are people seeking information on how to make both delicious and safe gluten-free pizza. And, to be able to be a part of that is a GREAT feeling.
Spring is has sprung and that means baseball is here! All of us at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) have started following our favorite teams and are ready for a great season of America’s favorite pastime. And, we are preparing for our annual night out at the ballpark.
This year, Celiac Awareness Night with the Philadelphia Phillies is on Friday, August 16that Citizens Bank Park as the Phillies host the Los Angeles Dodgers. This will be NFCA’s 6th Celiac Awareness Night and we are looking forward to a great night of great baseball.
This year, we are excited to have a special free raffle to offer visitors to our information table near Section 210. Thanks to the Phillies and Aramark, the basket will include Phillies memorabilia, two tickets to a 2013 regular season game in section 116, a preferred parking pass and a complementary food coupon valued at $30. Better yet, there will be an expanded menu at the gluten-free concession stand that is set up for NFCA’s night out.
Last Friday, I went to the Phillies Home Opener. I either am a terrible influence or a great grandmother as I snuck my grandson Zachary out of school for the afternoon so he could cheer on the home team. The weather was perfect, the seats were good and we were all set to start a winning season. Unfortunately, the Phillies weren’t quite as ready as we were and lost to the Kansas City Royals. As the crowd streamed out at the 7th inning stretch, my grandson refused to lose faith and declared, “I am a Phillies fan and I am staying!”
We did have a great chance to check out the new permanent gluten-free concession stand in Section 136. What a boost to the Phillies experience! We had delicious hot dogs and cheesesteaks and watched as people who were thrilled to find gluten-free food so available ordered pizza and chicken fingers. Sweet Christine’s furnished brownies and other sweet treats, along with the hot dog rolls. Of course, you can get a gluten-free brew with that dog—Redbridge beer and Woodchuck Hard Cider.
No matter what the final score, it always is a good day at the ball park. With more gluten-free food, it is even better.
See you at Celiac Awareness Night! You can grab your tickets here.
Introducing Annette Marie of Best Life Gluten-Free! Annette will be sharing her gluten-free recipes here on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) staff blog. Read on to learn more about the cook behind the gluten-free recipes at www.BestLifeGlutenFree.com.
My name is Annette and I live in the “Garden State,” the lovely state of New Jersey! I was actually a New Yorker most of my life, growing up there and learning to cook and bake at the hip of my Italian-American Mom. (I must admit that when I was twelve, I wasn’t too happy to forgo the soda shop after school in order to learn how to make marinara sauce!) But looking back, I’m glad she did it.
Like many others, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease after much suffering, pain and anguish, wondering what could be wrong with me. As a kid, we visited the doctor so often that when he saw me he’d exclaim, “Well, it’s the belly-ache kid!” Later in my life I had 3 ulcers and always suffered with stomach issues in one way or another.
For years I was embarrassed, frustrated and down-right mad! Why couldn’t they fix what was wrong? However, unlike some people with celiac disease, I wasn’t diagnosed as a child…nor as a teen…nor even as a young woman. Mine was diagnosed well after 50! Talk about a medical mystery!
It was so severe that I was unable to make a 30 minute drive without plotting the route and discovering if there was a shop with a restroom nearby.
Thank God for the gastroenterologists, who have been caring and supportive, have provided information, guidance and so much more. Yes, it was difficult the first few months, but I took it on as a challenge to be met.
That’s why I’m really hoping to “Pay-it-Forward” by helping anyone who may need some guidance or reassurance. My recipes are both “semi-homemade” and “scratch,” and if I can provide photos along with as much description as I can to help you get cooking gluten-free, then that’s what I’ll do.
My biggest message to people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is, please don’t feel isolated. More and more, it seems as if gluten intolerance and celiac disease are coming to the forefront. And thank goodness for strides being made in our behalf by organizations like the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.
Here is just one of my gluten-free recipes that I’m so excited to share with you!
Cheese-Filled Coffee Cake
Cream Cheese Filling:
- 6 oz. cream cheese – room temperature
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ tsp. lemon juice
- 1 ½ cups Gluten-Free Bisquick
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup milk (I used Lactaid 2%, but any is fine)
- ¼ cup butter – softened, room temp is fine)
- 1 tsp. gluten-free pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
Crumb Topping Ingredients:
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup softened butter – room temp
- 1/3 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour blend (Bob’s Red Mill is fine.)
- Small amount of confectioner’s sugar for dusting on top when it’s done.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease a round 9 in. cake pan. (I used margarine)
- Well, you’ve greased the pan liberally, so set it aside. First, mix the filling in a small bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix the butter, milk, eggs, vanilla and sugar. Gradually add the flour and mix until well combined. Spread about a little more than half of the batter in the bottom of the pan.
- Next put the cream cheese filling on top and try to spread around. (It may be difficult, but using the back of a tablespoon works well.)
- Lastly, put the remainder of the dough batter on top.
- In a small bowl, using a pastry blender tool or 2 forks, combine the topping ingredients until it resembles crumbs. Sprinkle over the batter in the pan.
- Bake for about 25 minutes. Ovens vary so take a peek after 20 minutes. A tooth pick inserted into it should come out clean and dry when done.
- Cool well before dusting the top with sifted confectioner’s sugar, if you like. After cooling, be sure to keep covered for freshness.
About Annette Marie
Annette is a native New Yorker, now living in New Jersey. Since she was diagnosed with celiac disease well after the age of 50, Annette has made it her mission to raise awareness in the hopes that others won’t have to live for years with unexplained symptoms as she did. Some of Annette’s recipes are inspired by traditional Italian recipes, but she adds other original gluten-free recipes to the mix. Her “semi-homemade” and from “scratch” recipes are meant for busy families eating gluten-free. For more of Annette’s gluten-free recipes, visit her blog at www.BestLifeGlutenFree.com.
I don’t know how many of you are like me but when I travel, I pack most of my food with me so that I know exactly what I am eating at all times. That usually means one suitcase full of food including my handy Magic Bullet for my morning gluten-free shake. But a few weeks ago, I was off to South Florida with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) team and there was no room for all of my food. This made me a little nervous, but I knew that I could manage this trip because of all the additional knowledge I’ve gained from working with NFCA. Plus, everyone I would be meeting would be gluten-free, so how hard could it be?
The flight down wasn’t too bad since I had armed myself with ThinkThin bars (there’s always 2 in my bag) and bottled water. By the time I checked into the hotel, it was so late there was no need to eat. The next morning, I took another bar and water with me for breakfast and was off to visit a member of our Gluten-Free South Florida Group. We spent time talking and sharing our stories of diagnosis- guess who else travels with food? Isn’t it a great feeling when you realize you are not alone in your pursuit of gluten-free food and desire not to be cross-contaminated? It’s like a big hug from the world telling you it will all be okay.
Dinner worked out well that evening at Seasons 52, a restaurant that had a gluten-free menu. Even though they are a chain restaurant, I went with another member of the South Florida Gluten-Free Group who has eaten there many times and felt safe in her recommendation. Plus, I was starving!
The following day was literally a GREAT day. Alice Bast, NFCA’s Founder, was invited to speak at a country club in Gulfstream, Florida. They were trained by NFCA’s Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training (GREAT) Kitchens program, so the entire meal was gluten-free and I felt confident the chefs understood safe gluten-free food preparation. If any of you have heard Alice speak, you know that she is dynamic in her presentation and her passion for celiac and gluten-sensitivity radiates from her inner core. The crowd of more than 100 was in tune with gluten-free and more than half knew about celiac disease or are personally affected by this autoimmune disorder. They all had such amazing questions and were engaged throughout the evening. Most of the guests were also shocked at how delicious the gluten-free meal was and the flour-less chocolate torte was exquisite! It was so great to be surrounded by people who understood the need for safe (and tasty!) gluten-free food.
My final day, I visited with a doctor who has non-celiac gluten sensitivity. We met at his home where he made me a fabulous gluten-free grilled cheese on Udi’s bread. Oh, and truth- we split a gluten-free chocolate bar. After talking for three hours about all things gluten-free and NFCA, I had to go or I would have made myself at home for dinner.
Now what is it that I want you to take away from my trip south? I survived and thrived without a full suitcase of food. We have an amazing and inspirational community that I am fortunate to meet on my travels and in the Philadelphia region. All of you teach me something new in our conversations and emails. I leave tonight for overseas…with just 3 bags of gluten-free food. I’m not scared, I’m confident. But I wouldn’t be if I hadn’t found NFCA and the amazing gluten-free community. Thank you for giving me my wings back.
I’ve become quite an expert at traveling. As Director of Gluten-Free Industry Initiatives for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), I’ve visited over 25 cities and worked in a dozen or more states within three years (my latest NFCA trip was to Atlanta, Georgia two weeks ago for the KeHE Summer Selling Show). I can maneuver through airport security with ease and efficiency, flipping off shoes and jackets and pulling out bags of liquids and my laptop in seconds. And since I have celiac disease, traveling means “always being prepared and aware” so I’ve created a list of “must-haves” snacks, which airports have safe choices and how to find gluten-free friendly and not so friendly restaurants anywhere in the country. (I use the Find Me Gluten-Free app to sort out potential eateries. This is a dining locator not an endorsement of gluten-free options. You still need to investigate by reading the reviews, making a call and asking questions.) I’ve also had to be proactive and advocate for myself and others with gluten-related disorders when it comes to attending business dinners, conferences and events by identifying my dietary needs on conference registration forms, plus notifying event coordinators, hotel hospitality and general managers.
This is all part of trip preparation. It takes a bit more time but I always feel it’s important to be an advocate for not only myself but for all people with gluten-related disorders. And while I’m traveling around the country, I feel it is my job and honor to be the voice for people with celiac disease everywhere by spreading education, awareness and understanding. (You may not want to sit next to me on a plane…you’ll get an earful.) I have learned that if we don’t politely ask, people may not think our dietary needs are necessary. If we don’t carefully express our needs, many may not think there are any. If we don’t calmly mention the mistake, serves and restaurants will never know there is a problem. If we don’t ask if they have completed NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens gluten-free training program, restaurant operators, chefs and servers may not think they need it. But, if we remain patient and plant the seed, the growth will come.
Here is my list of must-have gluten-free snacks to take with me on the go:
- KIND bars
- Gluten-free crackers (If you keep these in a tin, they’re perfect for packing in a suitcase)
- Individual servings of hummus and nut butter
- Jerky sticks
- Cheese sticks
- Mix nuts, dried fruit, gluten-free pretzels or chocolate chips
- Go Picnic boxes (Not everything by Go Picnic is gluten-free, so be sure to check before purchasing)
I’m always looking for new travel-friendly gluten-free foods. Comment below with your go-to travel snack to give me some fresh ideas!
Recently, I posted this question on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) Facebook page: Do you agree that people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) can feel excluded from social life? I posted the question after seeing an article on Celiac.com from a gluten-free college student who feels like celiac disease can isolate her from social activities.
I was blown away by the response on Facebook. Obviously, this is a hot topic. As of now, there are 81 comments in a thread that’s still active. It’s so interesting to see all of these comments. Some people adamantly disagree that celiac disease impacts their social life while others struggle to stay included in activities and events. There were lots of parents concerned for their young children with celiac disease and the implications it has on them socially, both now and in the future. It appears that many people believe the impact of a celiac disease diagnosis directly correlates with your attitude about the diagnosis. Positive attitude, positive life with celiac disease.
No matter which side of the fence you fall on, there’s no denying that celiac disease changes your life once you receive the diagnosis. Here are my top 3 tips for coping with a diagnosis of celiac disease or NCGS:
Read. Then read more.
There is no better way to navigate the gluten-free diet than to learn and understand all the ins and outs of the lifestyle. The more you know, the more you can keep yourself in good health. Learn what gluten is, how it affects the body in people with a gluten-related disorder, where gluten can hide and how to prevent cross-contamination. It might sound intimidating at first, but NFCA is here to help. Browse www.CeliacCentral.org to get started.
Do you know one of the great things about being gluten-free? The online community is amazing! There are so many advocates on the internet who can help with everything from delicious gluten-free recipes to lifestyle tips. NFCA is always around to answer questions and provide resources on Facebook, Twitter and the new Celiac Central community on Inspire.com. Check them out to connect with other people who are living gluten-free.
Get more support.
The gluten-free diet can be confusing at first. There are a lot of gluten-containing products out there that you might be surprised to find out actually have gluten in them. (I was probably most surprised to find out soy sauce and some chicken broths have gluten.) With so many things to look for on a product’s ingredient label, it can be really frustrating at first. I highly recommend seeking support from a registered dietitian that fully understands the gluten-free diet. They’ll help set you up with the tools and knowledge you need to get started.
If you don’t have access to a dietitian (or even if you do), check out the book Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide by Shelley Case, RD. It’s one of the most helpful gluten-free resources available.
Feel free to comment with some of the difficulties you’ve faced after the diagnosis and how you’ve learned to overcome them. You’ll certainly be helping out the newly diagnosed reading this post!
Two northwestern sections of Philadelphia were jumpin’ on Saturday, January 26th. Weavers Way, the fabulous community owned co-op that has made a name for itself in the Philadelphia region, held its annual Gluten-Free Day from 12 until 4 p.m.
This year, the savvy folks at Weavers Way expanded the event to include both their Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy stores. Bettina de Caumette, Outreach Coordinator at Weavers Way, put the day together to everyone’s delight. Frigid weather aside, the day seemed just right to explore the wonderful world of gluten-free goodies.
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) was on hand in both locations to discuss the gluten-free diet and to go beyond that to the underlying need for this special approach to the menu: celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders.
The NFCA team was pleased and proud to have two long-time, stalwart and extremely knowledgeable volunteers distribute literature and answer shoppers’ questions. Becky Lownes Urbano returned to the post she manned last year in Chestnut Hill. Annsley Klehr took a brisk walk from home to spread the word in Mt. Airy. Tema Esberg, a new member of the NFCA volunteer team, joined Becky in Chestnut Hill.
Chestnut Hill store manager Dean Stefano and Mt. Airy store manager Rick Spalek each donated an enormous basket of gluten-free products for a raffle benefiting NFCA. One lucky winner from each store went home with a bounty of delicious treats that will have them trying out new items and enjoying old favorites. For our part, NFCA is grateful for the donation that will go toward our educational programs.
On a normal Saturday, about 1,100 people pass through the doors of Weavers Way in Chestnut Hill. That number swells significantly on Gluten-Free Day and this year was no exception. I don’t know how many came to the Mt. Airy store but it certainly was a steady stream of eager shoppers, many with questions about gluten-free food and celiac disease.
In short, it was great! The NFCA team is looking forward to Gluten-Free Day 2014 at Weavers Way!
The following is a guest post by Dhanu Thiyagarajan, a student at University of Pittsburgh and founder of Gluten Free My Campus, the university’s gluten-free student group. Dhanu is also a Campus Ambassador for Udi’s Gluten Free Foods.
Being gluten-free is difficult, but being a gluten-free college student is even harder. I found this out the hard way – from experience. I came to University of Pittsburgh unaware of the city, college-life and, worst of all, where to get safe gluten-free food.
I did come under one assumption that turned out to be very wrong; I believed that there would be a gluten-free club. So many people are gluten-free and especially on a college campus in the city, how could there not be a gathered group of people who know the best gluten-free restaurants and the inside secrets? Once I got there, I realized this club didn’t exist and that scared me a lot. I wasn’t sure why there wouldn’t be a group on campus. Was I the only gluten-free student? Was finding gluten-free food so easy that there was no need for a special group or club?
I gave the situation some time, but finding gluten-free options was terribly difficult. This led me to think there couldn’t be any other gluten-free students, but statistically that made no sense. So, I decided to form the club myself. It didn’t exist, but it needed to. The university needed improvements and I needed help finding gluten-free options. I talked to the nutritionist and the chef at the dining hall (among other people) and found ways that I could connect with other gluten-free people on campus. I was able to engage roughly 10 people and set up a casual meeting.
The day of the meeting came, and I was so excited to meet these other people and talk about the struggles of being gluten-free on campus. To my dismay, nobody came. Not a single person. I figured they didn’t have any problems being gluten-free, and that this didn’t matter to them.
Thankfully, my parents and friends convinced me to try again, so I did. This time, fellow gluten-free students came to the meeting! I am so glad they convinced me to give it a second try, because now Pitt has a fantastic gluten-free club: Gluten Free My Campus!
Have you had a similar experience, or do you know a gluten-free student who did? I’d love to know what their experiences are like on other campuses!
The following is a guest post by Jaqueline Yngvason, a freelance food stylist, culinary producer and host of an online cooking show. Jaquy has celiac disease and multiple food allergies and is determined to bring awareness to these special dietary needs.
Since I can remember, growing up meant weekly visits to the emergency room, handfuls of pain medications and strong shots. In my half Icelandic, half Ecuadorean world, this seemed normal, but I would grow up to find out otherwise. While my brother and sister were outside playing with their friends, I was forced to hide from the sun, spending a large portion of my time sick in bed with excruciating migraines.
At the age of 16, after years of going to countless doctors who couldn’t seem to figure out what was wrong with me, I finally found out that I was sensitive to gluten. It wasn’t until I was 24 that I was fully diagnosed as having celiac disease. After that, my relationship with food was forever changed. I had to turn away from all of the foods that I loved and savored; wheat, eggs and dairy had to go, or I would continue to feel sick all of the time.
When I was first diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, there wasn’t much information on the subject and I was pushed to experiment and learn how to cook for myself to avoid eating out and getting sick. It was then that cooking went from a hobby to a healthy obsession, finding inspiration in recreating dishes that I once loved and transforming them in to something I could safely eat.
Shortly after college, not being satisfied with the current state of gluten-free awareness, I started my own health company to teach others in need. Feeling that I still had a lot to learn about proper handling of food and technique, I enrolled in culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Oregon. Looking back, for someone like me, going to a French culinary school may not have been the most logical choice. But, I was a newly diagnosed celiac, and I wanted to learn the only way that any chef does from cooking… by tasting.
If you don’t know much about French culinary schooling, let’s just say they didn’t understand how to deal with my multiple food allergies. I ostracized by my teachers and peers, and encouraged to drop out because I did not belong. But like all hurdles in my life, I pushed on and became stronger. Going into baking and patisserie classes wearing a breathing mask, goggles and latex gloves to protect myself and further my culinary knowledge was necessary. I would find a way to flourish no matter what they threw at me, all in the name of furthering my awareness of food. Living with severe food allergies is strangely similar to boxing; no one gets to the top without taking a beating.
After culinary school, I headed to another place that left me feeling isolated: the Food Network. Again, I pushed through and went from being an intern to producing some of the Food Network’s top shows and food styling major commercials all in under one year.
Currently I live in New York City, working as a freelance food stylist, culinary producer and allergy friendly cooking show host (see one of my videos above!), always working to share my knowledge and learn from others along the way. Looking back at all of the pain and suffering I subjected myself to, I now know that it wasn’t all for nothing. Being gluten-free and having celiac disease isn’t a curse or a fad; it’s a blessing, and with the proper knowledge and understanding, you can live an extremely fulfilling life using food in a positive way.
My goal in life is to spread celiac and food allergy awareness to those similar to me who feel isolated and alone. The world can be changed through food, making it a better place not just for those with celiac disease, but for everyone.