A Berry Good Reason to Go Gluten-Free

April 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment

Whenever I come across a new gluten-free product, I wonder what prompted its birth. Was someone at the company diagnosed with celiac disease; is the product part of an overall “allergen-free” line; or was it an attempt to jump on the bandwagon of brands going gluten-free?

Lately, it seems that our cheers for new gluten-free items may come with some skepticism.  Companies large and small are churning out packages emblazoned with “gluten-free,” so naturally, we’ve begun to wonder about their motives.

Like it or not, “gluten-free” is a hot commodity, and people go where the money is. But when you’re dealing with a trend that has a real medical basis, missteps can be (quite literally) sickening. Just this week, customers testified against the former shop owner who allegedly sold gluten-containing bread as “gluten-free,” and the community is still brewing over the server who proudly gave traditional pasta to gluten-free diners.

Fortunately, there plenty of chefs and manufacturers who have good intentions when they dive into gluten-free. In fact, many of NFCA’s GREAT Business Association members, including Kettle Cuisine, Glow Gluten-Free and Simply Shari’s, have a direct connection to celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

My latest find: Missy and John Villapudua, the couple behind WildeBerryaki sauce. When I emailed Missy and John to ask about a Gluten-Free Hot Products review, I had already done some research about the company. WildeBerryaki is just one of the couple’s ventures; they also own the WildeBerry Inn on Whidbey Island, just north of Seattle, and WildeBerrySports, where John offers personal training for endurance athletes. (Sensing a theme?)

Missy and John - Wildeberryaki

Missy and John with their berries.

Fresh food, fitness, and a great place to sleep…it’s a lifestyle I envy. But how did the sauce come into play? Partly out of necessity: Missy had been laid off, and with too many bills to survive on one salary, the couple put all their berries in a basket and launched WildeBerryaki. The “gluten-free” part, Missy explained, was for friends:

“To be honest, we didn’t even know what ‘gluten-free’ meant 4 years ago,” she confessed. “A girlfriend of mine was stricken with breast cancer and we wanted to help her and the family out by cooking meals while she was healing.  She was gluten-free and had several food allergies.  I was scared to death to cook for her in fear that I may inadvertently include an ingredient with hidden gluten. The experience forced us to gain a better understanding and appreciation for individuals afflicted with celiac and gluten intolerance.”

It’s a heartfelt story, and it reminded me that gluten-free goods really can be…good.

WildeBerryaki sauce

Can you tell I took this photo AFTER I used it?

As a friendly follow-up to our exchange, the couple sent one of the latest hits in their WildeBerry repertoire: a recipe for WildeBerry Chicken & Endives. When barbecuing season finally arrives, I’ll be bringing this in tow:

WildeBerry Chicken & Endives


  • ¼ cup gluten-free mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp. WildeBerryaki sauce
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts (or equal amount of pork loin), finely diced
  • 2 green onions, chopped (save half for garnish)
  • Endive leaves
  • Grated purple cabbage
  • Black sesame seeds


1. Combine gluten-free mayonnaise, WildeBerryaki sauce, chicken and half of the onions. Mix well.
2. Spoon mixture onto endive leaves. Top with remaining onion, cabbage and sesame seeds.
3. Enjoy!

There are many other gluten-free companies that were inspired by celiac and gluten-free connections. If you’d like to share the story behind your gluten-free company or organization’s, visit CeliacCentral.org and Submit an Empowerment Story.


Entry filed under: Cheryl. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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