Archive for December, 2011

NFCA Staff: Our Biggest Accomplishments of 2011

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has accomplished a lot in 2011, but I wanted to know what my fellow co-workers thought was their biggest breakthrough of the year.

GREAT Kitchens logo

GREAT Kitchens - training restaurants across the U.S.!

For Beckee and Jennifer, our gluten-free industry team, the top highlight was adding NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens training to US Foods Resource Advantage Program. The program offers discounts and deals on various resources for the foodservice industry. Thanks to Beckee and Jennifer’s hard work, more foodservice operators, including restaurants and dining halls, can now have access to gluten-free training through GREAT Kitchens at a discount.

Beckee also is proud of the increased availability of safe, gluten-free options for students from K-12 all the way through college. NFCA’s GREAT Schools program is aiding that cause by teaching dining hall and cafeteria staff how to properly prepare gluten-free meals.

For Nancy, helping NFCA secure the landmark FDA grant for our upcoming Gluten in Medications study was her biggest accomplishment. The $50,000 grant provides much-needed funding to pioneer this new area of celiac disease research, and NFCA is thrilled to be leading the charge!

Alice echoed Nancy’s sentiments about the FDA grant, as it was a huge milestone in NFCA history. Alice also named the Philadelphia Award as her top achievement in 2011. “This is one of the most prestigious awards in Philadelphia, and it brought front page coverage to the NFCA and celiac disease,” she noted.

For Alice, the award wasn’t an end result, but a jumping off point to bring even more awareness to celiac disease and gluten-free needs.

pointed to the many collaborations and connections she formed in promoting NFCA’s Primary Care CME:

“In 2011, 306 U.S. primary care providers received training from NFCA’s Primary Care CME. Medical experts indicate that primary care physicians have the opportunity to diagnose 18 new patients per year. Based on this statistic, our records demonstrate that NFCA has had the opportunity to directly impact the lives of 5,508 patients. NFCA looks forward to continuing our professional education efforts in 2012,” she said.

Spreading the word about the CME involved a number of helpers in 2011. Quest Diagnostics disseminated more than 9,000 promotional postcards to primary care providers; individuals and support group leaders distributed 2,800 postcards to local healthcare professionals; and NFCA, along with physician advocates and celiac champions, sent 2,000 postcards to medical conference, clinics and lunch meetings extending as far as Hawaii and Norway!

Whitney cited her work with the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association (AIR) as her biggest accomplishment of 2011. She stepped up at a moment’s notice and flew to Asheville, NC, to lead a gluten-free training course for 25 foodservice professionals. More than 20 restaurants in this popular tourist destination are now GREAT-trained and ready to serve gluten-free food.

Kids Central

Kids Central - our new hub for gluten-free kids and parents

For me, Kids Central was my baby, and like a proud mama, I was happy to see it take flight in October. The new microsite accomplished much of what we originally set out to do, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of many, many friends in the celiac and gluten-free community. I’ve met wonderful parents, super kids and amazing teens who were willing to share their stories and gluten-free recipes. We’ll continue to add new articles and advice as we move into 2012. In fact, I’ll be posting our first Ask the Pediatric Gastroenterologist Q&As today!

Wishing a happy and healthy New Year to all of our friends and fans!

– Cheryl


December 30, 2011 at 11:41 am Leave a comment

A Gluten-Free Holiday Treat, No Baking Required

I’m always prepared to bring an appetizer, salad or main dish to social gatherings and holiday functions. Like many with celiac disease, I quickly learned that if I wanted to eat a safe gluten-free meal, it was up to me to tote along at least one item I knew I could eat.

But dessert? Despite my sweet tooth, more often than not I have opted to forgo dessert simply because baking and I are not friends. So fruit has served as my go-to pick, and the nutritional benefits are always a plus. Alas, sometimes a fruit salad, no matter how fresh the ingredients, just won’t cut it. This Christmas, I wanted to join my family at the dessert table with something more substantial than pineapple and berries, even if topped with whipped cream.

Enter these no-bake coconut balls.

Gluten-Free No Bake Coconut Balls

Gluten-Free No Bake Coconut Balls

I’m sure you can guess that a recipe with minimal ingredients and without an actual “baking” process were both requirements. Fortunately, I stumbled across this simple recipe while performing the perfunctory Google search: No Bake Coconut Balls

The recipe called for nut butter plus chocolate chips or nuts of your choosing, but I opted for a combination of the two. My secret ingredient? Justin’s Nut Butter. This brand has been a pantry staple of mine for the past 2 years so I knew that their Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor was delicious. (If you are not already familiar with their line of nut butters, please head to your local grocery store immediately).

Making Gluten-Free Coconut Balls

All you need for a delicious gluten-free dessert.

Not only did they fulfill my sweet tooth, but my family was impressed too. Who said you need flour to “bake” Christmas cookies?

– Kristin

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December 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm Leave a comment

Tips for Traveling Gluten-Free By Plane, Train and Automobile

[NFCA volunteer Annsley is back with more gluten-free holiday tips. This time, she explains how to prepare for travel when gluten-free food may be limited.]

We all know what it’s like to be in a packing frenzy less than 12 hours before your trip.  My favorite holiday flick is “Home Alone,” when the family is packing up a gaggle of people and things, and then of course comes the missing headcount when Macaulay Culkin gets left behind.

In all my packing frenzy, I have yet to forget my daughter.  However, I will never forget my honeymoon to New Zealand, land of beauty, tranquility, and cars that drive on the “other” side of the road.  My newlywed husband and I were shutting the door to our apartment and locking it as he turned to me and said, “I don’t have my driver’s license.”  What I interpreted from him, “I haven’t seen my driver’s license in 3 weeks since we took that trip to Savannah.”  Did I mention that I’d already been having nightmares about driving on the other side of the road or that you cannot drive a car in another country with just your passport?  So started the beginning of our marriage and my new career as a chauffer.  (In these past 4 years, he hasn’t lost his driver’s license again – just his passport!)

Annsley Klehr

Annsley Klehr

These days, most of the packing falls to me: Did I remember my contacts, my phone charger, the baby’s wipes, diapers, and my underwear?!  And of course, we’ve all made it halfway to our destination when we remember exactly what it was we could not put our finger on – my daughter’s pajamas – and we still have a good time.

But wait! Ever since being diagnosed with celiac disease, I have to remember the cooler, too!  It always seemed enough to worry about my suitcase, but now traveling gluten-free has added a bit of extra packing stress to my life.  To combat the frenetic packing zone I get in, I have a few helpful hints that get me traveling and still feeling good with relatively few hassles.

By Plane

I almost always get stopped going through security.  Once my unopened jar of peanut butter was confiscated for being a liquid.  Yep, that’s right!  My unopened can of tuna got the same bad rap.  I have now learned a few tricks of the trade to make it through the security checkpoint without losing a thing, even if it is as liquid.  I pack for both my daughter and myself the night before the trip:

1. Carry a doctor’s note with you.  Make several color copies of it (so you have the real deal safe at home), and laminate them so that you have several copies to save and with which to travel.  Whenever security stops you, just pull it out.  If you don’t have one, write your own little card explaining your dietary issues.

2. Carry a travel-size cooler with an arm strap.  To manage my load, I consider this my personal item, and then I usually take a backpack so my hands are free to grab my daughter.

3. Ice packs – I always put all my food in a cooler with an ice pack.  If you’re nervous about an ice pack, you can use those plastic re-useable ice cubes and fit them in a snack size zip-lock baggy.  It’s less than 2 oz., so you don’t have to worry.

4. Stash good snacks in the cooler. I pre-bag all snacks in little bags or small plastic tupperware containers.  They come in handy later in the trip.  This is a good way to empty your fridge before leaving, so I just fill the cooler with what we have on hand.

  • Sandwich – I usually will make some sort of gluten-free sandwich or two to carry on.  That way, I don’t travel with that jar of peanut butter.
  • Baby Bonbel individually wrapped cheese or string cheese.  Cracker Barrel has prepackaged cheeses, too.
  • Fruit – grapes, clementines, apples
  • Gluten-free pretzels – I put these in a little reusable sandwich bag.  Glutino makes some good ones.
  • Crackers – We like Back to Nature brand.
  • Trail Mix – Enjoy Life makes several kinds.  Sometimes, I mix my own with gluten-free pretzels, seeds, nuts, raisins, and cranberries.
  • Gluten-free muffins – I often bake up what’s in my house, take some with me and freeze the rest.
  • Raw veggies – carrots, cucumbers, celery, baby tomatoes
  • Yogurt – either the individual cups, I put some in a little container.
  • A treat – Kinnikinnick makes excellent graham crackers, but use what you’d like. Plan to pack extra.  See #8.

5. Plastic Utensils – I try to keep a knife, fork, spoon, and napkins always in the cooler pocket.  That way I never forget, and if they break or I lose one we can always pick up more in the airport.

6. Baby Wipes – These are great for cleaning up messes.

7. Extra Ziploc bags – I use them for trash or repacking opened items, but if you forget, you can always use the barf bag on the airplane as long as you don’t get motion sick!

8. A special kid’s snack for the snack cart or, in my case, bribery – It became clear that my cute, boisterous, and obstinate daughter refused to put her seatbelt on and sit in her seat at take off.  To settle her down, the flight attendant offered her animal crackers with gluten. Yikes!  I have since learned to carry my own treat to sneak to the flight attendant in such instances.  This can also be used when the drink and snack cart gets pushed around, too.

By Train or Car

1. Bring a cooler, but a larger one than the one used for the plane. Use the tips above to think of good food ideas. Make sure to pack it all up the night before and leave the food in containers in the fridge until just before heading out.
Buy some ice.

2. Bring non-perishables, too – I usually pack a grocery bag full of gluten-free bread, peanut butter (or whatever you can eat), jelly and canned tuna, along with a can-opener, plastic utensils, napkins, wipes, etc.  That way, if we have to stop and there’s nothing around, I have my own little dining stash.

3. Carry a dining card with you at all times that specifies what you can and cannot eat.  I like to give this to the chefs in restaurants when I go out; it makes my life so much easier.

4. Research your route and find acceptable dining locations and groceries – To this day, I use the old-fashioned map.  I put dots on it along our route so I know where it’s safe to stop and sometimes the hours they’re open.  We often drive late at night.

Packing ahead of time and cleaning out the refrigerator before I go really helps me in terms of time management and maintaining a low anxiety level.  No matter how delayed we are or how often the car breaks down, I am always well prepared.  Happy, healthy, and safe travels over this holiday season!

– Annsley Klehr
Gluten Freedoms, LLC

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December 19, 2011 at 3:56 pm 5 comments

Holiday Giving: What’s Your Approach?

It’s a season of giving and the time of year many of us line up fundraising appeals from various organizations and begin deliberations of who to support this year.

I find philanthropic psychology to be a fascinating topic, and I love to learn about the ways in which different families and cultures approach giving.

I’ll share mine.

My grandmother would send an $18 check to any organization that sent her an appeal. (For those curious about the 18 denomination…it’s Jewish thing. The Hebrew numerals for the number 18 are the same characters that make up the word life, so it’s good luck to give in denominations of 18.) I didn’t know this until I was in my 20s and already working for a nonprofit. I hoped that she would be so proud of my accomplishments that she might even send $180! Alas, two weeks later came our check for $18.

NFCA logo

NFCA - A small but mighty force!

In general, I personally prefer to send more dollars to fewer organizations, but my giving does mirror my grandmother’s in one way. I give $18 to anyone who knocks on my door. Ok, well anyone who represents a cause that I don’t find objectionable. Also, every Chanukah, we light a candle for others and, instead of a gift, I provide a blank $18 check to each of my girls (and any guest joining us that evening), and I let them pick an organization to give to this year.

When I started working for NFCA, my daughter had been diagnosed with celiac disease only 4 months. I knew that celiac disease would be something I would care about for the rest of my life, but, at the time, I didn’t realize that I would actually be working for an extremely compelling cause. You’ve heard the facts before: 95% undiagnosed. A direct social cost of at least $14 billion per year in critical healthcare dollars. The lack of research on the disease and its spectrum. The personal devastation undiagnosed celiac disease can cause for entire families. I could go on and on.

I understand why celiac disease is a niche cause among healthcare givers. When I talk to people about the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, I often get blank stares from those not connected to “the tribe.”

“You know…the gluten-free disease.” Recognition. “Really? That’s connected to a medical problem?”

We have a lot of work to do.

I’ll be honest with you, we need your help. We realize that gluten-free food is expensive. And that NFCA looks snazzy with blogs and webinars and cooking videos. But we are a small organization with a very loud roar. Really. Check out how few people there actually are running our programs. And they’re working really hard.

NFCA is among the organizations I choose to support with my charitable dollars. If you’re reading our staff blog and have had the patience to read all 479 words thus far, you are clearly interested in what NFCA is accomplishing everyday.

Please donate today. And in the process, think of my story and how your own personal history has influenced your decision to do so.

– Jennifer

December 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm Leave a comment

Rollin’ into the Holiday Season

[As you know, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness staff members are big Phillies fans. So when one of our volunteers, Nadina Fraimow, told us she shared the same passion for sports, wellness and all things Phillies, we had to get her on board. Nadina will be sharing her gluten-free experiences as she follows the Phillies year-round.]

Rollin’ into the holiday season

A Phightin’ to Be Gluten-Free Blog

The end of the year is a time to evaluate results, existing players and their performance.  Organizations strive to reach goals, college students prepare for final class exams and Phillies management continues to negotiate with players. The latest buzz to reach media channels follows the potential deal to re-sign shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Only time will tell if the Phillies will be Rollin’ into the holiday season with him on the team.

December is an exciting time for my family team, as we also roll into the holiday season. When we get together, there is always a kitchen stocked with delicious gluten-free sweets, snacks and meals. We whip up favorite recipes, create new concoctions and document the All-Stars. My secret is to introduce festive ingredients, including cinnamon, pumpkin butter and cranberries, into all types of dishes.  Plus, the sweet aromas stick around longer than the food on the plate!

Below is a new restaurant dish review on the following baseball-inspired scale:

Single– Fair
Double– Good
Triple– Very good
Home Run– Must try
Grand Slam– Sublime

Herb braised Skate, cherry tomatoes, white wine over rosemary roasted potatoes at Melograno- Home Run

Herb braised skate at Melograno

Herb braised skate at Melograno

Overview: A must try, one-of-a-kind herb braised skate completed a delicious meal.

The Scene: It was a special celebration at Melograno. As the Phillies management continued negotiations, we enjoyed the lively and cozy ambience of the BYOB.

Safe Dining:  At Melograno, the chefs in the kitchen are educated in gluten-free dining.  Melograno has completed gluten-free training through NFCA’s Gluten Free Resource Education and Awareness Training (GREAT) Kitchens program. [See more GREAT Kitchens.]

Presentation:  The herb braised skate was plated over baby roasted potatoes, topped with cherry tomatoes and surrounded by cooked oils and white wine. The crisp, golden-brown sear showcased braising technique from searing in the kitchen.  A glistening plate of liquids seeped into the tomatoes and roasted potatoes, which enhanced color and texture.  (Note: I ordered baby roasted rosemary potatoes to replace potato puree on the menu.)

Taste:  The herb braised skate is cooked for enjoyment!  The sear locked in the Mediterranean seasoning, wine, oils and the slow braise developed the rich flavors.  For other first time skate eaters, the texture of the fish resembled braised brisket. Similar to brisket, the layers pull apart easily in a stringy formation. The juicy tomatoes and crisp baby potatoes soaked in flavors on the plate accompanied each tender bite of skate.

Result:  The one-of-a kind herb braised skate and complementary vegetables are a great way to start rollin’ into the holiday season with friends and family. (Tip:  Be creative when dining out and inquire about tasty, gluten-free recommendations from the chefs).

Everyone have a happy, healthy gluten-free holiday season!  Stay tuned for new restaurant and product reviews to enjoy during the baseball off-season.  Be-Lee-ve it — Spring training is just a few months away!

– Nadina

About Nadina:
Nadina Fraimow began volunteering with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) in April 2011, and will be happy to answer messages sent to the email account. Nadina learned that she has gluten sensitivity in February 2011, and is grateful for having been diagnosed promptly and correctly by a knowledgeable gastroenterologist. She enjoys running, shopping for gluten-free sweets and creating recipes that are both tasty and healthy. Nadina is a Marketing and Communications professional living and working in Philadelphia. Nadina is also a proud Penn State alumna and an avid fan of the Phillies.

December 13, 2011 at 4:18 pm Leave a comment

Meatless Mondays: A Challenge for Myself

[This post was written by Kelly Clayton, a college senior living with celiac disease. Kelly will be working with NFCA through the Spring 2012 semester, and we’re glad to have her on board! To learn more about Kelly, read her article on Living Gluten-Free in College and Being a Scout with Celiac.]

I have always felt this pain inside when eating a hamburger, steak, chicken or any type of meat. I consider myself an environmental advocate and try to recycle all things, shop at thrift stores, buy locally and make every facet of my life sustainable. I have thought about going vegetarian several times within the past few years, and I just can’t bring myself to it. I like meat too much. Also, my Mom would knock me over the head if she knew I was giving up meat.

Being gluten-free is difficult enough, and when you are gluten-free, meat becomes a staple you depend on.

This past school year, starting in September, I decided that I could make an impact by going meatless for just one day. Since I am completely dependent upon my college’s cafeteria, a lot of my meal options are what they are cooking, so sometimes I don’t have the choice to go meatless. I decided to join the revolution called Meatless Mondays. It is a movement where people sign up online and pledge to be meatless on Mondays and in return the site tells you all about the energy you are saving.

Meatless Monday logo

One day a week, cut out meat.

The point of going meatless on Mondays is to get people to cut their carbon footprint and to reduce the risk of heart problems. Heart problems have been linked to overconsumption of red meat, so by cutting one whole day of meat, it helps your heart. The site says they chose Mondays because people are more likely to follow a strict diet and less likely to cheat at the beginning of the week.

My progress:

My diets on Mondays have consisted of salads, rice, green peppers, egg sandwiches (on gluten-free bread), gluten-free cereal, yogurt, rice cakes (too many, I’m addicted) and gluten-free multigrain crackers. While this may not sound very hearty and filling, believe me it is enough.

I really enjoy Mondays because it makes me think out of the box and get creative with my food. I am starting to really enjoy omelets, and I’m finding new fillings to put in them!

My next challenge is going to be going meatless for Mondays and Wednesdays. I am going to try to start adding on more days in order to save more energy and reduce my carbon footprint! I am not a big cook (only because I live on a college campus), so the cafeteria rules my diet! If you have any meatless suggestions, I am going to need some help!

– Kelly Clayton, NFCA volunteer

December 12, 2011 at 10:20 am 2 comments

Turning Celiac into Service

There’s a certain oomph that comes with having a personal connection to a cause. You dig deeper, work harder and never settle for mediocre. So, it’s no surprise that many of the successful gluten-free companies and organizations out there were founded by someone affected by celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Here’s just a sample of gluten-free entrepreneurs we work with through NFCA’s GREAT Business Association:

  • Craig Belser and Kevin Seplowitz over at Bard’s Beer are both diagnosed celiacs.
  • Vanessa Phillips, who has celiac disease, started Feel Good Foods with her chef husband, Tryg Siverson.
  • Simply Shari’s was founded by Shari Cole and her father, Larry Schneider. Larry has celiac disease, while Shari’s daughter has autism and showed an improvement in symptoms on a gluten-free diet.
  • Kettle Cuisine Founder & President Jerry Shafir brought gluten-free soups to grocery stores after his daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease.
  • Dick and Ju Reed started Chebe without the intention of marketing it as gluten-free. When Ju discovered she was intolerant to gluten, they reaffirmed their dedication to providing a natural and gluten-free product.
  • Jill Brack founded Glow Gluten Free after she and her daughter were diagnosed with celiac disease.

And then there’s Alice. Her enthusiasm and energy is so infectious that she caught the attention of Dr. David Ajibade, who runs Building Strength Webinars. He asked Alice to share her story and encourage others to take action like she did. The webinar, Turning Celiac into Service: Unleashing Your Passion and Life Purpose will take place next Thursday, Dec. 15, at 9pm ET. It’s free for all to attend.

Learn more and find the registration link on NFCA’s Webinars page.

If you have a story of turning celiac into service (or a business), submit your empowerment story to NFCA.

December 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm 1 comment

Woman Power!

In the 60s, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, sparking the beginning of “second wave feminism,” better known as “women’s lib.”  In the 70s, Gloria Steinem brought us Ms magazine and a title all our own as she pushed the Equal Rights Amendment.  The 1980s saw Geraldine Ferraro join the national ballot as the first woman vice presidential candidate.  Women’s History Month was added to the US national calendar in the 1990s, with women’s history courses flooding college campuses.  This century has seen women explore space, break sports records, and seek the presidential nomination.  As the saying goes, we have come a long way.

As it turns out, women have had power all along. In fact, in the healthcare arena, women have 80% of the power—or more!

Here’s the story.

On November 15th, I had the privilege of attending a conference entitled Women’s Health in an Era of Change. Hosted by Katherine Keefe, Chair of Dilworth Paxson law firm’s Health Care Group, the discussion examined the impact that the healthcare reform bill is having on women.  Lynn Yeakel of Drexel University’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership led the panel discussion that included Dr. Owen Montgomery of Drexel University’s College of Medicine, Anne Morrissey of AmeriHealth and Katherine Keefe.

We all learned a lot.

One statistic that jumped out at all of us is that at least 80 % of all healthcare decisions are made by women. Got that? At least 80%. Women make these decisions for themselves and for their families, including extended families of aging parents and siblings who need assistance– the whole deal.

This means that women have the power to move that mountain that will help keep our families safe. Women can demand better care, more attention, safer products. For those with celiac or gluten sensitivity in their families, this means both an opportunity and a responsibility to seek out that diagnosis that has been overlooked, to insist that the doctors get educated about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity and to get those family members tested, like it or not.

Woman power!

80% of all healthcare decisions are made by women.

Another statistic we learned, and this time a disheartening one, is that 50% of the uninsured population is women. The healthcare reform act will move these uninsured women and their families into being covered.   This means a huge impact on the primary care physicians who will be treating the newly insured.

Dr. Montgomery suggested that reform will initiate a new era with a team approach to family medicine. Right now, there simply are not enough primary care providers in the U.S. to manage the added millions of patients who will enter the healthcare system. The very practical and viable solution is to expand the role of healthcare professionals by adding more nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants to the primary care team. Doctors will have to practice in a more collaborative way, which means that there will be more hands available to manage the patient’s health. This approach has been embraced by Drexel and by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

So, it is back to the women. All of this means that women as the key decision makers will have an even more active role in managing the “continuum of care” for themselves and their families.

Here is to your good health and to the best use of the power that is in the hands of American women.

– Nancy

Get empowered! Learn more about celiac disease and women’s health.

December 7, 2011 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

Teaching Student Chefs the Importance of Gluten-Free Training

Twice a year, I have the fortunate honor to be invited to a ‘Gluten-Free Baking Lab’ held at the Lincoln Southeast Community College Food Service/Hospitality program in Lincoln, NE. The students bake items from CIA instructor Chef Richard Coppedge’s cookbook, Gluten-Free Baking, and learn about the needs of those on a gluten-free diet.  The process starts by thoroughly cleaning the kitchen, equipment, and utensils; blending the flours (Chef Coppedge provides five different blends); pairing up; and selecting recipes from the cookbook. The baking begins. Then I arrive for the tasting and a Q & A with the students.

Gluten-free buffet

Check out the spread!

You might think it is pretty bold of me to assume that what’s being served on the plates is really safe and totally gluten-free. Well, you’d be right – if I didn’t know the lead instructor, Certified Executive Chef Brandon Harpster, is GREAT trained. In fact, six of the instructors on the foodservice staff at LSCC completed GREAT Kitchens training back in 2008.  So, I feel pretty confident in the guidance and instruction received by these young chefs.

As I arrive for the tasting, the proud students parade into the classroom with their masterpieces. I snap their pictures, and they gently place them on the table. I get a bit choked up every time I attend these labs. When I was diagnosed almost 20 years ago, I could never have imagined culinary students being exposed to gluten-free baking and embracing the challenge and opportunity. I really believe that 5-10 years from now, all culinary students will have a standard class on allergen-free baking and cooking. It will be commonplace. This generation has grown up with allergies or celiac disease; they have friends or family members who have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or allergies. Yes, there really is hope and promise in the foodservice industry. We are seeing big strides every day. It was thrilling to hear the students talk about working in restaurants that have gluten-free options, such as a successful local pizza chain and others in well-respected establishments with skilled chefs who “get gluten-free.”

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

The sampling included Strawberry Bread, Chocolate (Red) Velvet Cake minus the red food coloring, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies, Cinnabon-ish Cinnamon Rolls, Angel Food Cake, Peanut Butter Cookies, and Zucchini Pumpkin Bread. While they munched, I shared a brief description of my NFCA position, celiac disease history, and current marketplace trends. I really wanted to make sure we had time for questions because I was curious about aspiring culinary students want to know. They had some GREAT questions. Here are a few with my responses.

Student Question: Besides the obvious sources of gluten, what else do chefs need to be concerned about when preparing gluten-free meals?

Beckee’s Answer: Gluten can be hidden in unlikely places. I once learned the hard way that flour can be added to refried beans to thicken them. Gluten can be hidden in sauces, marinades, flavorings and many processed foods. Reading labels is very important, but so is knowing that gluten can be found in soup bases, soy sauce, stabilizers and thickeners.

If you work in a scratch kitchen and know your ingredients and sources, that’s only part of the answer to knowing safe gluten-free preparation. The most important skill to learn is how to prepare gluten-free foods safely because cross contamination is a huge concern to your customers. Picking up a bread knife and cutting a baked potato can turn a perfectly gluten-free option into something that can harm someone on a medically restricted gluten-free diet.  Your customers must feel confident in your expertise to serve safe options. Educating yourselves by taking GREAT Kitchens training will provide that trust and give you another tool in your culinary skills when you start hunting for jobs.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Pumpkin Bread

Gluten-Free Zucchini Pumpkin Bread - Delicious!

Student Question: What is the potential for increased sales for restaurants that “go gluten-free”?

Beckee’s Answer: One in 133 people has celiac disease, and 1 in 18 has gluten intolerance. They are the members of the party that will be making the reservations. Most diners don’t dine alone; they bring friends and family with them. If they order dishes to share, they’ll make them gluten-free. They’re loyal to those restaurants that can safely serve gluten-free and will look for the GREAT seal of approval like the GREAT Kitchens decal, logo, or a reference on their menu telling guests that training is in place. People needing gluten-free options will only increase over the next 5 years due to more awareness and diagnoses.  Advertising gluten-free options can be a differentiator in the restaurant business.

Gluten-Free Strawberry Cake

What's a celebration without some gluten-free cake?

Student Question: If you have a reaction or get sick, do you call the restaurant and let them know?

Beckee’s Answer: Excellent question. Honestly, in the past, I wasn’t consistent about doing so. I’d just take it off my list of dining options and tell my gluten-free pals to beware. However, when I started working with chefs and training restaurants, I asked if they wanted to know. Unanimously, the answer was “Yes.” How can you fix the problem if you’re not aware of it? Now, I always contact the establishment, and I encourage others to do so. I can remember talking with a general manager for a restaurant who had a gluten-free menu but no staff training. He told me they “just didn’t get many people asking for gluten-free.” Hmmm, wonder why?

The last thought that I left the class with was this: When you go out to eat or dine, what are you thinking about after you’ve order your meal? Are you thinking about your gorgeous date? The hilarious joke someone told at the table? Maybe you’re anticipating the fabulous food that will be served soon. Sometimes, people with celiac disease are solely focused on what’s happening in the kitchen. Will they make a fresh salad instead of just picking off the croutons? Will the cooks clean the grill before charring the steak? Does the restaurant really have a dedicated fryer? Through GREAT gluten-free education, all the guests at the table can enjoy the ambience, company, and great food you set before them.

Bon Appetite!

– Beckee

Learn more about gluten-free training through GREAT Kitchens at

December 5, 2011 at 11:36 am 4 comments

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