I’m a Food Stylist for the Food Network, and I Have Celiac Disease

November 20, 2012 at 9:07 am 9 comments

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.

- Jaquy

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amanda  |  November 20, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Great post! Celiac Disease and food allergies are tough to deal with but I’m glad you’re using food in a positive way and to spread awareness.

    Reply
  • 2. Author Annette J Dunlea Irish Writer  |  November 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Reblogged this on Annette J Dunlea Irish Author's Literary Blog.

    Reply
  • [...] I’m a Food Stylist for the Food Network, and I Have Celiac Disease. [...]

    Reply
  • 4. abby jenkins  |  November 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    You are an inspiration, from someone who loves to cook but has a gluten intolerance I thank you. Can’t wait to try your recipes!

    Reply
  • 5. brokeandbeautiful  |  November 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    This is an amazing story, Jaquy – thank you for sharing! You are an inspiration.

    Reply
  • 6. Rosa  |  November 20, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Glad to see someone who cares and takes her time to share her experiences and knowledge to help others; your recipes are great!!!! We feel much better cooking your way!! By the way, we’d like to let you know that we have also lost a few pounds. Thank you,
    look forward to more recipes.

    Reply
  • 7. glutenfreegimmethree  |  November 21, 2012 at 11:45 am

    So inspirational to see that a career in food is possible even when you can’t eat most of it!

    Reply
  • 8. k  |  November 21, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    This made me cry. I am having such struggles with my extended family understanding. I am not looking forward to Thanksgiving because, again, I will be labeled a freak and told to get over it and how dare I not eat what they worked so hard on?

    All the advice I can find just says to explain nicely and the family will understand. No, they won’t…not even the nurses in the family.

    Does anyone understand?

    Reply
    • 9. Karen Rapp  |  January 27, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      I do hope it went better than you thought. And if it did not, time to meet new friends to spend Thanksgiving with. Do you live in a small town or big town? Often there are others who are in groups. If you lived near me, I’d invite you. I made Thanksgiving food for me, and my Daughter-in-law made food for the rest of the family. But no one complained or made fun of me or doubted me. I live in Kansas City. Where do you live?

      Reply

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