Archive for November, 2013

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.

Palm Trees, Sunny Skies and Gluten-Free: The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chefs Table Tour Visits Los Angeles: great schools signs

Loyola Marymount University is one of NFCA’s GREAT-trained schools

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.

Palm Trees, Sunny Skies and Gluten-Free: The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chefs Table Tour Visits Los Angeles: The Lair at Loyola Marymount University

At the Lair, the largest dining hall at Loyola Marymount University

Palm Trees, Sunny Skies and Gluten-Free: The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chefs Table Tour Visits Los Angeles: Shrimp Wrap

Chef Jehangir Mehta’s gluten-free shrimp wrap

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.

Palm Trees, Sunny Skies and Gluten-Free: The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chefs Table Tour Visits Los Angeles: Menu at Rock Sugar

The gluten-free menu at RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen

Palm Trees, Sunny Skies and Gluten-Free: The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chefs Table Tour Visits Los Angeles: Chefs Mehta and Mohan

Chef Mehta and Chef Mohan of RockSugar

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

November 15, 2013 at 7:02 pm Leave a comment

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.

Ethnic Flavors Reign Supreme in San Francisco: Chef Mehta at KKSF-AM Studios

Chef Jehangir Mehta at KKSF-AM Studios. GREAT job, Chef Mehta!

Ethnic Flavors Reign Supreme in San Francisco: Alice Bast and Jehangir Mehta on KKSF-AM Radio

NFCA President Alice Bast and Chef Jehangir Mehta on air with KKSF-AM Radio

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.

Ethnic Flavors Reign Supreme in San Francisco: Mariposa Gluten-Free bakery

Naturally, we couldn’t resist stopping in this gluten-free bakery in San Fran!

Ethnic Flavors Reign Supreme in San Francisco: Bay Bridge

At the bay bridge

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!

Ethnic Flavors Reign Supreme in San Francisco: Chef Mehta and Chef Mitra of Dosa

Chef Jehangir Mehta and Chef Anjan Mitra of “Dosa”

Ethnic Flavors Reign Supreme in San Francisco: gluten-free dish

This dish was phenomenal! And, of course, gluten-free!

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.

Ethnic Flavors Reign Supreme in San Francisco: Pica Pica Team

The amazing team at Pica Pica in San Francisco, including owner Chef Adriana Lopez-Vermut and Chef Jehangir Mehta

Ethnic Flavors Reign Supreme in San Francisco: chickpea pancake with shrimp

A deliciously gluten-free chickpea pancake topped with juicy shrimp

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.

November 13, 2013 at 4:19 pm Leave a comment

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Update from Portland & Seattle: Communication is Key

What an exciting time for GREAT Kitchens and gluten-free dining! I can truly say I just had the trip of a lifetime representing the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) on the GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chefs Table tour. Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington were my destinations and the food and conversation were both exceptional and intriguing. I had the pleasure to work along the side of GREAT Chef Ambassador Chef Jehangir Mehta who is a master with spices and showcasing gluten-free ingredients. My favorite dish that he prepared was… well, all of them. But if I had to narrow it down, the halibut with beets and fried onion ring was primo DELISH!

Halibut with gluten-free onion ring

If I could only pick one favorite, I think the halibut dish would be it.

As a true foodie, having the pleasure of tasting some extraordinary gluten-free meals prepared by some of the top chefs in the country was a thrill. In Portland, my favorite dish by Chef Naomi Pomeroy was the quince gallette and Chef Vitaly Paley’s icebox cake… crazy good. Plus, he made me banana bread for a special treat when we arrived for an early morning TV shoot.  How sweet is that?

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Update from Portland & Seattle: Icebox Cake

This gluten-free icebox cake was to die for!

Chef John Howie’s tortilla soup’s spicy broth hit the spotand Chef Holly Smith’s cuttlefish ink risotto had such a mild fish flavor and striking presentation. What a contrast! These dishes celebrated fresh, local ingredients and honored key gluten-free ingredients like tapioca, chickpea flour, sorghum and infused flavors proving that gluten-free options should NOT be boring, bland tasting, or blah-looking – EVER!

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Update from Portland & Seattle: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Update from Portland & Seattle: cuttlefish

Perfectly delicious

All of the host chefs had a keen understanding of celiac disease and many had personal connections. Their interest was sparked by friends or family members that had a need for safe gluten-free meals which generated interest and intrigue in preparing their creations in a gluten-free manner to meet the same exceptional standard and quality as all of their offerings. During their presentations to the guests, they explained that when a “GF” request is made, serving gluten-free foods safely is always top of mind and caution in the kitchen is heightened.

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Update from Portland & Seattle: Beckee Moreland

That’s me – talking about GREAT Kitchens.

However, I think the GREATest message from the tour was the importance of communication. GREAT Kitchens training emphasizes the importance of communication from taking the order to the serving of the plate. This is an important component in the training for the foodservice community to ensure safe preparation of gluten-free meals for our community. The training stresses continuous communication from host, server, manager, chef and server to get that order right with no mistakes along the way. But the communication doesn’t begin with the host greeting the guest; it really begins with the gluten-free diner. We really need to make our needs known and be clear to the restaurant and chef about what they are. People are eating gluten-free for all kinds of reasons from medical necessities such as celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’) or maybe other medical conditions, but it’s quite possible the diner is eating gluten-free for the perceived health benefit brought on by the gluten-free fad diet. This muddles the message that we need to ensure restaurants receive. Chefs have requests for all kinds of allergies, diets, substitutions, and even requests from plain old picky eaters.

When you go out to eat, make it clear. Communicate. Use NFCA’s Dining Tips Sheet as a guide. Say “I have celiac disease and I must eat gluten-free for my health. This is not a choice. Can you serve me safely?” See what sort of response you get – you might be pleasantly surprised.

How do you handle dining out gluten-free? What has your experience been like? Tell me in the comments section below or on NFCA’s Facebook page. The GREAT Kitchens Chef’s Table Tour stopped San Francisco today and we’re hitting Los Angeles on Wednesday, so be sure to check for updates on Facebook, Instagram or follow NFCA (@celiacawareness) and Chef Mehta (@jehangir_mehta) on Twitter. Be sure to search for the hashtags #GREATKitchens or #GFChefsTable!

Safe and delicious dining to you all!
– Beckee

November 11, 2013 at 4:46 pm Leave a comment

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

Want to watch the segment? Check out Chef Mehta on the New Day Show at this link.

Portland Stop: New Day Appearance
GREAT job by Chef Mehta and Chef Howie on the New Day Show!

– The Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Team

November 5, 2013 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

Portland: A Booming Foodie Community

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.

Portland: A Booming Foodie Community: Chef Jehangir Mehta speaking at IFEC

Chef Mehta explaining the importance of safe gluten-free food preparation.

Portland: A Booming Foodie Community: Shrimp

This shrimp was amazing!

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.

Portland: A Booming Foodie Community: Chefs Naomi Pomeroy and Jehangir Mehta at Beast

Chef Naomi Pomeroy and Chef Jehangir Mehta at “Beast”

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!

Portland: A Booming Foodie Community:Portland: A Booming Foodie Community: Chefs Paley and Mehta

Chef Vitaly Paley of Imperial and Chef Jehangir Mehta discussing gluten-free food preparation.

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.

Portland: A Booming Foodie Community: Chefs Kemp and Mehta

Chef Matt Kemp of Portland State University preparing gluten-free dishes for the PSU students with Chef Mehta.

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

P.S. Follow the tour on Facebook or by following the hashtags #GREATKitchens or #GFChefsTable on Twitter.  We’re posting lots of photos from the road on Instagram, too!

November 5, 2013 at 9:48 am Leave a comment

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