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GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour: Stop #1 at Mehtaphor in New York City

The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour has officially started! The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) kicked off the tour at Chef Jehangir Mehta’s New York City restaurant, Mehtaphor, yesterday afternoon.

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour: Stop #1 at Mehtaphor in New York City: Arriving at Mehtaphor

Arriving at Mehtaphor

Gluten-free bloggers, food bloggers and reporters from the New York area came out to enjoy a 100% gluten-free lunch with us at Mehtaphor. And while I was excited to eat all of Chef Mehta’s gluten-free dishes (which, by the way, were fabulous), I was even more excited to have the opportunity to talk about the need for safe gluten-free food preparation. We even proved one of my favorite points – gluten-free does not mean taste free! There were no gluten-free bread or pasta substitutes on the menu, but rather Chef Mehta focused on serving a Mediterranean-style meal that left everyone completely satisfied (quite to the surprise of some of the attendees!). If ever there was a perfect meal to satisfy gluten-free and non-gluten-free eaters, this meal was it.

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour: Stop #1 at Mehtaphor in New York City : Dessert

The best way to describe Chef Mehta’s dessert… wow!

While we enjoyed Chef Mehta’s dishes, we all had the chance to chat about celiac disease and the medical aspect behind the gluten-free diet. Most of the attendees had some sort of connection to celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’). Some had a deep understanding of gluten-related disorders while others were still learning, which made for an incredibly diverse conversation. If there’s one thing I love, it’s raising awareness of an autoimmune disease that is still vastly underdiagnosed.

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour: Stop #1 at Mehtaphor in New York City: Chef Mehta and Alice Bast

Me and Chef Mehta before the event kicked off

I have to admit, I was truly touched by the interest of the folks who attended yesterday’s luncheon. Sure, there was delicious gluten-free food to enjoy, but everyone was genuinely interested in learning about celiac disease and the GREAT Kitchens program. They wanted to understand why this online gluten-free training program exists and how much of a difference training makes for people living with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders. Everyone was engaged with the program, asked a lot of questions and, to put it simply, they cared.

Chef Mehta explaining gluten-free

Chef Mehta did an amazing job of explaining why safe gluten-free cooking is a must for our community!

To all those who attended the luncheon – thank you so much for recognizing the need for people living with gluten-related disorders to have access to not just gluten-free meals, but meals that are safe and free from cross-contamination.

Today, Chef Mehta and I hung out at New York University (NYU) to serve gluten-free dishes to students in the Weinstein Dining Hall. There are some photos from the event on NFCA’s Instagram account you can check out now. Keep an eye on the blog for more updates from today’s stop and the rest of the tour. If you are on Twitter, follow NFCA (@CeliacAwareness) and Chef Mehta (@jehangir_mehta) to get the play-by-play of the tour. You can follow me as well at @abast. We’re using the hashtags #GREATKitchens and #GFChefsTable, so feel free to jump in the conversation!

– Alice

P.S. You can find more pictures from the tour on NFCA’s Facebook page.  We’ll be updating the album at each stop on the tour.

October 24, 2013 at 3:57 pm Leave a comment

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour – Coming to a City Near You!

Alice BastThe National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is proud to call Chef Jehangir Mehta, a finalist on the popular Next Iron Chef series, a partner in creating safe gluten-free options in restaurants so people living with gluten-related disorders can eat without fear.

NFCA team members and Chef Mehta will be taking NFCA’s online gluten-free cooking program on the road over the next six months. Introducing the GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour! The tour will cover 10 cities with the goal of educating chefs nationwide on the need for gluten-free menu items that go beyond just using gluten-free ingredients. It is amazing to see gluten-free options popping up on menus across the country, but unless restaurants are educated on the importance of safe gluten-free food preparation, our community cannot dine safely.

Many things have changed in the 20+ years that I have been diagnosed with celiac disease. When I was diagnosed, gluten-free food was not even available in the U.S. Today, we have access to a wide range of gluten-free food, but the next step on our journey is ensuring all gluten-free food is safe for our community. A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for people living with celiac disease; there are currently no pills, vaccines or cures for celiac disease. Research is taking us closer, but for now, we have to ensure the people living with this autoimmune disease can have access to the food that is our only medicine.

It has been 10 years since NFCA first opened its doors and set out on its mission to raise celiac disease awareness and improve the quality of life for those on a lifelong gluten-free diet. In that time, I have met many chefs and foodservice industry professionals eager to understand celiac disease, the gluten-free diet and our need for food to be free from gluten-containing ingredients and the gluten that can enter our food through cross-contact (commonly referred to as cross-contamination by the gluten-free community). These professionals are eager to accommodate their guests, but first they have to know training and resources are available to help.

NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program gives restaurant employees from the wait staff to the chefs the tools they need to serve safe gluten-free food. Our ten city tour will help spread GREAT Kitchens logo the message that for the 3 million Americans living with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is not a fad, but the only way to restore their health and reclaim their lives. Ranging from cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, we will be working with executive chefs in some of the best restaurants – complete with gluten-free cooking demonstrations, of course!

Stay tuned as we start the journey at Chef Mehta’s Tribeca restaurant, Mehtaphor on Tuesday, October 22.  Follow the tour by liking NFCA’s Facebook page and following NFCA on Twitter (@CeliacAwareness) and Instagram (@CeliacCentral).  Chef Mehta will also be live tweeting from the road.  Follow him at @jehangir_mehta.

To our GREAT health,

October 18, 2013 at 4:51 pm Leave a comment

Opinions Aside, Why We Should Celebrate the FDA Gluten-Free Labeling Rule

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) rule on gluten-free labeling is an accomplishment. Whether you fully support it or have several criticisms, this is a milestone that has been years in the making, and that deserves some celebration.

Let’s all take a moment to take a breath, consider what we’ve collectively achieved, and thank ourselves and each other for all the hard work that brought us here.

I was diagnosed with celiac disease over 20 years ago, and in the 10 years since the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) opened its doors, we have been working to improve the safety of gluten-free food.  I have been waiting day-after-day for the FDA to set a standard for gluten-free labeling, just as you have.  The moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here.

On August 2, 2013, the FDA ruling hit and I was ecstatic that NFCA could bring you the news.  Because this news, despite the mixed emotions among the gluten-free community, is huge.  You can imagine the feeling here at the office.  The news hit, there was a collective gasp through the office, followed by the sound of fingers pounding away on computer keyboards.  We’ve been waiting and we were ready.  We knew the rule would eventually come.  The question was when.

It took nine years.  But we did it.  All of us.  Every single member of the gluten-free community, whether you’ve been diagnosed for 20 years or 20 days.  We all played a role in getting the FDA to finalize a definition because people living with and affected by gluten-related disorders are not a small minority of people.  By speaking up together, we’ve proven that this community is large and we have a big voice. The final rule means that the gluten-free community has been heard.

“Gluten-free” has made headlines over the past few years because of the fad diet.  But, when the FDA ruled on that Friday, celiac disease went right alongside the words “gluten-free.”  The media took notice of the autoimmune disease and the reason the gluten-free diet exists in the first place.  The ruling and its implications for people with celiac disease have been in The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the front page of Yahoo!, MSN… the list goes on. That itself is something to celebrate.

I have seen the comments, questions and concerns from all of you on social media, listservs and blogs.  Some of you are thrilled with the regulations, and others are worried.  NFCA is keeping track of these and we’re compiling them so we can tackle your questions.  We are actively working on a free webinar series and complementary fact sheets so we can break down the final rule and help you understand what it all means and how it’s going to affect your everyday life.  There is a lot to this ruling and let’s be honest; some of it is downright confusing.  Just know that NFCA will get you all the information you need to make informed decisions concerning your health.  This rule is important to the staff here, too.  We’re also affected by gluten-related disorders.

For those of you who are concerned by the gluten-free labeling rule and its implications, your feelings are totally justified.  But, do take comfort in knowing there will still be certified gluten-free products, and the naturally gluten-free products we eat regularly are just the same.  While the FDA has not required manufacturers to test their products to ensure they contain less than 20 ppm of gluten, there is now an accountability system in place.  By putting “gluten-free” on a package, manufacturers inherently agree to meet the FDA standards and, with an official definition, they will be held accountable if the products fail to meet those standards.  It’s up to us to remain diligent and continue to advocate for our own health.

Keep asking questions. Voice your concerns.  Continue to tell manufacturers what we as a gluten-free community need from them. It is the persistence of the gluten-free community that pushed this ruling in the first place. There’s more work to be done, and while the FDA rule is a key milestone, you can count on NFCA and all of the celiac disease patient advocacy organizations to continue pushing for better options, greater safety, wider education and more research.  We’re just getting started!

So, as we dissect, discuss and debate the gluten-free labeling rule, let’s also take a minute to step back and appreciate what we’ve accomplished.  We have come a long way since the days of having to special order gluten-free food, and that’s a testament to our strength.  I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the free resources being developed now by NFCA to explain this ruling.  To continue this progress, we need to understand the new standards.  Whether we realize it or not, we as consumers do play a major role in shaping policy.

Let’s celebrate!  Our voices have been heard and that means we as a community have power. Together, we can continue to make changes.  We will make things better.

Alice Bast
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA)

NFCA welcomes your comments and questions on the FDA Gluten-Free Labeling Rule.  E-mail them to Your questions and comments will guide the development of our webinar series and other free educational resources that explain the FDA rule.  For the current resources, visit

September 4, 2013 at 10:00 pm Leave a comment

8 GREAT Gluten-Free Things to Do This Summer

I’m convinced that time speeds up between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Before you know it, summer is over and you’re not quite sure what you did all those months.

This year, kick off the summer with a gluten-free bucket list. Set a few goals, plan a trip or two, and see how many things you can check off your list before the season ends. Here are 8 activities to get you started:

  1. Host a backyard barbecue. Invite friends or family members over for a gluten-free cookout. Instead of the standard hot dogs and hamburgers, try grilling a whole chicken or making kebabs. Looking for inspiration? Check out the 4th of July Fun Guide our staff put together for party tips and a dip recipe.
  2. Visit a ballpark. What better way to enjoy a warm summer night than watching the game with a gluten-free hot dog? Gluten-Free Philly has a list of ballparks that now serve gluten-free concessions. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, grab a ticket to Celiac Awareness Night at the Phillies on July 20 and spend the night with gluten-free fans.Celiac Awareness Night
  3. Make your own ice cream sandwich. Grab two gluten-free cookies and a tub of your favorite flavor of ice cream. Drop a scoop of ice cream onto one cookie and place the other cookie on top. Best enjoyed surrounded by family and friends.
  4. Go camping. Surprising as it sounds, camping may be one of the most gluten-free friendly ways to travel. And it’s one of my favorites! Bring your own food and cook it in tin foil packets over a campfire. No concerns about cross-contamination here!
  5. Go for a walk. Take a stroll for a good cause by joining one of the many celiac walks this summer. If there are no awareness events in your area, consider launching your own like Athlete for Awareness Peter Bronski(50-mile run not required).Peter Bronski
  6. Take a class. The kids may be out of school, but the summer is a wonderful time for your own enrichment. Treat yourself to a wellness retreat or a gluten-free cooking class. No time? Carve out 1 hour to watch one of NFCA’s webinars.
  7. Try a new recipe. You know all those gluten-free recipes you’ve pinned on Pinterest? Now’s the time to make them. Make it a goal to cook one new recipe per week, or host a cooking party with gluten-free friends so you can test several recipes in a single afternoon.
    Guacamole Avocado Dip
  8. Root for gluten-free Olympians. A number of gluten-free athletes are vying for the gold this year. The U.S. Olympic teams are still being decided, but we’re keeping an eye returning Olympians Dana Vollmer and Jenn Suhr.

–  Alice

June 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm 1 comment

7 New Habits for Body and Mind

Last month, I saw food activist and writer Michael Pollan speak at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. As a fan of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Michael’s prescriptive to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan

During his talk, Michael noted some astounding facts that, despite all my work with the food industry, I was surprised to hear. Here are my top takeaways:

  • 40 new products are launched in supermarkets every day. That means we have a lot of choices, but also a lot of confusion about what’s best for our bodies.
  • Americans eat 20% of meals in our cars. We are all in a rush, and our on-the-go consumption is far from the mindful eating dietitians recommend.
  • There’s a new term, “nutritionalism,” that refers to our tendency to overhype “good” foods and villainize “bad” ones. We’re better off keeping things simple: more fiber, less sugar and plenty of exercise.

It’s time we all found more balance in our lives – physically, emotionally and socially. Inspired by Michael’s 7 Rules for Eating, I’ve developed 7 New Habits for Body and Mind. I encourage you to try these and to make your own list!

1) I read labels. When I shop, I not only check for gluten-free ingredients, but also read the label for sugar and carb content.

2) I have switched from olive oil to coconut oil in much of my baking.

3) I drink a green drink in the morning made with vegetables.

4) I set aside Sunday afternoons to cook a casserole and wash and cut veggies so I have wholesome weeknight meals and ready-to-grab nutritious snack foods.

Chopped Vegetables

Prep, prep, prep!

5) I stick mostly to the perimeter of the supermarket. That means fruits, veggies, lean meats and dairy.

6) I will not be orthorexic (having an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating). With so many “health” messages out there, it’s easy to go overboard. It is much better to enjoy life and savor each meal – and that includes the social aspects!

7) I have added yoga back into my life. I get stressed just like everyone else, and feeling frazzled all the time just isn’t fun. Yoga is a great workout and helps me wring out all that tension.


– Alice

February 21, 2012 at 10:03 am 1 comment

When You Can’t Do It All

Dear Friends of NFCA,

I get asked a lot, How do you do it all?  How do you run an organization, take care of your family, cook, and live a balanced life without pulling out your hair?  The answer is that I don’t do it all.  I make mistakes, but I try to learn from my mistakes.  And there are times when the ball does get dropped.

The NFCA Team

Our amazing team!

Our family recently moved. And, let me tell you, our holiday was a bit chaotic. I didn’t get any exercise for weeks on end. But my wonderful staff picked up the pieces in the office.  Thank you Cheryl, Jennifer, Nancy, Kristin, Whitney, Sue and Beckee.

I wanted to write a holiday blog post, but I honestly could not get my act together. On the bright side, I knew that it wasn’t the end of the world and that you would all understand. No one is perfect. We all do the best that we can, and my family needed my time and attention.  And I needed to unpack and organize my belongings.  Thank you, team NFCA!

– Alice

January 12, 2012 at 11:30 am 2 comments

Gluten-Free Adventures at Expo West…and an Ode to Bloggers

Eight years ago, I started the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness to make “gluten-free” a household word.  Our goal was to raise awareness of celiac disease so we could have a voice:  increase availability, affordability, safety, tasty and understanding… and eventually fund research.

Well, the market for gluten-free foods has soared.  We are currently a $2.64 billion industry, and the marketplace is expected to double in the next 4 years.  15% of all consumers are looking for gluten-free foods, and at Expo West, gluten-free labels were EVERYWHERE!

Jillian Michaels at Expo West

Yep, that's fitness buff Jillian Michaels!

On the convention floor, I stood in amazement of the rows of gluten-free products. I didn’t know which way to turn. To the right for Rudi’s great gluten-free grilled cheese and chicken sandwiches; to the left to Glutenfreeda’s  fabulous new Pizza Wraps; down another aisle to Kettle Cuisine’s unbelievable Thai Curry Chicken Soup.  Haine Celestial’s booth was piled high with sections of gluten-free products.  I even found a new meal replacement protein drink called Svelte. It was heaven on earth.


My new gluten-free find: Svelte!

All three gluten-free presentations were standing room only.  When I stepped down from the podium, people asked questions for a ½ hour.  They even followed me out the door.

At one point in the day, I was speaking with Anne Whalen, editor of Gluten Free Living, and renowned dietitian Shelley Case. We all agreed: Our time has come! We have all dreamt of this day, and it’s finally here.

Of course, this couldn’t have happened without the help of a very dedicated group: the bloggers. Thanks to their daily posts, rapid-fire tweets and enticing recipes, gluten-free has nestled into solid ground online and in stores.

Gluten-Free Bloggers

My "New York Crew" of gluten-free gals!

So, to the blogging community: Thank you for making a difference for all of us. Thank you for being such passionate advocates; we now have a voice!  We can and are bringing about change. Awareness and interest have driven the growth of gluten-free products, making our lives and the lives of others better.

Basically, you all rock! And I especially enjoyed spending time with you over the past couple weeks.

(Stay tuned to Celiac Central: Bits & Bites. These fantastic celiac and gluten-free bloggers will be making an appearance in May!)


March 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm 1 comment

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