Cooking has always been a part of my life. I grew up with a working single mother and helping cook dinner was one of my chores that I always enjoyed. My grandmother was known for being a great cook in her community and I loved her food. So I learned from the best.
About 15 years ago I discovered my gluten-intolerance. Back then gluten-free food in the market was almost nonexistent and honestly, pretty terrible. Finding a way to still eat my favorite foods was a huge motivation to cook.
When a career change became necessary a few years ago I decided to brave culinary school. Being gluten-free in a French culinary school was quite a challenge. Fortunately my instructors encouraged me to experiment with gluten-free substitutions. We had some fun utterly failing at gluten-free rice pasta but there were many successes as well. My goal was to be able to compete on par with my classmates. My food had to be as good or better. I didn’t want it to be “good for gluten-free,” I wanted it to be good period! And my food easily passed the test of culinary school standards.
For me, being a gluten-free chef is about re-creating everyone’s favorite traditional dishes in a gluten-free version that is as good as or better than the original. My clients long for the food they used to eat so they can feel “normal” again. Parents are concerned that their young children will feel left out if they have to eat different food. Gluten-free people want to be able to host their friends and family for holidays and not feel the burden of cooking separate gluten-free dishes in addition to the regular menu. So it’s a bonus that I can teach people to prepare gluten-free meals that are so good, everyone at the table will love it.
Fortunately these days, as any gluten-free person knows, finding good gluten-free products is easier than ever. I can skip over the part where I have to make everything from scratch and focus on the techniques that produce amazing gluten-free dishes.
-Chef Janet K.