By Nicole Knegt
Hello everyone! My name is Nicole Knegt and I have taken on the position of Publicity and Awareness for the Kelowna Celiac Association. I thought that it would be good for me to introduce myself and write about a few opportunities I have had to represent the Kelowna Celiac Association in the past few months.
A bit about myself. My husband and I were the owners and operators of Four Spoons Gluten-Free Bakery, that served the Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market for three years. I baked and Matthew took care of the business side of things. I am the owner and content developer for Four Spoons Gluten Free Recipes .com, as well as the Four Spoons YouTube Cooking Channel. I am also a contributor to Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube Network. I am in front of the camera teaching how to bake gluten-free and my husband does all of the videography and post-production. We have a lot of fun doing it.
Okanagan Culinary Arts Program
In February and March I was given the opportunity to lecture at Okanagan College in their Culinary Arts Program. The first lecture was for the apprenticeship program and consisted of an hour and half talk on food allergies, intolerance and the gluten-free diet. For the first half of the lecture I discussed ways to mitigate the risk of cross-contact in the restaurant kitchen when serving gluten-free and allergic customers. For the second half, I spoke on gluten-free baking technique. It was an incredible opportunity to teach these new chefs the basics and help to remove any misconceptions they may have had regarding allergies and celiac disease.
For the second lecture, I spoke to the Pastry Arts Program. The students in this particular class were very interested and engaged in the subject matter. I presented the same lecture, but it took almost twice as long because the students had so many questions. After the lecture we got down to some gluten-free baking in the school’s bake shop. We made a master dough that could be used to make bread, buns and cinnamon rolls. It was such a pleasure to teach these students because they were so interested and enthusiastic. That particular lecture lasted almost 6 hours in total!
I have encouraged one of the head Chefs of the Okanagan College Culinary Arts Program to take the Gluten-Free Learning Module through the Canadian Celiac Association. My hope is that the school will include a gluten-free module in future curriculum. If we can see the Culinary Arts Program educate the next generation of chefs with a working knowledge of celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, we will really be getting somewhere.
Okanagan Chefs Association
I also had the privilege of addressing the Okanagan Chefs Association. This group is dedicated to the food and beverage industry in the Okanagan and includes most of the top, gourmet chefs throughout the valley. This past Monday I joined the association for their monthly meeting, held at Ricardo’s Mediterranean Kitchen. I was given about fifteen minutes to address the chefs on the subject of the food allergies and the diseases that necessitate a gluten-free diet.
It was an incredible opportunity to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions around the gluten-free diet. It was also really good to hear the frustration that many chefs feel when it comes to people who choose to be on a “gluten-free diet” that is not medically necessary. This frustration stems from the contradictory behavior of some customers who ask for a gluten-free meal and then cheat at the end of the meal with a not so gluten-free dessert. It takes great care for a chef to prepare a gluten-free meal and this extra work is a waste of time when a customer does not stick to their diet.
A number of chefs approached me to tell me of the policies and procedures their restaurant has put in place in order to safely serve celiacs. I was very encouraged. I hope to begin a series of blog posts highlighting restaurants in the valley that are doing an excellent job at serving gluten-free meals. If you have a favourite restaurant that you would like to give a shout-out to on this site, please contact me at email@example.com.