Pastry Chefs with Wheat Allergies and Celiac Disease
Over the past decade, people may have noticed a major shift in menu items at restaurants. Now, Italian restaurants, big fast food chains and mom and pop spots have gluten-free options.
Many may scoff at the idea of eating gluten-free food, instantly filing it under “fad-diets,” and dismissing its validity. However, gluten-free dishes are not just for waist-watchers; gluten allergies and celiac disease affect a tremendous amount of people in this country, and the numbers are on the rise.
Gluten allergies and celiac disease do not only limit what a person can eat: they can limit what a person can do. Take Tami Blinn, for example. Blinn has such a strong allergic reaction to wheat that if she were to put her hand in a flour bin with a scoop, she would instantly develop a rash. While this would be limiting enough for the average person, it can put a halt on Blinn's career, who is a pastry chef with a gluten allergy.
Blinn, who is a co-owner of Craftkitchen in Henderson, Nevada, did not always have a wheat allergy. Shockingly, Blinn’s allergist blames her perpetual, decade-long exposure to flour for her newfound intolerance. In 2013, Blinn began to break out in severe hives, and once a doctor medicated her, the hives transformed into a full-body rash. After some intense allergy tests, Blinn was made aware of her new food allergies, one of which was gluten.
Blinn explained that certain changes she has made in her personal life have greatly helped how she has been feeling. She said, “For me, it was just a matter of eliminating it from my diet. I immediately felt better. Just being gluten-free, I don’t have the reactions I did. If I inadvertently have wheat, my body tells me right away with the symptoms I had.”
However, the personal adjustments are difficult to deal with when work requires being around gluten all day long. Blinn added, “It is a struggle, but just from the years of being around pastries, for the most part, I’m able to troubleshoot if something isn’t baked or doesn’t look like it has the right texture.”
While her gluten allergy has limited certain aspects of her life, Blinn’s new impediment has helped her to better cater her clientele. When Blinn and her husband, Jaret, opened Craftkitchen three years ago, they both were aware of her allergy. To make things a little bit more complicated, their daughter has an extreme peanut allergy, so finding a place to go out to eat is near-impossible.
This experience helped Blinn shape Craftkitchen. She said, “There weren’t too many options for us even five years ago,” Blinn explains. “We wanted to be that local place that said we would modify to meet any dietary restrictions.” As a result, the past few years have presented guests who are more vocal and open about any dietary restrictions or allergies that they want to be known.
Photo source: Tami Blinn by The Las Vegas Review Journal