Back in the day, people who had to eat gluten-free were somewhat abused. They didn’t have the options and variety of food products available in today’s market.
And taste was never a consideration.
“Gluten-free shouldn’t taste like the …
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“Gluten-free shouldn’t taste like the box the product came in,” said John Irvin, owner of Gluten Free Things in Arvada.
Gluten intolerance is not a new concept; there’s just a lot more awareness of it, said DeAnn Wieber, owner of The Golden Baking Company in Golden, which offers a variety of gluten-free pastries and breads.
“People come through the doors and say they’ve been having problems for 20 years,” she said. “It’s just more well-known now.”
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. If ingested by someone who is intolerant, a number of uncomfortable symptoms can occur, including depression, abdominal pain, headaches and chronic fatigue. However, each person can react differently. There is no cure for gluten sensitivity, but symptoms improve when a strict diet is followed in which gluten is eliminated.
But some people suffer from more than an intolerance.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is often hereditary.
There is a difference between uncomfortable dietary problems and the actual celiac disease, said Jeff Cleary, co-owner of Grateful Bread Company.
One theory about why people may have reactions to products with gluten versus gluten-free goods is that most gluten-free products do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Wieber said.
Irvin agreed. He has customers who have told him that they ate wheat products in Europe, which does not allow GMOs, with no problem. They thought they were cured, he said, but when they returned to the U.S., they got sick after eating a product that was not gluten-free.
Similarly, Grateful Bread has had customers who can eat certain types of their artisan breads, but not most products containing gluten. It may be because of a longer fermenting period, versus a mass-produced product found in the grocery store, Cleary suggested.
The bakery, which specializes in artisan breads, opted not to venture into the gluten-free field for a couple of reasons, Cleary and his wife Kathy Mullen said.
First, in order to ensure no cross-contamination, Grateful Bread would need to get a separate facility, Mullen said. Also, a whole new process would have to be learned.
“It’s very specialized,” Cleary said. “It’s not like baking bread.”
Plus, he added, Grateful Bread stays busy with its established customer base, and there are lots of bakeries that make gluten-free products very well.
“When you’re baking gluten-free, you have to think gluten-free,” Irvin said.
People want high-quality, gluten-free items, he added. It’s similar to going out to dinner at a steak house — a person wants a quality steak, and not a burger from a fast-food restaurant.
Irvin, who has a background in mechanical engineering, said he was taught to think about process. There was a lot of experimentation, he said, but now his bakery can offer people great products that are not only gluten-free, but can also cater to vegan diets or people with egg or dairy issues.
He considers himself a minimalist, he said. “I try to eliminate as much as possible that may cause an allergic reaction in someone.”
“It’s nice to be able to cater to everybody,” said Ryan Schwarz, manager at CD’s Wings in Westminster, “so they can still enjoy the foods they like to eat.”
The restaurant has been actively advertising its gluten-free options for about two years, she said.
A big part of it was education on gluten-free diets and training staff on what to be aware of, Schwarz said. For example, the restaurant uses a separate fryer for gluten-free wings, and takes caution not to package foods that contain gluten with foods that are gluten-free.
Schwarz has some food allergies, and her mother is has a celiac disorder, she said.
“It’s definitely all about the education,” she said, “because you want to make sure people don’t get sick.”
The Golden Baking Company tries to offer people who cannot have gluten everything they are used to, Wieber said.
“It’s a treat for people to be able to come and have anything they want — gluten-free,” she said.
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