Prior to following a gluten free diet, I worked as a baker, then pastry chef, then as a culinary instructor. When people discover this about me, they immediately want to know why I became gluten free. To them, someone like me would be the last person to follow this diet; a stalwart against the supposed fad-seekers and trend followers. So why? The answer is, "Because I had to." It can really be that simple.
The arc of most gluten free tales like my own is almost as predictable as a good ol' fashioned romance novel. I felt unwell. I sought medical advice. I tried a gluten free diet. I felt better. I wanted to confirm it was gluten, which in my case meant I really didn't want this to be the reason. I cheated. I got sick. I am now more diligent than ever. Sound familiar?
So, in order to spare you, I will not wring my hands, lament or wax poetic about the so-called cruel twists and turns of life. I will not tell my tale as a tale of gluten free woe. Rather, I can say resoundingly, that all my culinary experience has made this easier. And even though I now own my own business, I still consider myself a pastry chef. I haven't forgotten the language of "kitchen." It is a language of the eyes as well as the ears; the hands as well as the tongue. It was burned into my brain and body during my first job baking in a restaurant. My chef was economical with words, spoke in fractured sentences, scolded with his eyes, shouted orders while walking away, and taught through quick demonstration. Shut up and keep up. The message was clear. And I was hooked.
Oddly, in an industry that runs short on explanations and hates follow-up questions, I found I was good at explaining and training. Creating food was my passion but teaching about food was a unique skill I possessed. Thankfully I was allowed to combine the two. The language of culinary instructor is like kitchen-speak only it is a softer, more lilting, more romantic dialect. Culinary school was the place for whys and what-ifs. A safe place to go slow, to try new things, to fail. Students had paid for the privilege of time, explanations and above all, patience. Upon diagnosis, I became a lame duck. Sure I had lots of information to share and techniques to demonstrate, but I. Could. Not. Taste. The. Food. My students deserved better. I deserved more. Cheatin' Wheat was born.
Now I am a business owner, a woman entrepreneur and all that jazz...Uh-huh. At heart I am still a baker and a teacher. I just happen to be gluten free. Is it different? Not really. The fundamentals of good baking and good kitchen sense still apply. I use all those lessons learned years ago, everyday.