1. First of all are you Celiac? No, I have non-celiac gluten intolerance. I don’t have the celiac genes; nonetheless, I get sick when I eat gluten.
2. How did you become interested in his area – gluten and celiac? I was told to avoid wheat in 1988, after decades of sinus infections. I realized that my converted gluten-free recipes could help others and I published my first cookbook in 1995.
3. You have a lot going on. What a woman! What is a full day with “Carol Fenster” like? A full day starts with checking email and filling orders for books. Then into the kitchen to develop recipes for my 10th cookbook (due in 2011) or for my consulting clients, such as Bob’s Red Mill. In between, I answer calls from customers, do interviews with the media, and plan my next speaking engagements. Right now, I’m speaking to the Canadian Dietitians Annual Conference in Montreal next week and the following week I‘m speaking to the Gluten Intolerance Group annual conference in Minneapolis.
4. Tell me about Savory Palate, Inc.? Can you explain in detail what this is, please? This is my educational and publishing firm that I founded in 1995 to teach people how to eat when they have food sensitivities.
5. You are quite an author! Prior to your terrific gluten-free cookbooks, did you have any “traditional” cooking training, background or expertise? I have always cooked and baked, even as a child. My first favorite recipe was a cornflake/coconut cookie and I was probably about 10 years old when I first started making it. I have never attended cooking school, but learned “on the job.” There has never been any formal training available for chefs who want to specialize in gluten-free cooking. Hopefully, that will change as the gluten-free market grows.
6. Which of your cookbooks would you recommend as the best one to provide to a person who is new to the gluten-free diet and why? I wrote Gluten-Free 101 with the beginner in mind. It contains simple, basic recipes that are written in extremely easy-to-understand terms.
7. Do your cookbooks include an assortment of recipes that span the globe ethnically? If so, what research did you have to do? Yes, across all 10 cookbooks, especially the big one— 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes— I have quite a few ethnic recipes. I travel quite a bit, eat out frequently, and read a lot of food magazines. All of them inspire me. Once I understood the different gluten-free flours and how they perform, adapting a recipe to be gluten-free became fairly easy.
8. Out of the many 1,000s of recipes you’ve created, which is your best and #1 crowd pleaser for even the trickiest of palates, even the non-GF eaters? It is a Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe.
9. Your idea to create an activity book for kids to explain the concept of gluten-free is truly wonderful. What inspired you to write this book? Actually, I published this book for the author Nancy Falini, a dietitian who specializes in celiac kids. That was another reason I founded my company…to make sure books like this are published. At the time we published it (2003) I doubt that any big New York publisher (the ones who publish my cookbook) would have been interested because the market was still considered fairly small.
10. I read you are a consultant. In terms of your work as a consultant, what exactly do you provide as part of this service and can you explain how this fits into your role? I offer my recipe development expertise, so I develop either recipes or mixes for companies. Right now, I’m developing recipes for a Canadian client who wants gluten-free recipes made with beans, peas, and lentils. I love the challenge and the food is turning out fantastic.
11. You’ve consulted for Bob’s Red Mill which is terrific. Can you share what this role of yours comprised? Since 2000, I have developed nearly all of their gluten-free products, particularly the mixes for bread, cakes, cookies, pancakes, and brownies. I also keep them abreast on gluten-free trends and teach gluten-free classes in their cooking school. They are a terrific company to work with (check out the May 24 issue of People Magazine, which describes how the owner gave the company to his employees.)
12. Any other companies which you’ve consulted or consult currently? A few that I can mention, in addition to Bob’s Red Mill, are the U.S. Grains Council in Tokyo, Canadian Pulse Association, Western Commerce, and National Sorghum Growers. There are others that I can’t mention due to our contractual arrangements.
13. Do you provide consultation for companies that cater to any other “special” diets? If so, which diets are those? I have worked with Enjoy Life Foods in their early days. Their products are devoid of all the major food allergens.
14. For those who are allergic to eggs and dairy products, common in many traditional recipes, what are some of the substitutes that you suggest? In place of eggs, I use either egg-replacer powder, soft silken tofu, or flaxseed meal instead of eggs.
15. What about sugar substitutes and what are the conversions for these? There are many, many sugar substitutes… too many to list here. They all have their pluses and minuses. One of my favorite is agave nectar, also called agave syrup. In baking, I use it 1:1 in place of sugar, but each recipe has to be individually tailored to reduce the liquid since agave is a liquid.
16. Please briefly explain the www.GFreeCuisine.com website and what it offers. This is a weekly, online cookbook that offers 10 entrees/sides per week. You choose 5, and get the recipes and shopping list organized by grocery store departments. In addition, you get access to a lot of additional recipes for breads, desserts, snacks, and appetizers. All recipes are dairy-free and at least 3 of the weekly choices are vegetarian to meet our growing demand for meatless meals. It is really quite inexpensive, at only $10 per month.
17. What is your mission behind this site? After two decades, I have learned that there are some people who want help in planning meals and knowing what to buy when they go grocery shopping. For some of us, this just comes naturally. For others, a little guidance is all they need and they’re able to feed their families each week with a minimum of effort. And, increasingly, there are people who want their information digitally rather than in cookbook form.
18. In terms of the recipes that are offered through the site, are these your recipe creations or are you including recipes created by others as well? These are all my own recipes.
19. If there are others that help you on your recipe site, would you like to share any details about them? I have two partners who are responsible for the technological side of the business, such as managing the database of recipes, posting the weekly menu choices, etc. They are wonderfully creative, savvy women who are a joy to work with.
20. What if one’s local grocery store selection doesn’t contain many of the gluten-free food products that you recommend
to purchase? Can you provide customers with appropriate gluten-free shopping resources? If so, which ones?? I use the list from www.ClanThompson.com to find gluten-free brands. I only make suggestions for brands; there are usually many other brands that might work and we know that there are regional variations in product availability. I always try to suggest the brand that is most widely available, e.g., Tinkyada pasta seems to be in both grocery stores and health food stores so I mention that brand. However, there are many other good brands of gluten-free pasta.
21. It’s terrific that you’ve streamlined the task of gluten-free meal-planning/grocery-shopping for busy families and individuals. What kinds of responses have you received for the services provided by the GFreeCuisine site? Our customer base continues to grow and subscribers are pleased to have guidance at such a low monthly price. But this service is only appropriate for those who use their computers to get information. We don’t send out the recipes in paper form.
22. You truly have a sincere desire to help others with their particular dietary needs. How can anyone best stay connected and track along with your releases, helpful tips and recipes? Read my weekly blog at www.GfreeCuisine.com/blog or my monthly newsletter, Carol’s Culinary Cues, at www.glutenfree101.com.
23. There’s a wealth of terrific celiac support groups as we both know. Which ones do you work with and in what capacity? I support them all in one way or another; I donate cookbooks to them for raffles at their meeting, I place ads in their publications, and I am also a sponsor for others. Next week, I’m a speaker at the Gluten Intolerance Group annual conference in Minneapolis. So, it varies from group to group.
24. I understand that you’re involved in speaking engagements at many celiac conferences and events. How might one stay up to date on your speaking schedule? I list them in my monthly newsletter, Carol’s Culinary Cues, which you’ll find on my web site at www.glutenfree101.com.
25. Your contributions to the celiac community are undeniable, what are your plans for future gluten-free cookbooks? I have a healthy gluten-free cookbook coming out in 2011; it is not titled yet.
26. Any other specific plans for expansion we can look forward to? No expansion plans in the near term.
27. Any other activities, books or causes you are involved in which you’d like to share today? I host “Cook for the Cure” dinner parties as fundraisers for breast cancer research.
28. Any my final question is for YOU – if you could share any one thing broadly with others, what would you like to say or share? There is a substitute for almost every “problem” ingredient, so don’t let food sensitivities get in the way of enjoying your food.
Thank you Carol!
ABOUT CAROL FENSTER: Carol Fenster is the author of nine gluten-free cookbooks, including the award-winning 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes (Wiley, 2008) and the forthcoming 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes (Wiley, 2010). She offers a weekly gluten-free menu planning service at www.GfreeCuisine.com, one of the first of its kind. She develops the gluten-free products for industry leader Bob’s Red Mill and appears on PBS, the Health Network as well as many radio, newspaper, and web sites. She is a guest speaker at the American Dietetic Association, International Association of Culinary Professionals, Whole Grains Council, Disney, National Product Expo, FoodEX in Tokyo, and the Institute for Biophysics and Genetics in Italy. She is the former associate food editor at Living Without magazine, and her articles, recipes, quotes, photos, and reviews of her books appear in USA Today, Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest, New York Times, Washington Post, Woman’s World, Vegetarian Times, Delicious Living, Today’s Dietitian, Living Without, Gluten-Free Living, Energy Times, Better Nutrition, Taste for Life, Women’s Health, Yoga Journal, and Edible Front Range.
From our home to yours, Tina Turbin.