Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tour Brings Gluten-Free Chefs

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tour Brings Gluten-Free Chefs

Article excerpt

A gluten-free, vegan pastry chef: Is that even possible?

Think about it: What are the main ingredients in most desserts? Flour, eggs, butter, cream -- all either gluten or animal products.

But a chef on the Celiac Awareness Tour has proved that not only is it possible to bake without those, but also that there is a growing niche market for it.

Jean-Rene Renusson, who develops gluten-free desserts and breads for Savory Foods in Grand Rapids, Mich., will be one of the featured speakers when the tour kicks off Saturday at the DoubleTree in Monroeville.

Mr. Renusson literally grew up in the kitchen, taking his first steps in the kitchen of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago, where his father was head pastry chef. He followed in his father's footsteps and became a pastry chef, too.

But he became a vegetarian about 12 years ago, and three years ago he narrowed his diet even further to become a vegan.

Through experimentation, he found that he "had a knack for making something that shouldn't be vegan into something vegan."

That sixth sense has allowed him to work with gluten-free products, too, for the last year and a half or so. Savory Foods, which makes baked goods and gourmet popcorns for wholesale, fundraising and corporate gifts, hired Mr. Renusson to develop some gluten-free lines. So far he's invented eight varieties of gluten- free cookies, two cakes and a banana bread that he says is particularly scrumptious.

"It's trial and error," he said of learning to bake gluten-free. "You really have to learn your flours."

In Pittsburgh, Mr. Renusson will take the main stage to demonstrate a vegan pesto to top Savory Foods' gluten-free garlic pizza crust, as well as a tomato tortilla soup recipe.

Other presenters on Saturday include Chef Anna Harouvis, owner of Good to Go Cafe in Cleveland, who will demonstrate raw pasta and macadamia-nut brownies, and "Chef of the Future" Peter Klarman, a food and nutrition researcher from Louisville who will prepare "magic quinoa."

This is the third year the tour has kicked off in Pittsburgh, and director Lou Reyes notes that the tour always welcomes an enthusiastic crowd here.

"I don't know if it's more of a foodie area, but we've found that people in Pittsburgh are very passionate and ask a lot of questions."

Other activities on Saturday include opportunities to meet celiac- disease experts and sample products from more than 30 gluten-free local and national food vendors.

Doors open at 9 a.m. Admission is $10, or free for children under 12. Information: celiacawarenesstour.com or 1-440-799-4344.

Transplant benefit

In 2007, Peters resident Geri Whalen developed kidney disease following the birth of her third child. A transplant was her only hope of survival.

On Jan. 16, her sister Dana Christner, who lives in North Carolina, donated a kidney to Mrs. Whalen. The sisters are reportedly recovering well, but now the medical bills start to kick in.

Family and friends are hosting a fundraiser starting at 5 p.m. today at Del's Bar & Ristorante in Bloomfield. For a $10 cover charge, there will be a food bar (wings, pizza, appetizers and pasta), silent auction and drinks served by a guest bartender. All proceeds, tips and donations will go to the National Foundation for Transplants for Mrs. Whalen's medical expenses. To contribute, visit patients. …

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