You know that face people make when they find out the brownies you brought to work are gluten-free? Yeah, that face, the one that usually includes a wrinkled nose. True, there are a few people that are open minded and try them and then actually admit they are good, but we’ve all heard one version or another of “I’d just curl up and die if I had to eat like you.”
Yes, something as innocent as a brownie can at times draw out incredibly thoughtless comments. It’s as if some people have an aversion to gluten-free food. A firm belief that it can’t be good because it is different. Maybe they associate it with being sick, instead of understanding firsthand that it facilitates healing. Maybe they equate a gluten-free diet to being deprived.
So, what if the most famous chef in America known for having the highest standards put his stamp of approval on something gluten-free? What if he served it at his restaurants?
How do you think this could change the stigma associated with following a gluten-free diet?
Food aficionados will recognize the name Thomas Keller or at least the name of one of his famous eateries such as French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon. In my opinion, he’s the Ferran Adria of the United States.
Keller’s Per Se is arguably the best restaurant in all of New York City, with prices to match the stellar reputation. At my former corporate job I used to listen to executives swap stories about eating in the finest restaurants on the planet. During one of these conversations centered around Per Se, I overheard the wife of an executive say with mock frugality, “Oh, the prices there are a bit too frivolous…” Her hub then quickly interjected, “But you eat there for the overall experience.”
Well, imagine how this little food blogger felt when I was invited to attend a gluten-free tea at Per Se Tuesday, November 1st to celebrate the launch of Keller’s latest venture! Keller partnered with fellow French Laundry Chef Lena Kwak in order to share her creation of Cup4Cup gluten-free all purpose flour with aspiring bakers everywhere.
My friend Christine excited about her gift of Cup4Cup. She’s not gluten-free, but she’s a huge Keller fan. She said everything tasted outrageously delicious.
I didn’t know what to expect, other than the best of the best. I didn’t even know if Thomas Keller would be there, since I had seen on Twitter he would be on the Martha Stewart show at 10:00am and the tea was at noon.
You can probably picture my surprise when immediately upon walking through the famous blue door my friend and I were greeted by what appeared to be Thomas Keller himself!
Now, I rarely get starstruck. Really, I used to work across the hall from Starr & Company, where celebrities walked by my glass doors every day. On occasion I got to see people make fools of themselves over someone like Al Pacino, Joe Torre or Julius Irving.
For some reason though, perhaps caught off guard by Chef Keller’s warm welcome, I felt as if I’d just met Sir Paul McCartney or something!! I was almost speechless, something that doesn’t happen to me very often!
Upon entering the private dining room filled with gorgeous gluten-free tea time treats, my friend Christine and I were handed a glass of champagne to quaff. A moment passed, and we looked at each other with the same goofy smile and said almost in sync, “I think that was Thomas Keller!”
“Tom” was great at working the room full of writers from all of the top food magazines and websites. I bumped into him munching near the savory table and he highly recommended the flat breads. There was no trace of cockiness or a condescending attitude you might expect from a famous chef. He had a super approachable down-to-earth demeanor. In fact, as the room emptied, he suddenly appeared before us with an invitation to tour the kitchen!
Overall, the whole vibe at Per Se wasn’t hoity toity. It doesn’t seem to be about attitude, it’s all about excellence.
It turns out that originally Kwak had the assignment to figure out how to create a gluten-free version of Keller’s famous salmon cornet. After creating an all purpose gluten-free flour blend, she then used it to make breads and pastries. The story goes that once a guest at The French Laundry started crying after eating a gluten-free brioche, Keller and Kwan decided to make the blend available to the general public. Now you can buy it at Williams-Sonoma and Bouchon bakeries nationwide. A 3lb bag retails for $19.95.
It was an excellent tea and an amazing, perhaps once in a lifetime experience! I felt deeply honored not only to meet Thomas Keller and Lena Kwak, but to be able to personally thank them for attaching their names to a quality gluten-free product. I truly believe this can only benefit those of us that have to eat gluten-free. It sends a message to the world that we can enjoy excellent food! We can enjoy living gluten-free!
Thank you again, Thomas Keller and Lena Kwak!!!