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NRA Show: Gluten-free and growing

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Julie Scianna opened her Frankfort bakery and cafe because, she says, "I just wanted a place for my kids to eat."

But it wasn't that simple.

Scianna has celiac disease. When she started her business, one of her four kids tested positive for the gene. Since then, the rest of them have, too. 5-22_Lachat_gluten_1.jpg

Scianna (at right, with chef Andrew Hebda) opened OMG It's Gluten Free last February. Her signature items include lasagna, pizza and baked goods -- foods that are particularly hard to come by for celiacs, and which also suffer from not tasting all that good in gluten-free form.

Growth in her business has been rapid; her products are in 20 retail outlets, including Whole Foods and Sunset Foods. The numbers of celiac sufferers nationwide also is rising -- about 1 to 2 percent of the population, and "we know that figure is doubling every 20 years," says Carol Shilson, executive director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. (Also worth noting: Between 95 to 96 percent of those with the disease don't even know they have it. And, the number of people with a gluten insensitivity is four to five times that of those with celiac.)

At the National Restaurant Association's annual show, which ran through Tuesday at McCormick Place, Scianna was drumming up business for the new wholesale end of her business. She recently expanded her kitchen to accommodate production, which will include her lasagna, pizza, three cookie varieties, four muffins, brownies and cookie dough.

Scianna is in talks to provide Levy Restaurants and Little Miss Muffin, both based in Chicago, with gluten-free products, as well as a certain extremely famous amusement park not in Chicago.

[photo by Jean Lachat~Sun-Times]

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page contains a single entry by Janet Rausa Fuller published on May 24, 2011 11:35 AM.

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