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National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) Chef Ambassador Discusses the Gl

NFCA Chef Ambassador talks about the popular gluten-free diet trend.
Chef Jehangir Mehta

“Going gluten-free” is a widely popular diet trend for many people today. It continues to be a booming trend that now stands at $20 billion, according to SPINS a consumer market insight firm. But while many dieters and restaurants have enthusiastically embraced gluten-free, it’s casual application can have serious medical consequences for people with celiac disease, a real, genetic autoimmune disease. It is a medical condition that affects one in 133 people.

Chef Jehangir Mehta, National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) Chef Ambassador and Next Iron Chef finalist, was at the National Restaurant Association Show this week in Chicago. He talked to Brandi Walker about the consequences a gluten-free diet could have on people with celiac disease, what local Chicago restaurants and cafeterias serve quality foods for people with this disease and a new training program about the diet trend.

1. What sort of medical consequences does the gluten-free diet have on people with celiac disease? The gluten-free diet is lifesaving for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Just one crumb of a gluten-containing food can trigger an immune reaction in someone with celiac disease.

2. What foods do you feel make up a good gluten-free meal? I focus on fresh, naturally gluten-free foods in my dishes and things like lentils and chickpeas, which can have so much versatility. The spices I use are influential in developing interesting flavors and can also be helpful for digestion. For example, turmeric is very healing.

3. What other foods can contaminate a gluten-free meal and pose medical consequences for people with celiac disease? Knowledge is so important when it comes to gluten-free ingredients. It’s not just things like soy sauce, where wheat is right on the label, but things you might not think of like marinades. You also have to be especially careful when it comes to grains. You even have to be careful about naturally gluten-free grains, like oats, soy and millet. They have to be labeled gluten-free.

4. What local restaurants and school cafeterias serve healthy food for people with this disease? In the Chicago area, you are lucky enough to have Berghoff’s where Carlyn Berghoff has provided her restaurant with GREAT (Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training) Kitchens training and she has a personal commitment to gluten-free food safety because her daughter has celiac disease.

5. Tell me more about Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training program (GREAT). The wonderful thing about GREAT Kitchens is that it’s not just a training program. It teaches everyone in the restaurant the reason behind the commitment we are asking them to make and then helps them to assess their operations to determine how they can offer gluten-free safely. From a practical standpoint, GREAT Kitchens is five multi-media modules, but can be delivered in person, as well. It also has a 100-page training manual that includes a self-audit checklist, training logs, posters, recipes and even an allergen supplement. The link to GREAT Kitchens can be found at Your readers can download a Dining Tips sheet that includes a coupon restaurants can use for a discount on gluten-free training.

To learn more, please visit the NFCA website at

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