Get to know: The Allergy Chef
Hello and Happy Friday!
I’m super excited to start my new feature on my blog which is called ‘Get to know’. I have loved spending the past few months learning about amazing brands, some more built up and some start up companies. I think it’s best that we can use social media to help grow businesses however that only comes with one major challenge- competition. I’ve also come across some wonderfully inspiring people and that’s what this particular blog post is about today!
I’d like to introduce to you The Allergy Chef. I came across this company on Instagram after posting on there about my food allergies and straight away I had a message in my inbox from them telling me that they would happily help with recipes to suit my allergies. How amazing is that? So I contacted them and wanted to learn more and now I want to share it with you. If you have allergies or know someone that does- please tell them about The Allergy Chef because they are changing how the world views allergens.
The interview 📝
1.) Tell me a little bit about you and your company.
I’m Kathlena, The Allergy Chef. I have over 200 food allergies and intolerances. I can’t drink most water, and am contact and airborne allergic. Some people think my mask is a gimmick, but it’s a medical device that filters my air because I can’t. I am determined to make the world a better place for people with food allergies.
Our family founded Free and Friendly Foods, LLC in 2016. We’ve been a food allergy family for 16 years, and when we were starting out, the resources simply weren’t available. We did a lot on our own. After a long while of this, we tossed around the idea of a cookbook, or a blog – something to help others in a way that we weren’t. After a lot of false starts and trying to figure out direction, we settled on Free and Friendly Foods, because we’re gluten free, dairy free, etc., and paleo friendly, vegan friendly, etc. It ended up being so many terms, that Free and Friendly seemed to fit so well.
Our company has several branches. We have a small bakery in the San Francisco Bay Area, we do local outreach through The Allergy Chef in The Classroom program, we do nationwide outreach through the Food Allergy Awareness Expedition, we have a presence online and do a weekly live cooking show on Instagram, we also have cookbooks, and a blog with hundreds of free recipes. We also offer consultation and custom recipe development for individuals and families. More than anything, we are trying to help people with food allergies in any way that we can.
2.) Describe who your normal customer is and how they benefit from your company.
Truthfully, we don’t have a normal customer. People without food allergies are in love with our baked goods and order regularly. The one common link with most of our regulars is that they are food aware. They are either aware of the junk in conventional options, or aware of the allergens in conventional options. The people who benefit the most are those with multiple, severe, food allergies. Parents love find us because we’re usually the one safe place for their children.
3.) It’s this time next year- where would you like to be and how do you plan to achieve it?
This time next year, I’d love to be a household name. We like to see ourselves as a cross between Oprah and Rachael Rey. We want to make a huge impact on the world, and have those with allergies have access to safe and delicious food. Hopefully a few viral posts can get us there, hehe. The reality is though, empires don’t build themselves overnight. It’s going to take us at least 5 years to get to a much bigger place, and that’s OK.
4.) What makes your recipes unique?
What makes us unique is that we aren’t your traditional allergy free food. Wether it’s from our bakery, our books, or our blog, we break all of the rules. I hate the idea that everything gluten free has to be made from rice. I hate the idea that Paleo treats contain nuts and coconut. I hate the idea that vegan treats contain gluten. You get the idea. With every recipe I make, I give myself a challenge to include as many people as possible, without compromising on flavor and quality.
We’re also unique in that there aren’t many pre-packaged foods in our recipes, and we’re preservative free. Most of what we do is from-scratch, easy to replicate, and easy to substitute in what you can have safely.
5.) What advice would you give to people who suffer with allergies or intolerances?
The advise that I would give is: first, feel sorry for yourself for five minutes. Next, eat something sweet, even if it’s just a date, so you don’t feel deprived. Finally, get busy doing something to improve your situation. Diagnosis is the hardest part, but there are so many tools, resources, and companies, all trying to help you thrive.Learn how to read food labels, learn about cross contamination, and keep a good food journal if you’re still having issues with food.
6.) What do your cupcakes say about you?
My cupcakes say that I’m out to change the world. We created something that’s beautiful in presentation, delicious in taste, and safe for just about everyone. We even have a sugar free cupcake that’s delicious. We also have a Paleo and Grain Free line to ensure that no one is left out, and everything from our bakery is Vegan. Thousands of people have tried our goods, and so many tell us it’s the best they’ve ever had. Considering I’m allergic to them and can’t eat them, I’m so blessed to have others enjoy them that much.
7.) You have 100 words to pitch why readers should buy your recipe book. Aaaand go!
Cookbooks from Free and Friendly Foods are unique in that they’re more than just top 8 allergy free. We thought through other diets such as Paleo, GAPs, AIP, Vegan, and more. We even have info for people with a corn allergy, and so many of them are kid and family friendly. Our recipes are easy to follow, easy to interchange what’s safe, and dishes you can create for everyone to enjoy together. There’s no need to be isolated anymore.
8.) Successful products are all about the people who invented them. Tell everyone an interesting fact about yourself.
About 18 months ago, I was given 30 days to live. 60 days later, I decided to get busy helping as many people as possible, while I still can. Also, my personal cell phone is a 2008 Blackberry Curve which I absolutely love. We like to joke that it’s because I’m allergic to apples, but not allergic to blackberries (true fact).
9.) Why should companies be more allergy friendly and do you think allergy knowledge is improving in the food industry?
I don’t think companies should be more allergy friendly per-say. I recognize that those of us with allergies are the minority. If anything, we need to come together as a community to help ourselves thrive. While it’s nice that some big brands are coming out with allergy friendly products, often times, they’re made in shared facilities with the allergens they claim to avoid. When those of us who suffer from allergies make the products and start the companies, we do it from the exact perspective that’s needed to feed our community safely.
What I do believe though is that companies need to be 150% transparent. While I don’t expect companies to change for our sake, I do expect them to be more than honest about what’s in their products, how they’re made, what cross-contamination may be in play, etc. I have called many companies only to learn that I can’t eat the product, but because of their honesty and transparency, I go out of my way to thank them, and to let others know about them.
I do think that allergy knowledge is improving due to two main reasons – law and advocacy. In the US, we have the top 8 allergens (there are more in other countries) that must be disclosed. Additionally, there are food allergy advocates that work tirelessly to spread education and awareness to help make the food industry more friendly to those with food allergies. Given that food allergy diagnoses are on the rise, companies can no longer afford to avoid learning about food allergies, and how their products fit in.
10.) How can we best follow your updates, pictures etc?
The most centralized way to follow us is on Instagram, @TheAllergyChef. There you can learn about our bakery, books, local and nationwide outreach, weekly cooking show, and more. You can learn about the Food Allergy Awareness Expedition at AllergyExpedition.com
Amazing hey? Please go follow them! I’ll be buying their cookbook soon so I will share some recipe reviews soon!
All Scribbled Out! ❤️