Celiac can affect you in so many different ways.
It messes with your health.
It messes with your freedom.
It messes with your mind.
But I never considered it messing with your career.
Unless of course your goal is to become a chef.
That adds a serious wrinkle to things.
How do you go to a Culinary Arts program when you know you’ll be surrounded by gluten?
How do you know if things taste right if you can’t eat them without getting violently ill?
This leads me to the following email I received from Rachael. Her daughter Brie is in high school and her dream and passion is to be a chef and own a bakery. She has already committed to going to a Culinary Arts program.
But she was just diagnosed with celiac disease.
This is indeed a tricky situation and she has reached out to me and the school for help. Her email is below.
Here are my questions to you, my faithful readers:
Do you think it’s up to the school to alter their program for those with celiac disease?
Is it fair to the other students if they do?
Is it fair to Brie if they don’t?
What advice would you give to Rachael and Brie?
Dear Gluten Dude,
Here is a letter I recently sent to my daughters school. (names have been altered). I was hoping for ideas, suggestions or thoughts on what I should do for her. Thank you! We don’t feel as alone in our experiences since we joined you on Facebook.
Dear Chef —,
Brie is extremely excited to join the —— Culinary Arts family!
I am writing because some surprising health news has been discovered by Brie’s doctors recently. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her and her smiling face but she has been struggling with sickness on and off her entire life. When it came to our attention that there is a cause for the illnesses it threw our whole existence into a sort of tailspin. Although it was a big adjustment, I wouldn’t categorize it as challenging because we do what we have to do and go on. However, the outside world still has had difficulty recognizing her needs, including some friends and family.
This brings me to her plans to attend —— and your very exciting program. Like all accepted, she has worked extremely hard to get involved in this program; as this is her dream and passion.
I am sure you are aware of Celiac Disease; somewhere around 1 out of 130 people have it.
Unfortunately, Brie is now one of them.
You may have dealt with a student with this autoimmune disease before, and things may already be in place in consideration of Celiac at Carver. Then you may be able to provide me with advice regarding this. However, if this is not something you have encountered at ——; I will have some questions.
The first obvious one would be if there is any way to incorporate any gluten free options into the program?
With that in mind, as a Culinary student I realize she must be trained in all aspects of the Culinary Arts, wheat or non-wheat. I don’t expect that you would re-vamp your program by any means.
However, I would like to avoid making her sick. It intensifies her ADHD and attacks her digestive system. This brings me to the reason behind my email; to inform you. I do not feel that this would be the responsibility of the teachers to monitor necessarily. She is in high school; she herself will have to be very disciplined and try and refrain from tasting things she has made with gluten.
We haven’t had that temptation around so far this summer (I threw away everything in my house with gluten and I bought her alternative flour so she can make her favorite banana bread, we only go to restaurants with gluten free options, etc.)
So this environment will be new and challenging for her in terms of living gluten free. I expect like any human she will give in. However, she does know the feelings and the consequences of her actions so she may not. This is going to be the case throughout her life.
Some have said to her to just give up.
“Why go into a program that you have the chance of making yourself sick?”
“High school is hard enough already…”
I’ll tell you, Brie’s positive attitude, determination, her dreams of saving money for Culinary College, traveling to France, and her newest idea of opening a Gluten-Free Bakery make it impossible to throw in the towel.
Her dream and her passion of Culinary Arts shouldn’t be spoiled by her different needs. Growing up “normal” is hard enough. We are not going to give up. If I could afford it I would provide you with four years’ worth of alternative foods, but that is not realistic.
All I can hope for is that what she finds in your program precedes your reputation of caring for the students, keeping the lines of communication open, and investing in the whole student. In other words, I expect that the program would work with her and possibly incorporate her ideas and suggestions of gluten-free options. Or for that matter that any creative idea will be fostered.
Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy email. Again, any advice or suggestions are welcomed.