Becoming A Gluten Free Personal Chef and Author
I grew up on a farm in Virginia, and I have always loved cooking. As a child, I loved being with my mom and aunts, cooking huge meals for our big family gatherings. We grew our own vegetables in the summer, canned them to have during the winter months, and we raised our own chickens and pigs. I grew up knowing great, homegrown foods!
Even as a child, I remember hearing the words, “he has a sensitive stomach;” however, when I moved out on my own, I began eating out more and eating more processed foods, and started having pretty severe digestive issues. Doctors were no help, and I tried to self-diagnose. For 19 years I tried many remedies, but nothing seemed to help. In 2001, I started a new career that allowed me more time to cook for myself, but I continued to have digestive problems.
I met my future husband in April 2005. It wasn’t a very romantic start. I called to cancel our first date because I was hospitalized with food poisoning, and within an hour, he was at the hospital checking on me. He was so kind and understanding, and as I got better, the love between us grew. By the next New Year’s, we were living together and settling down into our new life.
By that time, I was cooking most of our meals, and my stomach issues subsided somewhat, but not enough to say that I was “well.” I started a regime of probiotics, which also helped, but I continued to have many “stomach problems.”
In the fall of 2009, we moved in with his widowed mom to help take care of her. I was now preparing almost every meal for the three of us, but I continued to have digestive issues. I was tested for celiac disease, and that test came back negative. My physician told me that I just had a “sensitive digestive system, and I would just have to learn to deal with it.” Deal with it included trotting to the bathroom 12 -15 times a day, along with many other unpleasantries.
Five years later, I met a wonderful new doctor, an internal medicine specialist as well as a naturopath. She suggested that I could have gluten intolerance/sensitivity. She informed me that a person could test negative for celiac disease, and still be sensitive to gluten. She asked me to try a gluten free diet for at least four months and I promised that I would. Surprisingly, I knew within four days of going gluten free that my digestive tract was better, and within one month, most of my 30 years’ of problems disappeared!
When my doctor asked me to try a gluten free diet, my first thoughts were about my favorite dishes that I thought I would have to give up! I not only love to cook for my family and friends, but cooking is also a meditation for me. It is one of my artistic expressions! There are also certain comfort foods, nurturing foods, that I could not imagine living without!
Cooking for myself, my husband, mother-in-law and other extended relatives on a regular basis, all who are accustomed to “country cuisine,” I had to figure out how to make gluten free work for all of us.
The day my physician asked me to try a gluten free diet, I left her office, and went to the grocery store. I bought a loaf of gluten free bread, a gluten free bread mix, some crackers, and some pasta. The gluten free bread was HORRIBLE! I threw it out, and tried the bread mix. It was satisfactory but no way was it what I was used to! The crackers were just ok, and the pasta was sticky and gummy! This new diet was looking rather bleak! Funny enough, the more I thought about the foods I thought I would have to give up, the more I began to crave them! Also, the idea of cooking two meals, one traditional meal for my family, and a gluten free meal for me was NOT going to happen!
As the weeks progressed, I began searching the Internet for gluten free alternative ingredients, and gluten free recipes. As weeks turned into a full month, most of my stomach issues had resolved, and I had made some pretty great gluten free dishes. Things were looking up; I was enjoying them and my husband and my mother-in-law were also happy with them! I kept trying new ingredients, new configurations, and alternatives to create my favorite meals. It wasn’t long before I realized that there was nothing I couldn’t create, with a little trial and error. I was happy, my family was happy, and MY STOMACH WAS HAPPY for the first time in my adult life!
I began to post my successful recipes on my Facebook page, and I immediately began to receive lots of positive feedback. Many people were having the same trouble that I had experienced. People began to ask me to create a gluten free cook book, and that is how all of this began. I began to work on Vedam’s Gluten Free & Fabulous! Recipes From A Gay Southern Househusband. The title came about because most of the recipes that I was featuring in the cookbook were based upon my southern heritage. Also, I am a gay man doing my best to make a home for myself and our family. It is my belief that the kitchen and the food that comes out of that kitchen are often the heart of the home. I also wanted to show that even though our family is not considered “traditional” by many standards, we are a family just the same.
As time went by I began to see that the cookbook was helping those that loved to cook. I began to do cooking demos and gluten free cooking classes; I was so excited because I was helping and reaching more and more people! I also began to see that many people did not enjoy cooking and/or did not have the time to cook. One thing led to another and soon, I was cooking for others that also suffered from the same issues that I had gone through. Sometimes, it was a specific dish, a specific meal, or helping them have a special event. I loved what was happening, and I considered going to culinary school. I soon realized that could not happen because I would be so limited in what I could participate in because of my gluten sensitivity; however, I also knew that I would have to get my ‘food safety handling and regulation certificate’ if I was going to make this be a successful and legitimate business. I soon stumbled upon the USPCA (United States Personal Chef Association), and I knew right then and there that this was the answer for me.
I contacted the USPCA to find our more information, and I was very pleased with what I uncovered. I found a legitimate, long standing and reputable organization that supported those like me; people that loved to cook and wanted to professionally cook for others. For over 20 years, the USPCA had helped people like myself have a reputable and outstanding personal chef business.
Now, let’s back up just a bit here, as there is a huge issue that I have not covered yet! For someone that has Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, eating can be a minefield. Everyone has to eat to be healthy, but for those that suffer from either of these diseases, many and certain foods can kill them. Also, for those that suffer from either of those diseases, going out to eat can, and often is a torture for days on end. I am a firm believer that no matter what, each person deserves to have delicious and nutritious meals. I am a firm believer that we do not have to eat fake processed gluten free cardboard disguised as food. Yes, I believe and KNOW that you can have incredible food, no matter what your tastes or cuisines happen to be, even if you are on a gluten free diet!
So, that is how I became a Gluten Free Certified Personal Chef. As I work with you, I promise you that I will put the same love, care and concern into your food that I have put into my and my family’s food. I not only promise that, but I also guarantee that once you taste my food, you will not only love it, but you will also be amazed that it is gluten free! I look forward to working with you!