I must admit that when I first found out I had 2 children with Celiac Disease I had no idea what kind of illness it was and what gluten was. How was I supposed to keep my kids safe and how do I get started? This was pre “Gluten-free fad” period when the word gluten had no prior meaning at all to most. I researched all that was on the internet, called up gluten free flour companies and took many cooking and baking classes. What was the big secret all about? How can I make gluten-free baked goods?
Normal question, right? You would think an easy answer would be found somewhere. Well, much to my surprise, every cookbook and every teacher left us believing that it was “Their perfect flour mix” that made the difference and that they had the special recipe for the perfect baked goods. I was and still am a professional baker and I was not going to let others tell me what is perfect. I had to discover it on my own.
I attended a class at a local grocery store. The teacher Louise, was the President of the Celiac Association at the time and I thought she would know best. My first class, I learned how to make pizza and calzones. I took the recipe and went home to play. I ended up with a pita bread bbq style which fascinated me! I redid the recipe over and over and played around with it until I got comfortable. At my next class with Louise, I told her that I made pita bread from her pizza crust. She said she had done that before and was happy for me. What I learned was that bread required a lot of xanthan gum and it was my first experience with a bread of sorts.
I took one more class at the local grocery store and a last class at Louise’s house, both of which were about baked goods. At this point I learned two things: one, that I can take any recipe and turn it into gluten-free by using a gluten-free flour mix, and two, that I didn’t like chickpea flour in my mix. I went home and created my own flour blend and made my kids’ favorites without worry. I now understood what to do.
Prior to these classes, I bought some gluten-free cookbooks and I fell upon an author I liked. I tried almost all of the recipes in her book. She too had a pizza crust and guess what? The recipe was identical to that of the one from Louise. Not approximately, not even the same ingredients in a different order, but actually the carbon copy of everything word for word! Well, as you can imagine, I was upset to learn that I paid for lessons by someone who proclaimed these were HER recipes. So when I went to her house to learn cookies on my third class I saw the many cookbooks she had in her house and I asked Louise what she thought of this particular author. She said that her recipes were for the most part unsuccessful. I did not want to embarrass her and so I stay quiet.
Knowing the truth, I did not attend anymore classes. Besides, I made my own flour blend and made things I like and figured out how to do it on my own. I knew better. I took the pizza crust recipe that made my pita and began to play with it, change it up and work on a better way to produce it. I worked day and night to figure it out and with experimentation I got it! A pita that really had great taste and texture and I was proud I took an idea and made it mine.
At this time in my life all I wanted was to bake for my celiac kids. I was going through a difficult divorce and I was not working. Within time, I decided to sell the pita and other goods that I created during this experimentation phase. While I never intended to make a business from this cooking class, it inspired me and gave me strength to know I could help others.
My intentions and work ethic have always been pure and honest and the recipes I develop(ed) are my own. I don’t know how to be any other way.
When I tried to get a third party manufacturer to produce my pita bread in mass production I was stopped because Louise told the manufacturer that I stole her recipe. What? Are you kidding? So I took the original book from and the photocopy of my cooking class with Louise and showed the word for word copy of the pizza crust. Then I showed the manufacturer my altered recipe and altered way of producing and I was vindicated! I felt super justified and happy someone knew my truth. Unfortunately, the manufacturer never got on its feet.
I have kept quiet all of these years. Over 20 of my loyal customers have approached me over the last 7 years to tell me that Louise told them that I stole her recipe and that I am unethical. Imagine all those who didn’t report back to me? You would think that she would let it go by now, but she is still telling this story to those that walk into her gluten-free shop.
Why have I not done something to make her stop lying about me? Until now I thought best to let it go because I just assumed she would eventually realize that she should be proud she inspired someone to open up a gluten-free business. I thought she would see how there is always enough business to go around for everyone. I am saddened that instead of being thrilled for me, Louise has chosen to bad mouth me and try to tarnish my reputation. Instead of pulling each other down, we should be cheering each other on!
Last night I went to see Wonder Woman. What a great movie it was, especially since it emboldened me to finally come out and speak my truth. I will no longer have someone drag my name down. I want this to stop. Seven years of telling people I am unethical. No more. Lady – it is you that stole your recipes from another person’s cookbook. It is time that people know the truth and it is about time I stand up for myself. If you wanted to mass produce the pita bread, you could have and still can!
I realize that Louise will never put my products in her shop for her gluten-free customers and that’s fine by me. At least I am speaking up and telling the truth. Finally. She is well known in this community and I know many celiacs shop at her store and like her gluten-free goods. In fact, I still encourage my clients to visit her store. It’s time for Louise to stop trying to sabotage my reputation and put the focus on more important things like her customers. She can’t crush my ambition I will not stop developing delicious recipes for the gluten free world. Justice will prevail.