You’ve finally got this gluten free thing figured out. You know all the research about gluten, every aisle to shop at in your grocery store, and even how make delicious gluten free desserts. But then disaster strikes. You go out with your friends and find yourself at a restaurant with almost no gluten free options, not even the salads.
But all is not lost. With a quick visit to the fast growing website NOBREAD, you discover that this restaurant has alternate dressings that can turn those salads gluten free. In fact, there is practically a whole secret menu’s worth of dishes you can make gluten free.
This week I interviewed Nicole Cogan, founder and CEO of NOBREAD, which just launched in LA.
Spoon: What inspired you to start NOBREAD?
NC: As an analyst for JP Morgan in NYC, I took clients out to lunch and dinner frequently. Because I have a gluten allergy, I often had to talk to the server or manager about what I could order. Originally, I started making a guide for myself, with substitutions and an outline for gluten free dishes, that I could use before meetings. Creating this guide became my passion, and the @NOBREAD Instagram blew up. I left finance and a few months later officially started NOBREAD.com.
Spoon: What is the correct way to use NOBREAD?
NC: At NOBREAD, we review restaraunts, but we are not critics. If the food is great we will let you know, but our main goal is to tell people what is and what isn’t gluten free and give GF substitutions.
To use the site, first pick a restaurant. There are six NOBREAD facts, which include whether or not there is a gluten free menu, cross contamination (gluten free foods make near gluten), malted rice, gluten free bread, pasta, or taco shells. The “Read More” button will reveal our review of the restaurant. Finally, below that, the menu is listed. The “gluten free menu” button highlights all the gluten free options on the menu, and points out some substitutions.
Spoon: Are there any traditionally gluteny food that you think are better gluten free?
NC: Hand-made gluten free pasta is very good. The additional skill and effort required by a chef to balance different flours just make it that much better. There are also a lot of GF asian sauces that are really good. Gluten free soy sauce tastes the exact same as traditional soy sauce, and the others you might not be exposed to if you weren’t looking for gluten free.
Spoon: Have you ever had to order anything really unusual from a restaurant in order to make it gluten free?
NC: Usually not. Many restaurants pride themselves on being accommodating and are happy to make whatever changes you need. A lot of times, all you are asking for is for certain items to be withheld.
One difference I’ve noticed between New York and LA is that some Los Angeles restaurants say “No Substitutions.” It is still worth asking, though, especially if you have an allergy. Still, some restaurants are very high volume and just can’t make custom orders.
Spoon: Can you tell me more about your ambassador program?
NC: NOBREAD started in New York and just launched in LA, and I couldn’t have done it without my interns from NYU and LMU in each city to help. The reception has been very strong, and people from all over the country have begun contacting me about starting NOBREAD in their cities.
With the help of people like these, NOBREAD will become a national gluten free dining guide. If you visit the website, you can learn more about becoming an Ambassador and getting your reviews and pictures published to a wide audience. Students can even get college credit.
Spoon: Where do you see NOBREAD going from here? Will there ever be a NOBREAD restaurant?
NC: “Gluten free” is much more than just a diet – really, it’s a lifestyle. When traveling, on vacations, at a restaurant, in a grocery store, it really becomes a part of everything you do. I see NOBREAD becoming a gluten free lifestyle website too.
If there ever was a NOBREAD restaurant, it definitely wouldn’t be completely gluten free. I think all the emphasis on not having gluten can make a place seem less fun. Of course, it would have a lot gluten free options, but the main emphasis would be on a fun atmosphere. Gluten free doesn’t have to mean boring.
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