Food-Inclusivity Can Be Delectable
After being diagnosed with food allergies as a teen, it became my mission to make people drop the stigma that allergy friendly wasn’t delicious. It led me to get my masters in nutrition with a food allergy focus. I went on to become a registered dietitian and helped launch Freedom Bakery, an allergy friendly wholesale factory, in 2018, where I’m currently the operations manager.
I enjoy sharing my food-inclusive journey and connecting with others who are looking to keep their meals fun and delicious. I’m always whipping up fun recipes and sharing them on social media (@onmollysplate on Instagram).
Food-inclusivity recently went “prime time” for me when I made my Netflix debut as a contestant on a new culinary show called “Best Leftovers Ever.” An exciting moment came before the competition even began — when the hosts announced that my ingredients were all gluten-free, taking into account my food allergies. I felt totally included!
Even though I have grown out of some of my original allergies, I still have a sensitive gluten allergy. Having safe ingredients allows me to focus on cooking and baking. It was the first time I’d ever seen this kind of representation included in a food show, and I was honored to take part in it.
I’ve since received a lot of great messages from parents thanking me for representing dietary restrictions, and I would love to keep promoting this idea that cooking should be inclusive.
Family & Food
My relationship with food began at a young age, as I was cooking with my dad, Keith (currently the executive director at Brevard Zoo), as a toddler. We would make dinner so it was ready for my mom when she arrived home from work, and from the get go, I just loved being in the kitchen.
By age 7, it was common for me to make breakfast for the whole family on the weekends, my specialty being what my younger brother called “masterpieces” — scrambled eggs and whatever leftovers we could find rolled up in a tortilla with tons of hot sauce. While dinner was my dad’s domain, my mom was the breakfast expert, and I learned all I could from her. To this day, I have a special affinity for making breakfast and brunch dishes.
As a teenager, I took baking and decorating classes to continue to learn new techniques. I also watched the Food Network like it was my job, and simply loved anything to do with food. So imagine my surprise when, right at the start of my freshman year of college, I was diagnosed with not one but several food allergies, severely limiting what I could eat.
Learning this new way of eating was not easy. I made mistakes — often, either on purpose or accidentally, and would end up in the emergency room scared and frustrated. For a while, I would only eat packaged food because then I at least knew the allergens and could make sure to make safe choices. But I soon grew tired of this way of eating, and with the help of friends and family, and particularly my dad, I started to re-teach myself how to cook.
Bringing Food Into the Spotlight
By my senior year at Stetson University, I had made everything from sushi to French macarons and had amazing experiences such as cooking in the dining hall as a “celebrity chef” and delivering my homemade dishes to students around campus. I even got to host the dessert portion of a progressive dinner for the board of trustees.
After undergrad, I moved to Boston to pursue a career in nutrition at a prestigious program at Boston University. It was there I became focused on food science and food-inclusive cooking.
After applying to appear on food shows for many years, I got to film my first ever national television appearance for “Bakers vs Fakers” on the Food Network, which aired in March 2017. I was still a graduate student and therefore a “faker,” but the judges were impressed and it was a great feeling when they thought I was a professional.
Everything I made was gluten-free and ironically, the episode was called “Donut Dilemma” — and now I am a wholesale donut expert at Freedom Bakery.
While my culinary journey has been neither easy nor traditional, I wouldn’t trade it.
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