Published On: Thu, Aug 11th, 2016

In the kitchen with… Simply Caro

Model turned chef to the stars, Caroline Byron, also dubbed the ‘Gluten-Free Nigella’, is the latest big thing in New York catering and celebrity circles. But she has had an unusual journey into the gluten-free lifestyle, from illnessnesses as a young girl to studying at a top French culinary school, all along the way trying to find what was right for her. She did finally find her mojo and is now taking the free-from world by storm as she flourishes into her career.

simply caro

When did you first gain an interest in cooking?

I began cooking as a kid. I was not in school as I had Lyme disease, which I caught when my family moved from NYC to Connecticut. With all this free time I began to watch the Food Network. The first things I baked were chocolate fudge brownies, which I still love today – gluten-free of course!

Have you always been interested in healthy eating?

When I was a child, my doctor, a naturopathic physician, suggested gluten-free as part of the treatment for Lyme disease. I stuck with it, but then as a teen I ate anything and everything. It wasn’t until I got sick again after culinary school that I began to fundamentally change my diet and move to gluten-free, and also cut down on sugar.

What lessons did you learn from training at the French Culinary Institute in New York?

I learned all the classic French dishes – from coq au vin to the perfect pastry. As students, the best part was that we got to taste all our efforts. It was so delicious!

Caroline Byron_Banana Bread_0115 copy

When and why did you decide to quit gluten and sugar?

After I left culinary school, where I had been eating gluten, sugar and cream every day, I got sick – my weight, skin and well-being had deteriorated and so I decided to cut out gluten and sugar. In fact I was almost vegan for a while, but then slowly I began to reintroduce things like fats and meat.

How did you find the early stages of the change?

It was hard work – I was also going to yoga and using supplements. I had such a sugar addiction that I had to wean myself off sugar with things like dates, but of course you still need to be careful – even if something is non-refined sugar it’s still got calories!

What have been the difficulties (if any) since then?

Going away used to be hard – Cuba was a nightmare – but luckily Europe is catching up and there are more shops selling GF products and more restaurants serving GF meals.

What do you think when you hear that a gluten-free diet is the new ‘trendy or fashionable’ way to eat?

People used to say that about Lyme disease – so I know that people love to ‘hate’, but all I can tell you is my experience – I got sick from gluten, I stopped eating it and I felt better and looked better. That’s it.

Simply Caro

Do you still enjoy cooking the French classics – and how easy are they to replicate gluten-free? 

I love adapting French classics into gluten-free alternatives – it’s what my debut cookery book is all about – however, there is one recipe that I simply cannot adapt and that is the French croissant – it just won’t work for me as gluten-free. Sadly, it’s also my favourite.

What are your favourite gluten-free flours to use in baking?
  • Almond flour – the healthiest with a chewy texture.
  • Sorghum is the base for most GF recipes.
  • Gluten-free oat flour – it’s light and soft in texture.
  • Millet flour, which adds flavour and a nutritional boost.
  • Tapioca and potato starch are slightly interchangeable, but add structure and texture.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to cut out gluten from their diet?

Don’t cut out everything at once – try cutting out the area where you tend to eat most gluten – be that sweet or savoury – and find a replacement. If you try cutting out everything at once, then you will probably find yourself slipping back to old habits. Take your time
and don’t rush.

If you allowed yourself one gluten-free dish, what would you eat?

Croissants!

Simply Caro

What is in your fridge right now?

Cashew milk, still water, vegetables from the farmers’ market, butter (which I still do use), my probiotics and my collection of nail varnish!

If you could cook for anyone in the world, who would you cook for and why?

My best friends. They are the best and most fun people.

Who would be the six people (dead or alive) you would have to your dinner party? 

My grandparents, Oscar Wilde, Monet, Julia Child and Marie Antoinette (I would serve gluten-free cake to her!)

Who are your food heroes?

Ina Gartan of Barefoot Contessa and Julia Child.

What would be your dessert island/three-course meal?

Salmon sashimi, British pub-style fish & chips and an array of all things chocolate!

www.simply-caro.com

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