Las Vegas pastry chefs work around their allergies to gluten

Tami Blinn is so allergic to wheat, all she has to do is reach into a flour bin with a scoop and presto: instant rash.

That may not be a problem for a large segment of the population, an inconvenience for others. For Blinn it’s a potential career-killer, because she’s a pastry chef, and co-owner of Craftkitchen in Henderson.

Blinn isn’t alone. Nicole Brisson, Las Vegas culinary director for the B&B Hospitality Group (B&B Ristorante at The Venetian, Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria at the Grand Canal Shoppes and Carnevino Italian Steakhouse at the Palazzo) has the autoimmune disorders Hashimoto’s disease and celiac disease, which limit the foods she can eat, including sugar, dairy, soy and gluten. For a chef, who’s constantly tasting food, that can present a monumental problem.

“Honestly, it was pretty devastating, because I started to realize how much (the disorders) intertwine with food,” she said.

More common diagnosis

Kathryn Spada, a clinical dietitian at University Medical Center, said such allergies and disorders are becoming more common — and that’s not counting the anti-gluten faddists. In fact, May has been designated Celiac Awareness Month.

“We’re seeing a lot more cases, especially diagnoses of celiac disease,” Spada said. “I believe it’s because we now have the criteria and the tools to accurately test for it.”

Changes in the food supply related to mass production also may be changing the way our bodies react to certain foods, but that’s not evidence-based, Spada said. She said studies continue on a link between various autoimmune diseases and gluten, but none has been published. Spada said she also has Hashimoto’s disease, and follows a gluten-free diet.

Spada said while Blinn’s and Brisson’s cases have the same career-ending potential, they have different causes.

“With wheat allergy, we see more of the normal allergy symptoms: anaphylaxis, swelling, shortness of breath, abdominal pain,” she said.

“Celiac is actually an autoimmune response. It’s not necessarily an allergy, but a disease that happens when the intestines have gluten in them. The gluten actually can burn into the lining of the intestines, and that causes immense pain.”

Blinn hasn’t always been allergic to wheat; her allergist suspects it was caused by her constant exposure to flour for 10 years. About five years ago, she started breaking out in hives; when her doctor medicated her, it became a full-body rash. Subsequent testing revealed an allergy to some food items, including gluten.

“For me, it was just a matter of eliminating it from my diet,” she said. “I immediately felt better. Just being gluten-free, I don’t have the reactions I did. If I inadvertently have wheat, my body tells me right away with the symptoms that I had.”

She’s learned to cope with the professional challenges.

“It is a struggle, but just from the years of being around pastries, for the most part I’m able to troubleshoot if something isn’t baked or doesn’t look like it has the right texture,” she said.

And she can rely on her husband and co-owner, Jaret Blinn.

“He has a sweet tooth,” she said. “It’s not too hard to ask him to have a taste.”

Brisson was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s about 12 years ago and celiac disease a few years later. At the time she was working at Otto, where the menu is heavy on wheat-centric items such as pizzas and pastas.

“It was nice being at Carnevino, because it’s a very protein-, vegetable-driven menu,” she said. “I was subconsciously making a lot of the food gluten-free.”

She started seeing a natural doctor about four years ago. “He just changed my life.”

‘Gluten hangover’

Still, one slip and Brisson pays for it.

“I’ll feel it the next day,” she said. “I call it a gluten hangover; I’m lethargic. It takes 90 days to leave your lower intestine. One fall off the gluten wagon and you’re taking awhile to recover.”

And she said she doesn’t always meet with support.

“It’s hard to make chefs understand,” she said. “They make fun of you — you and everybody else. This industry is trying on a daily basis, with normal hurdles, and then to throw those things on top of it makes it really difficult.”

There has been one plus, she said: “It’s really connected me to my customers a lot more.”

That’s the case for Blinn as well. When she and Jaret opened Craftkitchen in 2015, they knew about her allergy. Their daughter has a severe peanut allergy, so it was difficult to eat out.

“There weren’t too many options for us even five years ago,” she said. “We wanted to be that local place that said we would modify to meet any dietary restrictions.”

In the past few years, she said, she has seen guests become more vocal and open about their dietary restrictions.

“Our local guests come in and feel comfortable with us,” she said, “and just trust us.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian and the Palazzo.

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life
Celebrity photographer dedicates dance book to Las Vegas shooting victims
Behind the scenes with local celebrity photographer Jerry Metellus as he talks about his Dance For Vegas coffee book dedicated to the 58 victims of the October 1 shooting. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Dreamsickle Kids Foundation founder Gina Glass talks awareness
Gina Glass, 35, founded Dreamsickle Kids Foundation to raise awareness for sickle cell disease in Nevada. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Meadows School founding kindergarten teacher retires after 34 years at the school
Linda Verbon, founder of the The Meadows School's kindergarten program and the first faculty member hired at the school, retired in the spring after 34 years at The Meadows. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kids become firefighters at Fire Station 98 open house
Henderson residents wore fire hats, learned about CPR and met firefighters at the Fire Station 98 open house Saturday, August 11, 2018. (Marcus Villagran Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
People from all over the world attend RollerCon 2018
RollerCon 2018 is a five-day convention focused on the roller derby community and culture at Westgate in Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like