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Patch Food Critic Has Hand in New Cookbook That Focuses on Allergies

Questions and answers with Clara Park on The Intolerant Gourmet, a popular new cookbook focusing on gluten and lactose-free cooking.

As dietary restrictions become more and more prevalent, the dining industry has had to learn to accommodate. And when childhood allergies resurfaced in her later years, cookbook author, Barbara Kafka, set out to write a soup to nuts cookbook focused specifically on lactose and gluten free eating.

The Intolerant Gourmet: Glorious Food Without Gluten and Lactose was released in November and has been gaining popularity ever since. Though it was designed for those with food intolerances, The Intolerant Gourmet has been described as an indispensable reference tool, ideal for lovers of good food in search of an all-inclusive approach to cooking.

Kafka has written many cookbooks, but it’s her assistant’s first time around. , a Patch food writer and former cook, took some time to share her experience working side by side with Kafka, to create The Intolerant Gourmet.

Patch: What was your role in this cookbook?

Park: I worked on every aspect of that book. I was a recipe tester, developer, and writer. I helped with the research, the glossary of gluten free grains, and all the tables in the book.

Patch: How did you meet Barbara Kafka?

Park: I met a woman at a corporate, culinary, team-building event. She was a big producer with the Food Network. She mentored me and gave me some really good advice. She gave me a list of names of people who were doing things in culinary production. One person she mentioned led me to Barbara who was looking for a new assistant. I had met her previously, I knew who she was, I met up with her, and the rest was history.

Patch: Is this the first time you’ve done anything like this?

Park: Yes, I was a cook. I left restaurants in October 2008 and worked for an online food network. I did food blogging, product testing, consulting and catering ... and then I needed a new project.

Patch: What was the book writing process like?

Park: Really difficult in the beginning. Taste isn’t universal and I had to learn the way Barbara wanted things to taste. And how she wanted things written. I tend to be more talkative and descriptive. Barbara taught me to write more concisely and precisely. She was an excellent teacher in the ABC’s of cookbook writing. She’s the best, and she’s written 16 books, so I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from her.

Patch: How long did the process take?

Park: Barbara had been working on The Intolerant Gourmet with a previous assistant for about 2 years. I worked with her for a year, so it took three years in all. We finished writing the book last year, but the final stages take forever; the manuscripts, photography, binding and marketing took nearly a year. It didn’t hit bookstores until Nov. 20.

Patch: Do you suffer from any food allergies?

Park: I’m allergic to oranges, but I can eat everything else. Barbara is the “intolerant gourmet,” she can’t eat gluten or lactose.

Patch: What else about the project can you tell us?

Park: It was a lot. I know how to cook. But cooking without flour or dairy is very difficult. The hardest chapters were breakfast and dessert. There’s dairy in pretty much everything. People with allergies shouldn’t have to just eat fruit for breakfast because they’re gluten and lactose intolerant. And that’s why people are really going crazy over the breakfast chapter. The waffles, the English muffins and the chestnut donut holes are really great.

Patch: How did working on this book help you in your food writing for Patch?

Park: I always keep an eye out for gluten or dairy-free items on menus when I review restaurants. I'm also always thinking of how I would make the food that I eat in restaurants. It's as though I'm eternally writing recipes even when I'm just out to dinner. The cook in me is continually trying to figure out how to make the food taste even better. I tend to carry all my different job experiences with me to the next project.

The Book is The Intolerant Gourmet:Glorious Food Without Gluten and Lactose.

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