By AML Publisher
Photos Courtesy of Todd Zimmerman
You’ve probably heard the term ‘gluten-free’ by now, or, most likely know someone who is not able to include gluten in their daily diet. Celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that involves intolerance for the protein found in wheat (known as gluten), affects 1 in 133 Americans. And through their annual event, an Ambler-based nonprofit is working to make Philadelphia one of the top cities in America dedicated to raising awareness and education about celiac disease.
Tonight, September 30th, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness will hold its annual Appetite for Awareness: A Gluten-Free Cooking Spree. Top chefs and doctors will be assembled into teams at the Wachovia Center in a challenge to create the best gluten-free dish. Guests will enjoy sampling gluten-free creations from over twenty-five of the area’s preeminent restaurants, gluten-free beer, wine, and products from over fifty of the nation’s finest gluten-free vendors.
Now in its sixth year, Appetite for Awareness is the largest and most innovative educational program dedicated to the topic of celiac disease. Comcast Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider, who is a member of the NFCA Board of Directors, generously donated the use of the Wachovia Center for the event last year. Alice Bast, a celiac herself and the Executive Director and founder of NFCA, met with Snider six years ago after a personal connection led her to find out he had been hospitalized and diagnosed with celiac disease. “Ed saw the passion and energy we had with NFCA; he saw that the NIH had given us a grant. That is how the relationship started and we were off and running-we brought Jefferson and CHOP right on board with the organization. I promised Ed that we were going to change the face of this disease nationwide-right here in Philadelphia,” explained Bast.
Last year, NFCA anticipated that they would have about 750 attendees for their first Appetite at The Wachovia Center. Over 1500 attendees enjoyed the event. Bast emphasized that Appetite is a night for foodies across the Philadelphia region to appreciate that learning about celiac disease, a serious medical and sometimes life-threatening condition, can be an enlightening experience. “We always joke with the event and say Appetite answers one of the country’s most pressing questions ‘Who has bigger egos, the chefs or the doctors?’ It always makes people stop in their tracks and think-of course we are joking! This is one competitive atmosphere. Tapping into competition is our strategy for spreading the word and making our lives better, creating collaborations, developing new relationships and educating Philadelphia and the country that we can live and thrive with celiac disease. For the chefs, they get to cook and experiment with gluten-free grains that they maybe never considered using before in their repertoire. We want everyone to walk away from the night knowing gluten-free can be delicious!”
In conjunction with Appetite for Awareness, all participating restaurants receive training in gluten-free kitchen protocol through NFCA’s Gluten-Free Resource Education Awareness Training (GREAT) program. Philadelphia’s fabulous restaurants participating include Vetri, Osteria, Distrito, Chifa, and Little Fish. Christina Pirello, Emmy Award-winning host of the national public television series ‘Christina Cooks’, will emcee the event.
Chef Marshall Green of Café Estelle, in South Philly, is one dozens of local restaurants who will be participating this year. At Appetite for Awareness, Green will be serving a delicious potato latke bound with rice flour, a crispy potato pancake, complimented by a sliced brisket and accented with a dollop apple sauce in honor of the upcoming Hanukkah season. His current menu at Café Estelle has numerous gluten-free options for his customers. “When you are serving the public you have to take into account everyone’s different tastes, needs and dietary restrictions. We do all of our baking here in house at Café Estelle, so we are very cognizant of what our ingredients are in our dishes. Besides customers with celiac disease, we cater to any specific allergy or restriction. It’s really not difficult as a restaurant if you are using the highest quality ingredients and, as a chef, you are educated about the importance of truly serving a gluten-free menu item,” explained Green.
Appetite for Awareness 2009: Wachovia Center Sept. 30th
WHEN: Wednesday, September 30th 2009, 7:00pm. – 9:30pm, VIP reception from 5:30pm-7:00pm.
WHERE: The Wachovia Center, 3601 Broad Street, Philadelphia.
WHY: Appetite for Awareness is one of the leading educational events dedicated to celiac disease. By uniting foodservice and healthcare professionals, this innovative event integrates the medical and lifestyle aspects of the disease and increases understanding of the autoimmunedisorder among these critical populations. Together, the participating doctors and chefs will expand Philadelphia’s Gluten-Free Neighborhood, first in the US, while serving as exemplary models for promoting awareness of celiac and the health of those who suffer nationwide.
HOW: Register online at www.celiaccentral.org. Admission fees are $250 VIP reception, $75 Early Bird Registration ($100 General Admission after September 1st), and $35 for students (with valid ID).
HONOREE: The NFCA will be honoring John Binswanger and his family for their leadership and support in building NFCA over the last five years.
BACKGROUND: The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is a non- profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funding for celiac disease that will advance research, education and screening amongst medical professionals, children and adults. Visit celiaccentral.org for more information.