Culinary school and food allergies

I have food allergies, and lots of them — legumes is the big one, which includes soy, all beans, peas, cola beans, carob, guar gum, peanuts and a handful of other oddities, like MSG, that are often derrived from soy or beans. In addition, I’m allergic to most raw tree nuts, and I have intolerances to raw peppers, melons, cucumbers, apples and bananas. I can eat them cooked because the cooking process changes the protein structure, but have issues if they’re raw. Sounds complicated, and it is.

I can’t drink any kind of cola because of the cola beans. I can’t eat most ice creams, sorbets or gelatos because most contain guar gum or locust bean gum. Cream cheese, ricotta, yogurt, crackers, sandwich bread, chocolate - check your labels. You’d be surprised at how many products contain soy, soy lecithin, guar or other gums.

My food allergies are one of the main reasons I enrolled in culinary school — I wanted to learn everything I could about food, so I could cook better for myself and also teach and help others in the industry, as well as home cooks.

I’m often asked, “How can you be in culinary school with food allergies?”

It’s easy. I adapt, my team adapts, and we all work together to make sure I’m safe. Thankfully, my allergies are not life threatening. And by that, I mean I don’t go into anaphylactic shock. But we treat each meal as if it could be life threatening.

I bring my own olive oil and corn oil to class and keep it labeled in the pantry. Students are very respectful and do not use it unless they’re on my cooking team. And my chef instructors allow me to make minor substitutions when necessary. For example, the panko crumbs we were told to use the other day contain soy. I was able to make my own bread crumbs from the French baguettes and use those instead.

And when there is no substitution, I just don’t eat what we’ve made. So on days when we’re deep frying in vegetable oil (which is 100% soybean oil), I simply do not eat it. When we are running short on time and add chicken base to a stock to speed things up, I don’t eat the soup or sauce that day because the base contains “natural flavors,” which are often soy-based. I do sometimes taste, but I never eat an entire serving. And I often rely on my team to be my “tasters” when I’m cooking with an allergen.

Yes, sometimes it’s inconvenient, but it’s definitely possible to attend culinary school if you have food allergies. Personally, I think it makes you, and everyone in your class, a better chef — it forces you to read labels and make better choices. And when you’re feeding people, that is extremely important.

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            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Good for Working Adults
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            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
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            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
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            • Students get real-world experience through the required externship at the end of the program.
            • Curriculum includes laboratory sessions, academic preparation and hands-on experience.
            • Program objectives are to provide students with skills needed for cooking wholesome, attractive, food preparations and to assist graduates in obtaining positions in the food service industry.
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            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
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            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 12:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
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            • A part of the Select Education Group (SEG).
            • Offers several scholarship and financial aid opportunities for students who qualify.
            • California campuses accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and accreditation for the Salem campus from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
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            Lackawanna College is the premier, private, accredited two-year college serving the people of northeastern Pennsylvania. With a focus on keeping higher education affordable and accessible to our immediate community, Lackawanna draws 80 percent of its student population right from our own region.

            With a main campus situated in downtown Scranton, Lackawanna’s expanding footprint also includes satellite centers in Hawley, Hazleton, New Milford, and Towanda.