Meet Kathlena, The Allergy Chef
Hi! I’m Kathlena, The Allergy Chef. If you’ve read our story, you already know that I personally have over 200 food allergies and intolerances, have contact and airborne allergies, and can’t drink most water. My respirator is not a political or fashion statement, rather, a life saving device that allows me to leave the house safely.
Starting RAISE was one of the greatest accomplishments for our family, as it’s a culmination of years of research and personal experience. We’ve been able to meet people where they are and truly understand what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes. We’re then able to help them create a game-plan and move forward safely, loving their kitchen again.
How RAISE Came To Be
Some time ago, I was given 30 days to live, and survived. We knew at that point that whilst my time was limited, I had to do something with all of the information in my head. You’ll love this: it took us a while to get started because we couldn’t settle on a name. We went back and forth on different options, but everything felt so exclusive.
I wanted something that included as much of the restricted diet community as possible. Where I see all of the connections between terms such as allergy, intolerance, Celiac Disease, and more, most people living with a diagnosis don’t see it. I didn’t want them to show up and think RAISE wasn’t for them.
I was asked to write it all down… everyone who should feel welcome, and that’s how RAISE was born. We were able to take the main terms to use the letters R A I S E to make sure that everyone felt welcome.
This platform is dedicated to not only recipes, but also to resources that help families and individuals learn to thrive, no matter the restriction. We’re here to offer hope and help in your kitchen, and ensure that you have safe and delicious food to eat.
The Allergy Chef’s Qualifications
When I graduated from college at the age of 19, food was NOT on my mind. In fact, for most of my life my education focus has been science and technology. Whilst I have a BS in IT along with an AA and several small certifications in the tech field, those haven’t been the greatest help in the kitchen (though they have helped with the digital side of the business).
We consider what I do a true blessing from the Lord. For well over 20 years, cooking was NOT something I was good at, and rarely attempted. Then, Kid Two had special food needs. I woke up one day and could cook… I kid you not. There was very little trial and error and suddenly everything was intuitive.
Within six months, I had reinvented a lot of wheels and went from cooking only to dabbling in baking and cake making. I suppose one could say I was self-taught, however, I didn’t even own a cookbook. I know… it’s pretty rad. All I can say is praise the Lord because now we’re able to share this gift with others.
In 2021 I wanted to see what the grass was like on the other side and decided to pursue four food-based certifications in French Pastry, Seafood, Plant-Based Cooking, and Professional Chef. The experience was something else. Working with major allergens for the first time in some cases was insightful and this allowed me to see that free-from in a lot of instances is actually easier.
My French Pastry certification is the one I’m most proud of, as I had to reinvent most of their curriculum on the fly. My goal was to be certified, but to make every recipe (with one exception) top 9 allergy free. Interestingly, the exception was for pistachio cake. I opted to include the nut flour due to it’s distinct colour and flavour. Beyond that, I made sure every cookie, cake, glaze, and pastry was gluten free, vegan, and top 9 allergy free. The instructors were impressed by free-from, and I hope that gave them an insight to how we live.
I suppose the school I’m really a graduate from is the School of Hard Knocks. We lived the free-from life without much assistance for more than 10 years and had to blaze a trail.
THAT is the other big reason why RAISE exists. We wanted to make sure that those who come behind us have everything they need on day one. When we needed help, the resources either didn’t exist, or were very hard to come by. Our goal is to make sure no one else has to go through that.
In Recent Times…
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been a contributor to many blogs and news articles related to food, restricted diets, and allergies. Additionally, I’ve been a presenter at several shows including the Nourished Festival (both in person and online).
Our older food blog was featured as one of the best food allergy blogs by two different medical establishments, and I was also on Spokin’s list of Top 100 Women in Food Allergies. The Gluten Free Blog Awards was another highlight, as I was named a Top Gluten Free Personality.
I’ve also had the honor of being a guest on many podcasts including
- Shandeeland Podcast
- Mommy Labor Nurse Podcast
- Tots on Target
- The Mom Room Podcast with Renee Reina
- Killer Food Allergies Podcast
- Create Joy Podcast with Catrina Gandara
- Health Hackers with Gemma Evans
Within 3 years of starting Free & Friendly Foods (our bakery and parent company), our family published 6 free-from cookbooks. We recently opted to retire four of the books, as the RAISE platform was a better way to present the information.
What we’re most proud of was our groundbreaking charts in each book. The Papa insisted that each book have one giant chart with every recipe and what it was free from, within reason given the limited space. Think of it as the Advanced Recipe Search version 1. No one else was doing this in books, and it was just what our community needed.
The Advanced Recipe Search here on RAISE however blows away our books as we’re able to have 85 different filtering options. There’s nothing else like it online serving those with restricted diets.
Stay In Touch
One of the best ways to stay in touch with us is to sign up for our Newsletter. You’ll receive tips, recipes, news, and more.
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