Chic Spotlight: Gluten-Free Gal Erin Swing

Chic Spotlight: Gluten-Free Gal Erin Swing
Gluten intolerance is far from fashionable, but one local lady is working to keep this trend delicious. A chemist turned chef shares more about her blog, research, recipes and self.

Cincy Chic: You started The Sensitive Epicure, a blog about gluten-free cuisine. What's the story behind the blog?


Gluten-free organic chemist culinarian Erin Swing: My culinary friends told me I needed to write a gluten-free (GF) cookbook. Initially I was overwhelmed at the thought. How? A smart, dear friend suggested that I start a blog primarily to get myself out there, to have my voice heard.


The Senstive Epicure has been a springboard for my voice; practicing my writing; and a place to share my culinary philosophy, insights and experimentation. My view tends to be different than the old GF serious guard — embracing being "special" and creating incredible, delightful food that everyone can appreciate and enjoy. I want to convey that eating needs to be nurturing for the soul, despite any food restrictions. Have knowledge of what you are eating, and learn about new foods and ingredients. I hope that anyone reading my blog will embrace the GF lifestyle without settling for subpar food.


Cincy Chic: You will be in Spain until April doing gluten-free baking research at Ferran Adria's Alicia Foundation, so what have been some of you and your team's breakthroughs?


Swing: So far we have done some very basic research understanding different GF flours, starches, legume flours and what we call "texturas." Texturas are modifiers for creating desired textures. A lot of these are used at Ferran Adria's El Bulli restaurant. Texturas can be very helpful in getting back a desirable texture for GF baked goods. These texturas are natural products and most are relatively easy to find, like agar agar, xanthan and guar gum.


0110Fence_INSTORY.gif Right now, I am currently in the weeds trying to perfect the European style crusty bread that is gluten free. Then next on the docket is GF puff pastry. GF bread and puff pastry are perhaps the most challenging to make without the nice elasticity of gluten, but we are up for the challenge. And the team at Alicia [Foundation] is filled with the best cooks and food scientists who happen to think like me. It is fun to brainstorm and troubleshoot with them.


Cincy Chic: This is for our Spring Trends issue, and while gluten intolerance isn't exactly a trend, it has become an epidemic. So what exactly is gluten intolerance, and what does it mean for a person who has it?


Swing: Gluten intolerances and sensitivities definitely has become an epidemic. Reports in the media recently reported the number of people diagnosed with Celiac has quadrupled. There are over 150 different chronic diseases and ailments associated with gluten. Celiac disease is just one of them. The awareness has increased exponentially over the years, but the medical estimations are staggering: 97 percent of Americans who have Celiac are not properly diagnosed, and it takes the average person 10 years to get properly diagnosed with Celiac.


For someone with a gluten intolerance, it means the cure to their ailments is and only is a strict GF diet. Sensitivity can vary from person to person. I get food-borne illness symptoms from just 100 milligrams [of gluten]. That is like a couple of crumbs of bread. Even if someone does not express that level of obvious sensitivity, the damage done to their body can be detrimental, if not life-threatening like intestinal cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.


Cincy Chic: What has been the cause for this surge in awareness?


Swing: I think this surge in awareness sprouts primarily by those who have been sick with seemingly unconnected symptoms such as gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, anemia and other vitamin/mineral deficiencies, infertility, etc with no clear diagnosis. With their frustration in seeking an answer, they talk to one another, read as much as they can about these symptoms, and ask their doctors difficult questions. I think this has been true for the physicians as well.


Now you can see there are so many support groups and Internet communities that people can go to for information and consultation. If you take a look at my blog, I have referenced some of my favorite GF blogs, but there are so many more out there.


Cincy Chic: With this epidemic, how have you seen society react?


Swing: Every single big food company and restaurant has something in the works, if not in place, for their GF customers/consumers. Look at General Mills: Betty Crocker has a GF line up, and they converted most of their Chex cereal to be GF. Another example is P.F. Chang's with a GF menu and educated servers and kitchen for best assurance. Even Skyline has a GF menu, which you can view online.


Cincy Chic: All gluten aside, what do you do to have fun?


Swing: Travel, of course! I also enjoy making jewelry and occasionally dabble in amateur wine making.


Cincy Chic: What do you love most about Cincinnati?


Swing: Goetta! Eckerlin [Meats] makes my favorite goetta. And Kroeger Bros.' thick sliced bacon is another favorite of mine. Basically, all the wonderful artisan pork products that our local butchers create.




Photo courtesy of Erin Swing


Linda Palacios -

Linda Palacios is the editor of Cincy Chic. Send her an e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .Read More >>

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