In collaboration with CBC Radio saskatoon morningwriter Naomi Hansen is exploring the stories behind Saskatoon’s restaurants.
Monster cookies, savory scones, chocolate drizzled cakes, and cupcakes topped with colorful swirls of frosting: For someone avoiding gluten, these are typically digestive disasters.
But if you grab these treats from The Griffin Takeaway in Saskatoon, you can eat them with ease.
“People are constantly saying, ‘What is gluten-free?’ and we say, ‘everything’, and they [point at the display case] and go, ‘This? And that? And that?’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s still gluten-free!'” said Nicole Barr, who co-owns The Griffin Takeaway (located at 741 7th Ave. N.) with her husband, Derek Barr.
The Griffin Takeaway has more than 80 menu items, including staples like bread, rolls, a lunch menu, grab-and-go meals (chicken pot pie is a customer favorite), and festive features like pumpkin pie and gingerbread decorating kits. .
Choosing what to order can be overwhelming, especially for those with dietary restrictions who are used to having fewer options when dining out.
“A gentleman once cried when he found out he could eat a sandwich again,” Nicole said. “I felt really bad for him, but I made him a sandwich and he was so happy.”
The beginnings of a gluten-free bakery
The Barrs met while working at Prairie Ink Restaurant & Bakery in Saskatoon, where Derek was a sous chef and Nicole worked as a head baker.
Although neither of them has a problem eating gluten, they had a close friend with celiac disease and began experimenting with gluten-free recipes.
“We used to all get together for brunch and if you have a celiac in the group, you have to cook for them and make it good for everyone else, too, so that’s where it started,” Derek said.
The desire to operate their own business led them to open The Griffin Takeaway in 2012, initially with gluten-free and gluten-free items on the menu. However, they quickly realized that for customers with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, cross contamination was a concern.
“Nobody felt comfortable coming here knowing that we still had some gluten on the premises,” Nicole said.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition, which means that the body’s immune system responds abnormally to gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. It is estimated that one in 100 to 200 people in North America is affected by it. For people with celiac disease, even a single gluten-containing crumb can lead to symptoms like bloating, fatigue, and abdominal pain that last for hours or days.
People who do not have celiac disease may also avoid gluten as a dietary choice, or have gluten sensitivity, also known as gluten intolerance, which causes symptoms that vary depending on the person’s sensitivity level and the amount of gluten. that they consume
The Barrs decided to switch to a strictly gluten-free menu.
Derek said that probably the most common thing they hear now is “you can trust eating here; you don’t have to worry about getting sick.”
The secret of a good gluten-free pastry
Derek said there has been a lot of trial and error in developing gluten-free recipes, but their secret lies in a gluten-free flour blend that they make in-house. The mix includes white rice flour and xanthan gum, which is a common stabilizer added to gluten-free baking to mimic the elasticity of gluten. Derek said that most of the recipes translate well in terms of swapping out the regular flour for the blend.
Also, most of their menu is vegetarian and almost half is vegan.
“As a vegetarian, I always felt like there weren’t many places to go and get vegetarian food,” Nicole said. “This was 11 years ago and things have changed a lot in the city since then, but I just wanted to have a place where people would feel comfortable coming in and eating.”
That has been achieved. As a go-to place in Saskatoon for all things gluten-free and vegetarian, Derek said they’re happy to offer such a wide selection.
“If you’re used to being relegated to the [gluten-free or vegan] choice anywhere you go, that’s fine,” he said, “but it’s nice to go in and choose. We have it all”.