To support Coeliac UK Awareness week myself and my team of chefs from the Road Hole Restaurant have taken on the Gluten Free Challenge. Our team inlcuding Head Chef Ross Marshall, Sean McGinlay, Martin Po and Paddy Boyd have promised to live on a strict gluten free diet from Monday until Sunday this week recording our experiences in a diary.

I do think this week will be a difficult one; I tend to eat a lot of carbohydrates and unfortunately many of them are now off limits, as a result I find myself looking towards protein rich meals. I can see that if I was to remove gluten from my diet permanently I would need to plan my meals carefully to ensure that I had a balanced diet.

Last night I made a delicious butternut squash and goats cheese salad for dinner, I think that as a chef I am much more aware of the different ingredients available. I can imagine that many people will have difficulty finding the time and resources to make varied meals. That’s exactly why I was so keen to get involved with this challenge; events such as Coeliac UK Awareness Week and the Gluten Free Challenge are a great way of raising awareness. Even in day two of the challenge my team have already noticed the lack of product options available to them, if they do not like the taste of one bread or biscuit brand there are very little alternatives. I do hope that Coeliac UK Awareness Week highlights the great resources are currently available to them such as the fantastic 9000 strong product database on Coeliac.org.uk.

Ross- Bread is the one thing I will definitely miss; I am already finding it difficult to source a gluten free loaf that I like the taste of. So far the challenge has been a lot more difficult than I had thought it would be. As the Head Chef at the Road Hole Restaurant I like to taste everything before I serve it, whilst I have to rely on my Sous Chef for tasting some dishes – we’re lucky in that we use fresh, seasonal, local produce here so many of the dishes are naturally wheat and/or gluten free.

I had a day off work yesterday so I made myself a chicken curry being careful to check that all the spices I added were gluten free. Tonight as both Sean and I will be working we plan to try our new packet of gluten free pasta with a cherry tomato and basil sauce.

Sean- I like to cook for my girlfriend and myself however as I had not yet bought any gluten free pasta I had to serve the regular pasta dish to my girlfriend and make myself a tuna salad. Our local supermarket has a really good selection of gluten free products so I plan to make a visit this afternoon on my break to pick up some more gluten free bread, pasta and biscuits. Hopefully once I have more gluten free products I will be able to make meals that my girlfriend and I can enjoy together, I really don’t want to cook two different meals for dinner every night but I’m sure I’ll get into the swing of it!

Martin- I haven’t had too many problems so far finding gluten free food but I’m sure that it will get harder as the week goes on. I have already bought some products; yesterday I had gluten free cheese toastie for lunch and today I made a gluten free pasta dish. I was surprised to find that I actually liked the pasta! The one thing that I know I will miss is pizza; I’m going to have to look for a gluten free pizza base recipe, I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Patrick- Taking part in this challenge has made me realise just how much I like to snack, as a chef it can be difficult finding time for a full meal so I tend to eat smaller and quicker meals. My usual quick fix would be a sandwich, as I don’t yet have any gluten free bread I have had to swap this for dishes such as a green salad or a fruit salad. I wasn’t able to eat the food that my family had for dinner last night so I made myself sausage and mash, I was really surprised at how many sausage products were not suitable to eat. I can tell that this task is going to be a little more difficult than I had originally anticipated.

The Gluten Free Challenge Team- from left to right: Martin, Ross, Paddy & Sean