Thank you Debbie for being willing to be interviewed by AllergicChild!
My honor and pleasure!
Your son has multiple food allergies. What allergies are you managing?
My 5-year-old son has life-threatening, anaphylactic allergies to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, flax seeds, sesame seeds and shellfish.
It’s a big leap to go from being an accountant to a baker. Tell us about that transition.
The transition from accountant to baker took an alphabet’s worth of career moves from accountant to b-movie actress to comedienne to director of development to editor of a teen magazine all the way through zen yoga instructor. I won’t bore you with each job I had in between.
Then I started at a again to become an allergy-free baker when my son was diagnosed with allergies to almost everything in the USDA food pyramid. When I got involved with the food-allergic community, I realized there were millions of children in the United States alone that had these severe food allergies. I wanted to bake for them as well since I had already figured it all out for my son.
I see that you use unusual ingredients like Acai Berries and Coconut Nectar. Have you found that kids with food allergies have any trouble with these ingredients?
There is a misconception out there that a coconut is a tree nut because it grows on a tree and ends in n-u-t. But in fact, coconut is a drupe, or a one-seeded fruit. Therefore, if you have a tree nut allergy you can still eat coconut and all its derivations, including coconut nectar. Now, if you have a coconut allergy, and I know some people do, that is a totally separate issue. Acai berries are just like blueberries, but they come from Brazil. So if you’re not allergic to berries you should have no problem with acai berries.
Tell us more about your book “Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats: Allergy-Free and Vegan Recipes from the Famous Los Angeles Bakery “
My cookbook contains all the recipes that I developed for my bakery, that took me years to develop, including those for cupcakes, cookies, brownies, muffins, energy bars, donut holes and breads. All of these are not only allergy-free, but also gluten-free and sugar-free as well. I developed them with the goal of making them highly nutritious as well. So there is a lot of information about the alimental values of all the ingredients and each recipe contains information about calories, carbs, sugars, etc. per serving. There’s a lot of humor in it as well. Remember, I was a comedienne when I was up to the c’s in my career choices.
You’ve been on tour recently. Do you attract more interest from the gluten-free, autism or food allergy community?
It seems there is usually a mix of people, most of whom have none of the above issues, believe it or not. They just want to learn how to bake healthfully. But, of course, there is an epidemic of people who need gluten-free items lately so I would say after the general population, gluten-free audiences are my biggest and then the food-allergic.
What are your hopes for your bakery?
I hope my bakery continues to thrive and make delectable and safe treats for everyone who wants a baked good, no matter what his or her allergy or intolerance.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
My customers all know that they are not sacrificing taste or pleasure when eating Sweet Debbie’s treats, but sometimes I find there is a prejudice when people hear that everything is dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, gluten-free, soy-free and sugar-free. They think it can’t possibly taste good. I’d like to dispel that myth because it is not only possible, it’s imperative, otherwise I wouldn’t be in business.