Gluten Free Entrepreneur, Jules Shepard

I’m so honored to feature Jules Shepard! Jules owns an exciting company called Jules Gluten Free, where she has created her own line of certified gluten free flour mixes! This talented entrepreneur kindly sent me a copy of her new cookbook, Free For All Cooking.  I was so taken with this cookbook because it’s great for families who are not only going gluten free and need recipes for the whole family, but these meals can be made free of dairy, nuts, soy, eggs, and more. Cool. The book is only $11.27 with 150 gluten free recipes!  So instead of just sharing her book, I wanted to share more about her… Jules is very passionate about what she does and the people she’s helping through her GF mixes, her cookbooks, her cooking classes and so much more. When I first got into the gluten free world, I was immediately drawn to her positive energy, her drive, and her knowledge.  So when she graciously took the time to be interviewed, I was thrilled. Here’s what she shared…

1) What where your symptoms before you found out you had Celiac Disease?

I actually had symptoms that ran that gamut from iron-deficiency anemia and migraines to every nasty gastrointestinal symptom you could name. No doctor could put the pieces together for me with an accurate diagnosis though, and they just kept ineffectively treating the symptoms, not the cause.

2) How long did it take for you to get diagnosed?

From the time I first had noticeable symptoms to the time I was accurately diagnosed with CD, it was a little over 10 years. And this delay was not for lack of trying! I saw doctors up and down the east coast and had every imaginable test run … except they weren’t looking for celiac disease, so they didn’t find it. Finally, a new doctor thought to ask me about my diet and mentioned celiac to me for the first time. Prior to that, the only discussion about diet I had with any other physicians had resulted in them telling me to eat more whole grain cereals and fiber, which only poisoned me further.

3) How long did it take for you to start feeling better?

I started to feel better quite quickly, and dropped a dress size right away just from the bloating. I never felt totally better though, until I was diagnosed with lactose intolerance and went off dairy 3 years later.

4) Do you still have any lingering symptoms or complications of Celiac Disease?

Yes I do, unfortunately, which is why I am so intent upon people being correctly diagnosed and going completely GF as soon as possible. The longer you have active celiac disease but are still eating gluten, the more long-term damage can be done to your whole body. In addition to developing lactose intolerance, I still suffer from lymphocytic colitis which I developed from having untreated celiac disease for so long.

5) What do you wish you would have known about cooking gluten free when you got started?

Hahaha – oh so much! I guess the most important thing I wish I’d know then was that it’s not at all necessary to break the bank and fill your kitchen with dozens of different gluten-free flours in order to make a wide range of great gluten-free foods. I initially bought into the same theory everyone else had at the time (and some still do now) – that every recipe needs a different mixture of flours and proportion of gums to make it work. That’s simply not true, and that philosophy is what keeps so many people out of the kitchen and depressed about their gluten-free food options.

6) You’ve created your own line of Jules gluten free flour and written 2 successful gluten free cook books (Nearly Normal Cooking, Free For all Cooking) and 1 reference book on living gluten-free (The First Year: Celiac Disease and Living Gluten Free) What is the most common mistake you see people make when trying to cook gluten free?

There are lots of common mistakes and folks can be forgiven for making them because there is such misinformation out there about how hard it is to cook gluten free. I just finished judging another GF recipe contest and I saw this mistake in nearly every recipe: people use flours with bad tastes, smells, aftertastes or textures, so they add extra sugar and fat to try to cover those bad taste sensations. Their recipe is now full of sugar and fat and still doesn’t taste good! That’s no way to cook or to eat, and it doesn’t have to be that way. I make very low fat and low or no-refined sugar recipes all the time; I alter recipes to be free of any or all of the top 8 food allergens; I make foods and take them to events where I’m the only one eating GF and no one ever knows there’s anything different about my treats. Just because it’s gluten-free doesn’t mean it has to taste any different and it certainly doesn’t have to have extra fat and calories to be delicious.

7) What inspired you to create your own line of Jules Gluten Free Flour and write your cookbooks?

Well, I actually never set out to do any of this. I created a homemade flour blend for myself to use in my own kitchen for my family’s food. When others tasted my recipes, they encouraged me to share them with our community because they were so different than what else was available. When I published the first cookbook to share my family recipes (Nearly Normal Cooking for Gluten-Free Eating), I shared my homemade flour mixture recipe in the book. Folks loved it and loved the results, but they understandably didn’t want to have to make the flour themselves because it required several ingredients and it can be hard to find certified gluten-free brands of each ingredient, so people began asking me to have my flour manufactured. So, I looked around to try to figure out how to do that, I reformulated my flour for commercial production, and now I have a line of flour and baking mixes!

My current publisher then asked me to write The First Year: Celiac Disease and Living Gluten Free, which I was thrilled to have an opportunity to write, and then afterwards, I published another cookbook of new recipes, Free for All Cooking. This latest cookbook came out in November and contains most of the recipes I developed over the past few years and have shared with my free recipe newsletter subscribers (from JulesGlutenFree.com). Since I publish a new recipe for them each week, that has kept me on pace for at least 50 new recipes per year. I also started my blog, Jules Speaks Gluten Free, last year, as a place I could report timely GF news and have an archive of searchable recipes for folks to use.

It has all sort of evolved naturally, and just become what I do – I never had in mind that this is where I would be at this point in my life, that’s for sure! But it’s a good place; I love to help people and to share everything that I’ve learned to help others live a happier GF life.

8) What advice do you have for my readers who want to start their own gluten free business, make their own line of gluten free foods or write their own cookbooks?

Well, it’s certainly not easy to do any of those things, so I guess I’d encourage folks to be sure they want to dedicate themselves to this life. I’m really always working – it’s no 9-5 existence, that’s for sure! The easiest place to begin is probably to start a blog and get a feel for what people want to learn and hear about. At that point, perhaps an idea will come to them about a book that needs written – something that needs to be said that hasn’t been said before. I’d say that’s the best place to start.