BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) – On days when Jeni Zolfaghari isn’t working as a nurse practitioner, she’s working in the kitchen.
“Me and my mom used to bake obviously all the time when I was a little kid. And then I had my daughter. We would bake,” she said.
But baking and eating in general came with challenges after Zolfaghari, her mother and her daughter were all diagnosed with Celiac disease. It’s an immune reaction to eating the protein, gluten, which is found in foods with wheat, barley and rye.
“My family knows the second something was contaminated, my face turns red, I start sneezing, my nose starts running and they’re like, ‘Crap,’” she laughed.
“I’m not as severe because I’ve learned to kind of monitor those things,” said Zolfaghari. “But for most of us it’s [gastrointestinal] upset: so your stomachaches, your unpleasant bathroom visit, you know vomiting. For some, it can be resolved in a day. For some people it can really set them back a couple of weeks.”
So she decided to do something about it by opening G-Free Cafe and Bakery.
Zolfaghari said, “I was just like, ‘Okay, I’m so tired of buying this stuff over the counter that’s really crap.’ It’s got a bunch of stuff in it that I don’t want. And so COVID gave me the time to really explore and go back into recipes and figure out actually how to make gluten-free.”
Zolfaghari bakes her gluten-free and Keto desserts and breakfast goods out of her home’s kitchen in Bloomington. The state’s Cottage Law allows small business owners without permits to cook certain products out of their personal kitchens and then sell to customers.
“I can stay at home and play with recipes and decide what tastes good. And there’s been many things that have ended in the garbage. But for the most part when most of our friends hear that I’m baking, they’re like, ‘Okay, what do you need taste tested? We’ll be right there,’” she laughed.
Zolfaghari says her goal is for the whole family to enjoy her treats regardless if they have dietary restrictions.
“To be able to give that to people in Bloomington-Normal and surrounding towns community where they actually have a place they can trust that there’s zero contamination, they’re not going to take a risk that there’s not even one tiny little crumb of something that they can’t have.”
Down the line, Zolfaghari wants to have concession stand with Keto options and she wants a building next year for a café.
To place your G-Free Café and Bakery order, visit the website.