Unlike her favorite animal, the goat, Jeanette Harris can’t eat whatever she wants.
After a lifetime of unexplained digestive issues, joint pain and fatigue, she was diagnosed with Celiac disease in her early 20s and had to cut gluten, a protein found in wheat, out of her diet.
“I tried a lot of store-bought things, but they tasted like cardboard,” says Harris, now 34. “Luckily, I already liked to bake. So I started baking for myself, once I found some good flour mixes. I started to understand textures. I used rice, quinoa and potatoes instead of wheat.”
In February 2017, she opened Gluten Free Goat Bakery & Café in Garfield, a tasty destination for folks with autoimmune conditions, dietary restrictions, and food allergies and intolerances.
The shop’s biggest sellers are a baked apple cider donut and an “oat” meal cream pie made with almond flour, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and vegan-friendly buttercream. Specialty cakes include a red velvet dessert that boasts beets as its main ingredient. In addition to sweets, the café serves gluten-, soy- and corn-free breads, lunch items such as sandwiches and veggie burgers and breakfast favorites like French toast.
What she’s competing for — and how you can help
Harris’s hard work in the kitchen has taken her to the final round of the Tory Burch Foundation Fellowship, a grant program that provides female entrepreneurs with mentoring and money to help boost their businesses.
More than 600 women answered the nonprofit organization’s call. Now, the competition is down to 30.
Ten people will become fellows and receive a trip to the foundation’s headquarters in New York City, a year of support and guidance and a $10,000 business education grant. One grand prize winner will earn a $100,000 investment in their company.
Voting is open until April 3.
If she wins, Harris wants to create a teaching kitchen that will help people with Celiac disease or other food sensitives to better understand their new diets and prepare meals for themselves.
“I want to create a community, almost like a support group-type of idea,” she says. “I would also do fun cooking classes open to the public so people could have a date night and make pizzas.”
Other dreams include installing a “green” roof on her shop that would feature solar panels and an herb garden. She also wants to launch a food truck or a small satellite location that would expand her reach beyond Garfield and help more people with dietary restrictions to satisfy their hunger and improve their health.
“It was extremely hard at first, because I was in denial about having Celiac disease,” Harris explains. “When I finally followed my diet, my whole life changed. I had so much energy. You have to mourn the foods you had before and replace them.”