Open for business: Bloomington baker uses food challenges to help others


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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) – On days when Jeni Zolfaghari isn’t working as a nurse practitioner, she works in the kitchen.

“My mom and I used to bake all the time when I was little. And then I had my daughter. We bake,” she said.

But cooking and eating in general posed challenges after Zolfaghari, her mother and her daughter were all diagnosed with celiac disease. It is an immune reaction to eating the protein, gluten, found in foods containing wheat, barley and rye.

“My family knows the second something’s been contaminated, my face turns red, I start sneezing, my nose starts running and they’re like ‘Fuck’ to each other,” she laughed.

“I’m not as harsh because I’ve learned to watch these things,” Zolfaghari said. “But for most of us, it’s [gastrointestinal] upset: so your stomach aches, your unpleasant visit to the toilet, you know the vomiting. For some, this can be resolved in a day. For some people, this can really set them back a few weeks.

So she decided to do something by opening G-Free Cafe and Bakery.

Zolfaghari said: “I was just like, ‘Okay, I’m so sick of buying this stuff over the counter that is really crap.’ It has a lot of stuff in it that I don’t want, and so COVID has given me time to really explore and go back to recipes and figure out how to do it gluten-free.

Zolfaghari prepares her gluten-free and Keto desserts and breakfast items in the kitchen of her home in Bloomington. The state’s cottage law allows unlicensed small business owners to cook certain products in their personal kitchens and then sell them to customers.

“I can stay home and play around with recipes and decide what tastes good. And there were a lot of things that ended up in the trash. But most of the time, when most of our friends hear that I’m baking, they’re like, ‘Okay, what do you need to taste? We will be there,” she said with a laugh.

Zolfaghari says her goal is for the whole family to enjoy her treats, whether or not they have dietary restrictions.

“To be able to give that to the people of Bloomington-Normal and the community of surrounding towns where they actually have a place where they can trust that there is no contamination, they are not going to take the risk that there is no There isn’t even a tiny speck of something they can’t have.

Ultimately, Zolfaghari wants to have a concession stand with Keto options and she wants a building next year for a cafe.

To place your G-Free Café and Bakery order, visit website.

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