This week’s Food Rock Star shares food in a little different way than past stars. She isn’t sharing recipes or cooking gluten free but she will help you be able to go out and go on vacation and eat gluten free. Another neighbor of mine who I’ve yet to meet. Karen and I have emailed each other for years now. I’m thinking I need to just have a big gluten free party and invite all of the locals so we can meet up.
Name : Karen Broussard
Business and or blog name: GlutenFreeTravelSite and Gluten Free Travel Blog
Location: Based in a Northern Virginia suburb of Washington, DC
Favorite quote: “Why put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today?”
Focus of blog or business: Helping the gluten-free community find safe places to dine in their area — or when traveling
Social Media I play in: Facebook, Twitter (my favorite), and LinkedIn (only moderately)
I started my blog in the month and year: I launched GlutenFreeTravelSite in April 2008 and the Gluten Free Travel Blog in September 2008
Professional organizations I belong to: Benefactor Member of the Celiac Sprue Association and an active member of DC Celiacs
Training/education I received: On the education side, I graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University’s School of Business Administration in 1991. My career was spent in various marketing roles. My gluten-free “training” began in April 2005 when our younger son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. After getting up the learning curve pretty quickly in the “cooking at home” department, I realized the big challenge was going to be dining out and traveling while making sure our toddler would be able to safely follow a gluten-free diet. There really needed to be a place to go for feedback…something beyond a message board or directory-style listing of restaurants. That’s why I launched GlutenFreeTravelSite…to give people a way to share their gluten-free dining and travel experiences with others — in the form of first-hand, personal reviews on a review-based site.
My favorite healthy food: That’s a tough one…my kids are constantly asking me what my “favorite” of everything is…favorite sports team, favorite sport, favorite restaurant, favorite food. I’m not really a person with a lot of “favorites”…I generally like a lot of things! I like to eat healthy so when I dine out, I usually order fish if possible. I like to buy organic foods when available and have been an avid label-reader for YEARS…well before my son’s diagnosis with Celiac. In fact, if God had to give us a disease to deal with, he picked the right family for Celiac. Knowing what my family and I are eating has always been a priority…and now I just add “gluten free” to other things I aim for: all natural and organic.
My favorite snack food: There’s that “favorite” question again! Let’s see…popcorn, cheese and crackers, small pieces of dark chocolate (because they’re healthy, right?!), and to drink: a skim latte or some type of tea. Oh…almost forgot…yes, this is truly my favorite: a new discovery I found at Trader Joe’s…a trail mix with dark chocolate, dried cranberries, dried cherries, cashews, almonds and pistachios. It is to-die-for — and pretty healthy, too!
My top 3 healthiest foods I love to eat or recommend: Pretty much covered this above…
Childhood ambition: Can’t really recall a strong pull to one thing in particular. I think I just always assumed I’d go into business/marketing, because I was raised by an entrepreneur. And I definitely got bitten by the entrepreneurial bug!
My favorite cookbook: Can’t say…there are many I use, and I also get recipes from gluten-free newsletters like CSA’s. I really LOVE Wegman’s MENU magazine…I just tailor recipes to make them gluten-free, if they aren’t already. I also experiment a bit in the kitchen, sometimes trying to re-create something I had at a restaurant and liked.
Wildest dream: Dream meaning “aspiration?” To travel the world.
Favorite activity: I love to spend time with my family, read, travel, watch movies, and ski (favorite sport!). But as you can see, I evaded narrowing the question down to one “favorite” again!
Favorite thing to cook: Hmmm…again, I’m torn…don’t usually like “high maintenance” recipes, but after I’ve finished making them, I always enjoy the result. A Beef Burgundy dish comes to mind for this, but I don’t make it much anymore. I prefer simpler (and healthier!) things. I like making Chicken Piccatta and a Coconut Lime Shrimp, which my kids love!
Favorite kitchen tool: Wine aerator, if that counts! It makes such a difference in “opening up” a bottle of wine, similar to decanting, but without the wait!
Biggest risk I’ve taken: Giving up my marketing career to launch my website/business.
Favorite exercise: As I said, I love skiing, but in terms of a day-to-day exercise routine, I like to do a mix of cardio and weight training in my basement or do a strength training or yoga class at the gym.
Proudest moment: So many proud moments with my kids…couldn’t possibly list them all…how my younger son handles his Celiac diagnosis at such a young age ranks right up there.
What I you do to treat myself: Not often enough…a massage at a spa
What I do to feel at peace: Usually read or watch a movie
Biggest challenge: Juggling the 24/7 nature of running my own business with the 24/7 job of parenting.
Favorite vacation spot: Italy, Hawaii, Caribbean, Deer Valley (ski resort in Utah)
Craziest thing I’ve ever done: I’m going to pass on this question!
Health concerns I’ve cleared up: Migraines, for the most part
Books I’ve written: None
I started my blog to: Act as an extension to my website. While the website is geared to reviews submitted by people all over the world, the Blog lets me share personal gluten-free travel and dining experiences — as well as interview chefs, feature guest Bloggers, and pass along exciting news related to gluten-free dining and travel.
What I hope the people that visit my blog find: I hope they discover new possibilities for dining out and traveling on a gluten-free diet. I hope they realize gluten-free options are so much greater than they were just a few years ago — and light years ahead of where they were even 6, 7, 8 years ago.
Top 3 results people get from visiting my blog: More ideas of places to dine and shop for gluten-free goodies, news of new restaurant chains offering gluten-free menus, occasional gluten-free product reviews.
Products and/or services I offer: GlutenFreeTravelSite offers a huge searchable worldwide database of user-submitted, gluten-free dining and travel reviews, a list of restaurant chains with gluten-free menus (with direct links to those menus and restaurant locations), a Resource page, a Blog, a monthly Featured Review, (selected from a monthly contest), helpful Articles, a free Mobile Version (automatically accessible via any smart phone), and now even a place to submit reviews of college dining services (in addition to “g-f friendly” restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, hotels/resorts, and cruises).
What I love about what I do: I love the variety. I never get bored. I love the idea of building a business and helping people make their lives easier and better. I wish I’d had a resource like GlutenFreeTravelSite when our son was first diagnosed. And most of all, I enjoy that I’ve been able to combine many things I love (marketing, writing, travel, food, health, and “giving back”) into a business I’m passionate about.
How am I making a difference in my community: Well, I hope I am! We frequently receive emails from visitors who have been helped by reading the reviews on our site — whether it’s learning of a restaurant in their area, a college that excels in accommodating gluten-free students, a resort that will allow them to “take a vacation from worry,” or a bakery where they can get their child a gluten-free cake!
My greatest success so far: Hmmm…I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I don’t know that I ever really stop for long to enjoy small successes along the way…usually I have my eye on the next goal or area to be improved!
In the future I see myself: Hopefully healthy and happy, with a healthy and happy family!