La Oliva Gluten-Free Kitchen
By Athena Raypold

A Lifelong Baker and a Celiac Diagnosis

Starting out selling her hand baked goods at a lemonade stand as a child, opening a food business was chef and owner of La Oliva Gluten-Free Kitchen Alisha Duret’s lifelong dream. Learning to bake at six years old, memorizing cookie recipes and milling organic flours with her mom, Alisha grew up in a family that loved to cook and valued quality ingredients and nutrition. “I just love feeding people,” she says. “I get so much joy out of it.”

When Alisha was diagnosed with celiac disease, she was disappointed with the high sugar, high preservative, gluten-free products on the market. “If I had to eat this way for life, I wanted to find a better way,” she says. Seeking out healthier gluten-free options for creating recipes that actually taste good, Alisha put her cooking and baking talents to work inventing dishes and recipes using healthy, nutritional (often organic and local) gluten-free ingredients.

While her diagnosis was challenging, Alisha is a passionate foodie and she struggled with not being able to “got out to restaurants and eat all the food,” she says. This dilemma kick-started the creation of her catering company and culinary school, La Oliva Gluten-Free Kitchen.

I just love feeding people. I get so much joy out of it. - Alisha Duret, chef and owner
La Oliva Gluten-Free Kitchen is a catering company and culinary school that caters to gluten-free cooking in a variety of cuisines
Photo by Alisha Duret.

An Inclusive Experience

Because of her experiences eating with celiac disease, Alisha “wanted to offer people with dietary restrictions food that they didn’t have to fear. People could host a party and have my food, and everyone could eat without worry. It’s not just the gluten-free aspect,” she says. “Whether it’s dairy-free or egg-free, clients can send me a list and I will make sure everyone at their party feels comfortable. I hate being that person that goes out and can’t eat, so I like to create an inclusive experience for everyone.” The fact that many of her clients have no dietary restrictions at all – they just like La Oliva Gluten-Free Kitchen’s food – is a testament to her ability to create delicious dishes, gluten-free or otherwise.

While La Oliva Gluten-Free Kitchen primarily runs catering and cooking classes out of a commercial kitchen in downtown Edmonton and doesn’t have a shop, Alisha happily takes pick-up orders from clients for cookies, squares, muffins and loaves. Additionally, both Transcend and Coffee Bureau carry her gluten-free goodies.

La OIiva Gluten-Free Kitchen was started after the owner was diagnosed with celiac disease and was inspired to bring great, healthy gluten-free cooking to the masses
Photo by Nicole Pelchat
La Oliva Gluten-Free Kitchen hosts baking and cooking classes for up to eight guests
Photo by Nicole Pelchat

Recreating Memories and Gathering Around Food

As both a chef and a world traveller, food and culinary communities in different cultures inspire Alisha. After living in Spain for a year, Mediterranean cuisine inevitably influences her menu offerings. Menu creation is inspired by Alisha’s culinary experiences; she aims to recreate those memories for her clients, sharing with them the food and the feelings it evokes. However, her menu is continually evolving with time, as Alisha adjusts dishes for catering suitability, as she masters new dishes and recipes, and as she introduces new and seasonal ingredients.

At a La Oliva Gluten-Free Kitchen cooking and baking classes, Alisha hosts a maximum of eight guests to watch her demonstrate how she makes her toothsome gluten-free food. “Food is so important in society,” Alisha says. “We always gather around it.” And so, Alisha loves to gather people around her chef’s table, teaching them about both gluten-free products and cooking techniques, while stuffing them full of her fantastic food. Guests can book classes with Morrocan, Thai, French or Spanish themes with inspired menus and they get to go home with both recipes and leftovers.

While Alisha’s initial culinary challenge was to “convince people that gluten-free food doesn’t have to taste bad,” now that she’s succeeded, she focuses on offering a quality product with exceptional service. Alisha focuses as much on the small details, such as providing serving spoons with catering orders, as she does on making excellent food with fresh, quality ingredients.

La Oliva Gluten-Free Kitchen offers a variety of cooking classes, ranging from Morrocan and Thai to French or Spanish
Photo by Alisha Duret.
La Oliva Gluten-Free Kitchen hosts cooking classes, in addition to offering catering services and providing gluten-free baked goods to local coffee shops
Photo by Nicole Pelchat
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