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Columbia woman turns years of gluten-free cooking into home business

Thursday, December 22, 2011 | 12:10 p.m. CST; updated 12:51 p.m. CST, Friday, December 23, 2011
Mary Manulik is the owner of Senza Gluten-Free Foods, which she runs out of the kitchen of her home. Manulik started baking gluten-free when her husband was diagnosed with celiac disease. Manulik would bake separate desserts for her husband and her kids, giving her husband gluten-free treats. Her children, however, loved the gluten-free desserts more than the "regular" ones, and Manulik ended up baking gluten-free for all household desserts.

COLUMBIA — Mary Manulik, 56, has been cooking gluten-free since 1993 — years before gluten-free cooking swept the nation.

She started cooking gluten-free after her husband, Joe Quetsch, 57, was diagnosed with celiac disease.

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Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing certain nutrients. The damage is due to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and possibly oats.

"At first you start looking for food you can just eat," Manulik said. "You would be surprised what has wheat in it. If you look, the first ingredient in soy sauce is wheat."

When Manulik started cooking gluten-free, it was much more difficult than it is today.

She said there were few cookbooks and little information on the Internet, and it was hard to find gluten-free ingredients in bulk, such as soy and rice flour.

After years of cooking, Manulik discovered it was easier to bake large batches of goods instead of one pie at a time, and she decided to start her business, Senza Gluten Free Foods.

Manulik runs the business out of her home at 4500 Kirkdale Court.

She started her business by selling cakes, pies, bread and cookies at the Thursday South-Side Columbia Farmers Market and with private orders from friends in the Central Missouri Celiac Support Group.

Paula Vandelicht, a registered dietician who gives nutrition counseling at Hy-Vee and meets with the support group, said there is a growing celiac community in Columbia.

"I see two to 10 new gluten-free customers a week, depending on the week," Vandelicht said. "There are a lot of requests from people for pies and cakes. We carry some of those products, but having a local bakery is a benefit to the community."

Manulik wanted to provide people with tasty gluten-free food, and she wanted it to be baked fresh.

Ginger Spratt, whose daughter Stephanie, 17, was diagnosed with celiac disease a year and a half ago, is one of Manulik's customers.

"Gluten-free food has a tendency to taste like cardboard," Ginger Spratt said. "Her food tastes really good. The skill included to make good gluten-free food is kind of an art."

Spratt said the food was not any more expensive than the gluten-free food at stores, and Manulik will deliver orders.

Manulik hopes to continue growing her business and maybe one day open a bakery outside of her home.

She will be taking a break during the holidays but will begin selling again at the indoor Columbia Farmers Market starting Jan. 3 at the Parkade Center.

She also sells her goods at the senzafoods.com.


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Comments

Corey Parks December 22, 2011 | 4:30 p.m.

I am glad to see that Columbia loosened its control on home based kitchens. Unfortunately I have had a few friends over the years wanting to start catering businesses out of their homes but were required to remodel with a business/commerical only kitchen and separate entrances or had to rent space at a church or other area which cut into profit and eventually went out of business paying rent.

I have a few family members with Celiac Disease and they always have their own food at Holiday get together. My question Mary is do you find because of the Hollywood actors and actresses getting on the gluten free
band wagon that more people are eating these products because they believe grain/wheat is bad for you?

(Report Comment)
Mary Manulik December 27, 2011 | 6:47 p.m.

Hi, Corey. No, I cannot run a catering business from my home kitchen. My finished products must be baked. I am not able to sell things like cream pies or unbaked pie shells. Unfortunately I cannot rent space at a church or restaurant, because they will be contaminated with gluten. Yes, the celebrity bandwagon helps my business. I don't think anyone really knows the full extend of gluten and its effects on people. I just know that someone who has celiac disease, like my husband, simply cannot eat gluten. Cheating just one time, or accidentally being exposed to a few crumbs, leads to days of not feeling well, so he avoids gluten at all expenses.

(Report Comment)
Sara Aguillard December 30, 2011 | 9:03 p.m.

I think that what you have accomplished is amazing. I have a gluten allergy (I was not diagnosed as a Celiac as I began the diet before havng tests done). However, I eat as if I have the disease and it helps me. I live in a small town and want to share what I have learned since April 1, 2010, regarding g-free cooking. I've gotten pretty good at baking. I can also spot a rice or corn pasta in a second! Thanks for what you are doing! I am sure your family appreciates your efforts!!

(Report Comment)
Mary Manulik January 4, 2012 | 6:13 p.m.

Hi, Sara. Thanks for your comments. Even though I have been doing gluten free baking for a long time, I still learn something new every week. If you're ever in Columbia, please look me up. Best wishes to you!

(Report Comment)

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