Trained in the classic French tradition of L’Art de la Pâtisserie, Adriana Saldaña-Meadath spent years studying and working with many world-renowned chefs and honing her skills in Chicago’s famous Everest Room and the Peninsula Hotel before being diagnosed with gluten intolerance, potentially derailing her beloved career. Rather than quit, she became inspired. #ChallengeAccepted.
By utilizing her extensive training, Adriana developed a proprietary flour blend that yielded high quality, gluten-free pastries that were an answer to the uninspired, poor-quality, and poor-tasting products available in the market, in turn, opening up a 100%, dedicated gluten free bakery in Riverside, Illinois -- mere minutes outside of the Windy City.
Adriana sat down with me to shed light on her journey as a entrepreneur and distinguished pastry chef in Chicago who perfected gluten free baked goods of the highest caliber.
Read more about her story below.
Flur Gluten Free Bakery
1. How did you get into pastry? Tell me a bit about your career background?
My first experience with pastry was in high school, during sophomore year in Home Economics. This class was my first introduction to baking and I learned how to make cheesecake and cinnamon rolls. I absolutely fell in love with the concept of using precise measurements and math (one of my favorite subjects) to put together ingredients that would turn out to be so delicious. Ever since that class, I loved baking and I started buying cook books and was always trying out new recipes. But I never even imagined that working in pastry could possibly be a career. At the time, I just viewed it as a hobby.
I went on to graduate from Dominican University with a BA in International Business and spent ten years in International Sales and Marketing in the Information Technology (IT) industry. In 2007, I decided to pursue my true passion and enrolled in The French Pastry School, in Chicago, Illinois. What had started as a hobby now became my vocation, and I became professionally trained in the classic French tradition of L’Art de la Pâtisserie. I then spent the next few years studying and working with many world-renowned chefs and went on to hone my skills in Chicago’s famous Everest Room and the Peninsula Hotel before launching Flùr.
2. When did you get diagnosed with gluten intolerance? How did that impact your career?
Four years into my new career I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, potentially derailing everything I had worked so hard for. Rather than quitting, I became inspired. I realized there was a significant opportunity to improve the poor quality, and poor tasting gluten-free offerings that were available in the market. By utilizing my extensive training as a pastry chef, I spent over two years developing my own proprietary flour blends that yielded high quality, gluten-free pastries that were an answer to the uninspired products available in the market.
3. When and why did you decide to open your own bakery?
It is the dream of most chefs to someday open their own business. When I was presented with the opportunity to open my own bakery in 2012, I decided that I had to roll the dice and go for it. I love living on the edge and I thrive on being challenged. Little did I know at the time, this would be one of the biggest challenges I would have in my life. After I found out that I was gluten intolerant and saw there was a serious lack of high-quality of gluten free baked goods, I knew I was up for the challenge to crack the code in gluten-free baking.
4. As a dedicated gluten free bakery, what kinds of products and services do you offer to the public?
At Flùr, we take pride in using only the highest quality ingredients and source locally whenever possible. We are a 100% dedicated, gluten-free bakery located in the historic district of Riverside, IL just minutes away from downtown Chicago. We offer breakfast muffins, brownies, cookies, biscotti, cakes, French macarons, cupcakes, and pies. Besides our traditional pastry offerings, we just recently started adding a line of savory items such as quiche, chicken pot pies, hotdog in a pretzel bun, soft pretzels, and pizza, and take great pride in the fact that everything is made in-house from scratch. We also offer gourmet teas, locally roasted coffee and espresso, as well as a variety of other drinks.
5. What's your favorite item on the menu?
Our customers’ favorite pastry items are our brownies, banana chocolate chip muffins, and our carrot muffins. But currently, my favorite item is our version of the classic “Pop-Tart.” I grew up eating Pop-Tarts, and even as an adult, I missed eating them. So my pastry team set out to create a Pop-Tart that tasted so good, and which by the way was gluten free. We are currently using seasonal fruit that we buy from the local farmers markets and make our own jam. This month we are selling blueberry and cherry Pop-Tarts.
6. Do you have any advice for aspiring celiac pastry chefs?
My advice for aspiring pastry chefs with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance is to really understand the principles of baking. It is so important to truly know your fundamentals of baking and pastry. You can then take this knowledge and apply it to gluten-free baking.
7. Do you have any tips for those baking gluten free sweets from scratch as a master pastry chef?
First and foremost, make sure you are working in a clean and uncontaminated environment so you will not get people sick. Get to know the various different alternative flours that are now available for gluten-free baking, and don’t be afraid to experiment with them. And most important of all, have lots of patience. It took me close to two years to develop my own proprietary flour blends.
8. What's next for Flùr?
Within the five years we have been in business, we went from a single retail location to selling our products on a wholesale basis to hotels, country clubs, a prominent Chicago university, and multiple coffee houses throughout the Chicagoland area. Our plans for the next several years include continuing to grow our wholesale business and expanding outside of the Chicago area to a regional presence.