A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to interview Simone Shifnadel, Executive Chef and owner of Zen Belly Catering. If you are like me, having a caterer who is gluten free, and understands how to keep gluten free safe, is the best choice if you need an event catered. And, if the food is so good that your guests can’t tell it is gluten free, that is icing on the cake. Simone also specializes in Paleo cooking and has catered quite a few paleo events.
Simone is gluten intolerant and had to reset her system to work on her health. When she discovered she could no longer eat gluten, she decided it was a good time to shift her career and start her own catering company. Zen Belly has been open for three years and can handle parties of all sizes around the Bay Area. She loves baking grain free and feels that if nobody can tell her cooking is gluten free, it is a successful event. Simone lets potential clients know upfront that her cooking is gluten free. She can also provide Kosher catering upon request.
Some of Zen Belly’s most popular dishes at parties include crostini, crab cakes, and meatballs. I know it has been years since I have been able to eat finger foods like these at parties and events. These are the “comfort” foods in the appetizer world. Her desserts are also a huge hit and Simone works with a cake designer for wedding cakes. Simone ensures her staff is well trained on food allergies. If any recipe changes, she makes sure all staff know of the changes so they can inform guests if needed. She will also discuss food allergies with the client so that she knows ahead of time if any guests have other food allergies.
Simone currently cooks out of a rented kitchen and it is not a dedicated gluten free space. To make sure everything avoids cross contamination, she thoroughly cleans the kitchen before cooking. She uses her own cutting boards, utensils, pots, pans, etc. Her goal is to create a gluten free commercial kitchen and she ran a Kickstarter campaign to get funding to create this kitchen. Since she has been funded, real estate has gone through the roof and it has been hard to locate affordable space. She is continuing her search and hopes to find something soon.
Look for a cookbook from Simone sometime next August. It will be a paleo cookbook from a chef’s perspective. There will be tons of photos and menus for different occasions.
Zen Belly Catering
(415) 686-0490 Email: