He’s not the UK’s Damian Cardone by any stretch of the imagination, but coeliac chef Anthony Demetre has hardly endeared himself to British and Irish coeliacs this weekend by revealing on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen on the 9th April 2011 that he maintains a strict gluten-free diet for three months and then “for two weeks I just eat as much pasta and pizza as I can get hold of” – insert inappropriate smiling from Demetre and inappropriate laughter from presenter James Martin – “because I can’t cut it out… completely fully because the body just rejects it when you do have it”.
You can see it on YouTube here.
As with the Cardone affair, the bloggers have started to come out in force. The GFGuerrillas have posted this morning, as has the Gluten Free Traveller, and both have complained to the BBC, as have many members of the gluten free message board.
For the sake of discussion, I will try to defend him. The gluten-free diet is difficult. For a chef, it must be particularly so – being exposed to tempting glutenous treats constantly. He is allowed to stick to the diet or stray from it as he chooses. As coeliac David Johnstone said amusingly on Twitter – “It’s his villi!” It could be argued he is entitled to air his views as much as anyone else, and that he was not encouraging coeliacs to abandon their GFDs.
That’s probably as much as I can offer him. I won’t repeat any of the comments and criticism that I’ve seen online (I agree with most of it, but not all), but I will add the following to the discussion pot:
1. Did what he say actually make sense? It was a non sequitur to me. He can’t cut gluten out because the body rejects it when he has it? So if his body didn’t reject it he could cut it out? What? Er, seems to me that he’s unable to cut out gluten because the temptation for pizza and pasta is, for him, too great. The Sated Coeliac is of the view that he mistakenly believes he needs to eat it occasionally, but I’m not so sure.
2. He – or someone – should have made it transparently clear that coeliac disease is very serious, and not some lifestyle choice or fad diet. We know that it isn’t, but others watching may not know that it isn’t, and may now assume that it is. Not good for general awareness. And what if newly diagnosed kids were watching? “If he eats pizza, mummy, why can’t I?”
3. That laughter was inappropriate. Perhaps from James Martin it was surprised nervous laughter, but this subject is no joke and it is this, ultimately, which I think the BBC are going to have to apologise for next week. I hope they do.
I expect this one will run for a bit. As I’m about to post, gluten-free champion Phil Vickery has given a strongly worded comment to Coeliac London. Possibly more later.
Speaking as both a sufferer of food intolerances (although not coeliac)and a professional food writer for allergy-friendly food, I cannot think of one justification for Anthony Demetre's remarks. Being a chef himself he should at the very least have the know how to create food that is free from gluten but still delicious; if he can't do that then I am afraid it is more of a reflection of his skills as a chef than it is a denouncement of living gluten free.
And, maddeningly, that's what he was seemingly trying to do with championing quinoa and cooking with this nutritious ancient grain. Shame that what he said distracted from that – because a lot of people don't know what to do with quinoa and it's still seen as 'exotic'.
Thanks for commenting and reading, Pippa.
There is no excuse for a 'chef' making comments that make eating Gluten Free and Celiac look like a fake problem! His comments simply denigrate those of us who get SEVERELY ill from even one speck of gluten. He can poison his body all he wants, but publicly, and as a chef, he should be responsible for educating people on how essential the GF diet is to those of us whose lives depend on it. If he can't do that because he doesn't really know how essential and life saving this diet is, then he should keep his mouth shut.
I think it was totally wrong for Demetre to do this and I am personally onto this as well. Although I do not live in the UK, I still think it is terrible to all those who have now received a delusional message as to how coeliac disease works. It is absolutely awful what he has done and I hope there are some repercussions from this. It has also occurred in Australia too on MasterChef a year or two back, when one of the cooks said 'ah, coeliac disease; that's just an intolerance to gluten' in a flippant manner. We really need to raise awareness and I am taking a variety of companies to task on this matter as it is essential that we get what we ask for. Clear, Accurate and Obvious information.
Thanks Kelly. I'm still puzzling over the meaning of what he said – perhaps I've a mental block over it. I think I'm possibly interpreting the "I can't cut it out completely…" as "I find myself unable to cut it out completely…" whereas others are hearing it as "I'm not permitted to cut it out completely…"
I'm sure we've not heard the last of this. Coeliac UK have complained to the BBC so it's being dealt with by the right authorities.
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