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Frustrated by gluten-free products, a father turns to walnuts

January 19, 2012|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com
  • Oliver Kolevski and his son Max Kolevski, 11, enjoy a breakfast which includes a wheat, gluten and lactose-free souffle made from a walnut flour mixture, at their La Candada Flintridge home on Wednesday, January 18, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Oliver Kolevski and his son Max Kolevski, 11, enjoy a breakfast…

When La Cañada Flintridge resident Oliver Kolevski’s 11-year-old son, Max, was diagnosed with gluten and lactose intolerances a year ago, he had a hard time finding healthy foods for him to eat.

“I had to find a way to send my son to school, without bread, without macaroni, without all these things,” said Kolevski. “And I had to figure out how to keep him healthy and happy — and at the same time to enjoy his food — and that become pretty serious business.”

Kolevski said that he found some success with products like goat milk and corn pasta he found at markets like Sprouts and Trader Joe’s, but he wanted to give his son more nutrition and variety.

After attempts to make do with store-bought gluten-free flour mixes that tasted “like cardboard,” Kolevski says he looked to his childhood in Macedonia for inspiration. His memories led him to create a walnut-based flour substitute.

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“Walnuts are basically used a lot, especially in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and in my grandmother’s kitchen they were an everyday thing,” he said. “So I started experimenting [with them].”

Although he attended culinary school in Macedonia, receiving a degree in restaurant management, Kolevski said he drew more on his grandmother’s cooking.

“The school was good, but my grandmother was the best,” he said. “She would use walnuts in pancakes and crepes, she would use walnuts making cakes, she would use walnuts making tarts.”

Kolevski said that he had so much success using his walnut flour to make soufflés, muffins and cookies for his son that he decided to offer them to the greater public. He said that with gluten and lactose intolerance becoming so prevalent, he hopes his company, California Walnut Cookies, will offer an alternative.

“Everything you buy either has milk, milk powder or wheat,” he said. “And then you see all kinds of immune system reactions … many people have allergies and they’re suffering, and they don’t even know why.”

Kolevski said that his son missed six weeks of school at Paradise Canyon Elementary while doctors attempted to diagnose him. Ultimately he was prescribed a gluten- and lactose-free diet by Dr. Ardath Yamaga, gastroenterologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

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