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Gluten-Free Galley Is Icing Atop Ace Food-Biz Incubator

Let them eat cake: Even if they have a gluten sensibility -- that's the mission inside the Food Business Incubator at Calverton's gluten-free commercial kitchen, and incubator startup Willow's Baked Goods is on it.
By DAVID HAMILTON //

There’s a real gem hidden inside the   Food Business Incubator at Calverton, like finally getting in enough licks on your Tootsie Pop to discover the delicious center.

Or maybe it’s like cutting into a chocolate lava cake and finding its gooey molten yumminess – which can be hard to do, if you’re living a gluten-free lifestyle.

But alongside the incubator’s private baking rooms and large shared-use commercial kitchen, you’ll find our gluten-free commercial kitchen, a beautiful surprise of a Russian nesting doll tucked into our larger operation.

The   demand for gluten-free foods  has steadily risen and consumers are looking for different alternatives. Gluten, a protein found in wheat and several other grains, is dangerous for people with   celiac disease  and other medical conditions, and being able to offer gluten-free alternatives is on the front burner for many food companies.

Our specialty kitchen, the only gluten-free commercial kitchen east of New York City, provides these special companies an opportunity to do just that.

David Hamilton: Cake walk.

Here you’ll find   Kan Keto Muffins,   Willows Baked Goods  and several other gluten-free specialists utilizing our kitchen to seize upon the market demand – and leveraging the Calverton Incubator’s technical opportunities for business growth.

Our round-the-clock facility provides these companies with access to the equipment they need, when they need it. That includes a 20-quart mixer, a double-deck convection oven, a six-burner stovetop (with two additional ovens), stainless-steel worktables and various oven racks, all tooled specifically for gluten-free prep.

Producing gluten-less food is a complex and expensive proposition. There’s always concern about contamination – on the equipment, in the air. Flour and other common glutens are everywhere in most commercial kitchens, and even a trace contamination can be incredibly harmful.

So, “gluten-free” companies need specialized equipment and facilities to do their thing and must take extreme precautions right through packaging the final product. That’s why our kitchen is so special, and important.

This dedicated resource gives our incubator clients the security of knowing their products won’t be contaminated, giving local companies an opportunity to pursue their specialty-niche passion with the help of state-of-the-art equipment and other business-building resources.

One company living the dream is 2021 startup   Bliss Pastries, which not only understands the market and the gluten-sensitivity issue but is dedicated to creating solutions. Bliss founder Stacy Malinow began developing her own recipes when her daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease back in 2005 – her daughter’s food choices were few, she says, and not very tasty – and has now perfected her gluten-free creations.

Since officially commercializing her Huntington Station-based business in 2021, she’s been using our gluten-free kitchen to prepare an array of delicious snacks including chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip pies, brownies and muffins.

Pie-eyed: Uncle Nick’s brings homemade pizza to the gluten-challenged.

Uncle Nick’s  is another gluten-free business inspired by a family problem. Owner Nicholas Rytting comes from a very large family, and everyone takes turns hosting large family dinners – for guests with an array of severe dietary restrictions.

Rytting realized that a good gluten-free pizza crust would go a long way. His search for a decent cauliflower crust left him disappointed, though, so he decided to create his own – and the rest is history.

Our gluten-free kitchen has also been critical in helping several companies achieve organic certification.   Alpha Honey Health, which produces and packages organic honey products, and   Hamptons Brine, a recent incubator graduate who uses a natural fermentation process to make sauerkrauts and brines rich in probiotics, both achieved their organic certifications while working their way through Calverton.

We’re quite proud of our facilities and our companies. This gluten-free kitchen is a uniquely special way to help out regional businesses and other communities – and we look forward to more tasty treats to come!

David Hamilton is the interim program manager of   Stony Brook University’s Food Business Incubator at Calverton.