Tucked away in tranquil and unassuming surrounds, Swan Valley Gourmet is just the second restaurant to become accredited by Coeliac Australia, and stands as a small gluten free hideaway where diners are able to soak up the valley landscape without the lingering anxiety that can often accompany eating out with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.
Supporting their robust commitment to both environmental and coeliac safety wholeheartedly, we took the opportunity to learn and share more about Swan Valley Gourmet through interviewing Owner Sas Jacobs. So read on! And let us know in the comments below what you love most about this cosy gluten free haven.
Tell us a bit about Swan Valley Gourmet - where did your restaurant start?
We opened on December 1, 2017 after planning and building our recycled, sustainable café for almost 5 years. We had a plan to focus on paddock to plate dining, with produce from our own farm and from other local producers. We make most things in house and have zero food waste, thanks to our animals. We also supply our own eggs, honey, herbs, edible flowers and some fruit and veg.
Have you always focused on gluten free food? Or did this come later?
We always had gluten free offerings, but this expanded as we noticed the strong demand from our visitors. Because I am gluten intolerant, I had a lot of experience with gluten free cooking so was able to modify our recipes appropriately. When we started getting coeliac visitors, we spent some time refining our procedures to ensure we could offer safe food, free from cross contamination.
Why was it important for you to take the step of becoming accredited as a coeliac safe venue by Coeliac Australia?
We got to the stage where we had many coeliac visitors who would trust us with their health. It’s a great privilege when people give this trust so we felt we should repay it by going through the Coeliac Australia accreditation process. It was also a way for us to have a third party independently audit our processes to ensure we were doing the right thing.
Talk us through the steps you had to take in achieving this - we understand it’s a lengthy process.
It certainly is a lengthy process, but rightly so as you’re dealing with people’s health. The idea is that we should have complete confidence over every stage of food provision – from the ingredients chosen, how they are delivered, through to preparation and service.
We started by looking at how our restaurant had been set up. We went through every area and noted where gluten was allowed and which areas were gluten free and where there was the possibility for cross contamination. That’s something we had done ourselves previously.
We looked at the food – from the sourcing of safe ingredients, the recipes used and allergens. We documented everything about the food in our business. We even sent away meals for gluten testing.
One of the final stages was a half day audit of our café. The auditor went through all processes with us and took the time to understand how we managed cross contamination in the kitchen. It was a very positive experience.
The process was extremely thorough and we were very proud to have gone through it. It’s not something that should be entered into lightly though as there is big investment both in time and money.
If another cafe of restaurant owner were to ask your advice as to if they should become certified by Coeliac Australia, what would you say?
I think it’s a great thing for restaurants that care about their coeliac customers to go through the accreditation program. Because we have a large kitchen, we were able to move things around to address potential areas for cross contamination with gluten. That’s not always the case though with other restaurants who might not have the same luxury.
If the restaurant owners are passionate about serving coeliac customers, it’s a brilliant process. The staff at Coeliac Australia offer lots of support at every stage.
What is your favourite gluten free treat that Swan Valley Gourmet create?
Oh dear, where do I start! The idea is that we make “normal” food that just happens to be gluten free and coeliac safe without sacrificing taste or quality. My personal favourite is probably the Arancini balls – I love the mushroom and cheese Arancini equally. I also love our Reuben sandwich. We use our house baked soft white gluten free sandwich bread and we just don’t tell the gluten eaters that they are eating gf bread!
I am also very proud of our gluten free eclairs, donuts and churros. They are all very popular with our visitors. In fact, all of our desserts are popular as they are 100% gluten free. And we always joke that we don’t serve orange and almond cake!!!