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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Gourmet Girls Leads Tucson Gluten-Free Effort

Oct 29, 2013 02:41PM ● By Alexandra Geter

Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery/Bistro founders Susan Fulton and Mary Steiger are the local gluten-free (GF) gurus in Tucson. Having once owned a small catering business, they were inspired by working with a GF client. After discovering the limited availability of commercial GF options, they began to experiment with recipes and soon completely eliminated gluten from their own diets.

Once going G, Fulton and Steiger recognized the difference that eliminating gluten made in their health and began to learn more about the potential of a GF diet to improve people’s quality of life. An array of symptoms and disease have been linked to gluten, including the autoimmune celiac disease, allergies, and varying degrees of intolerance and sensitivity. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt, which together, compose a large part of the American diet, and cause inflammation in a gluten-sensitive body.

Diseases that have been reportedly linked to gluten include neurological, digestive, respiratory and joint-related maladies, as well as autoimmune disruptions, cancer and autism. While not every case of autism is linked to gluten, many people with symptoms have experienced a positive change their lives after going GF.

Even those that have not identified gluten issues as a factor in their health may see tremendous benefits from eliminating gluten. “Basically everybody has a problem with gluten, and nobody should be eating it,” says Fulton. As a pastry chef for 25 years, Steiger set out to create a GF version of every food imaginable. Gourmet Girls’ menu offers a full-service bakery, including muffins, bagels, sweet breads, savory breads, cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, pizza crust and danishes, as well as breakfast and lunch, with plans to offer dinner on the weekends.

A central goal for the restaurant is being able to transform foods that people with gluten issues couldn’t otherwise eat. Because the Gourmet Girls kitchen is 100 percent gluten-free, customers do not have to worry about cross-contamination in the facility. Their products have earned the Celiac/ Sprue Association recognition seal that certifies their GF content and manufacturing standard. Fulton explains, “We get people all the time that when they’re ordering their breakfast, say, ‘I can’t have toast,’ and then realize that they can.”

During the two years since Gourmet Girl’s opening, Fulton and Steiger have learned that every customer has a story about gluten and that the ability to help is the most rewarding part of their business. “What never ceases to amaze me, and what is the driving force behind what we do, is that there is a whole emotional side to being gluten-free, and for many people, it’s very traumatic, because they are left out of a lot of things,” says Fulton. Food is very much a part of culture and a focal point of most festivities and social events. Gluten intolerance can invite disaster during occasions that should be about family and celebration.

Gourmet Girls products can be found at Zona 78, 1702, Sparkroot, the St. Philip’s Farmers’ Market and other venues. The owners provide a passionate outlook on improving lives through gluten awareness, while creating gourmet recipes that do anything but limit options.

Gourmet Girls will appear as gold sponsors at the 2013 Gluten-Free Awareness Expo ( taking place on November 17 at the Tucson Medical Center Lifegain Park, hosting a sample Thanksgiving table that provides GF food options for the holidays. Other highlights of the Expo include lectures by GF medical experts, GF recipes, a raffle, goody bags and kidfriendly activities.

Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery/ Bistro is located at 5845 N. Oracle Rd. For more information, call 520-408-9000 or visit

Alexandra Geter is a student in Public Health and English at the University of Arizona.