Words by Gianluca D’Elia
Photos by Adam Eaton
Chef, activist, and content creator Calvin Eaton is building a community around gluten-free living in Rochester, one recipe at a time.
Scroll through the Gluten Free Chef Blog’s website or Instagram, and you’ll find a vibrant, colorful feed filled with bundt cakes, strawberry jam, gooey double chocolate cookies, and more.
Behind the bright and beautifully decorated baked goods, there’s a deeper mission: Calvin hopes to make Rochester a better, more accessible city for people with disabilities and dietary restrictions.
After a diagnosis with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue in 2010, Calvin turned to blogging as both a source of revenue and a creative outlet to chronicle his life with a chronic disorder and his transition to a gluten-free diet. For more than a decade, he has dreamed of writing his own gluten-free cookbook.
Soon, the book will no longer be just a goal on Calvin’s vision board. Just Desserts: 40 Step-by-Step Gluten-Free Dessert Recipes hits shelves in Summer 2023.
“My passions are people, community and education,” Calvin said. “My former career as a public school teacher ended due to my health, but that evolved into me using those skills to become a community educator.”
The Gluten Free Chef hat is one of many hats Calvin wears. The blog wasn’t always as active as it is today, but it was for a worthy reason: Calvin founded 540WMain, a nonprofit organization that offers anti-racism education and consulting, in 2016. Wherever his entrepreneurial spirit takes him, Calvin’s dedication to community service and social justice is a constant.
“The Gluten Free Chef website and brand are all about helping people navigate the intricacies of living gluten-free, and connecting people with local restaurants that are Celiac-friendly and gluten-free friendly,” said Calvin, who is also the creator of the “Gluten Free Rochester” Facebook group. “I’m happy to bring more education, advocacy and awareness to the Rochester community.”
In addition to sharing his recipes, Calvin frequently teaches workshops for beginners, hosts food tastings, and even runs a “storytime and snack” series for kids that features gluten-free snacks.
With Just Desserts, Calvin hopes to reach a wide range of audiences — including beginning bakers, people who’ve been living gluten-free for years and are nervous to bake that way on their own, or friends and family of someone who eats gluten-free.
The book’s down-to-earth, accessible style is one of its most important qualities. The recipes are familiar comfort foods with ingredients that can be found in any grocery store, even for a gluten-free rendition: chocolate chip cookies, brownies, banana bread, and so on. Rather than simply showing what the finished product should look like, each of the 40 recipes contain step-by-step visual guides to help readers throughout the process. A digital copy with enlarged font sizes is also in the works.
“Gluten-free baking is its own focused area. What you think you know about baking changes pretty significantly when you bake gluten-free,” Calvin explained. “My goal is to take away some of the apprehension that comes with baking.”
Visit theglutenfreechefblog.com to learn more about Calvin and his upcoming cookbook, Just Desserts. The book is available for preorder at Hipocampo Children’s Books in the South Wedge. Find Calvin on Instagram @theglutenfreechefblog.
Where the Gluten Free Chef goes when he’s not cooking at home:
- The Red Fern, 283 Oxford St.
- Petit Poutinerie, 44 Elton St.
- Salena’s Mexican Restaurant, 302 N. Goodman St.
- Get Caked Bakery, 274 N. Goodman St.
- Scratch Bakeshop, 41 Russell St.
makes: 12 cookies | prep time: 10 minutes | bake time: 10 minutes
These cookies are one of my favorite from my new cookbook and I am so happy to share them with you. Completely flourless they combine the fudgy decadence of a brownie with the simple convenience of a cookie. My cookbook can be preordered through Hipocampo Children’s Books.
- 1 cup (78 grams) cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon (4 grams) baking soda
- ½ teaspoon (4 grams) salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick/113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (106 grams) granulated sugar
½ cup (122 grams) light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons (8 ml) pure vanilla extract
For best results, use a stand mixer.
- PREHEAT oven to 350℉. Line two cookie sheets with Silpats (silicone nonstick baking mats) or parchment paper.
- SIFT together the cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
- CREAM the butter, sugars, and vanilla together in a medium bowl.
- BEAT in the egg.
- BEAT in the dry ingredients little by little until a sticky dough forms.
- SCRAPE the side of the mixer making sure all the ingredients are fully combined.
- SCOOP the dough, using a small (#60 size/1 tablespoon) scoop, onto the prepared cookie sheets, placing them 2 inches apart.
- BAKE the cookies for 10 minutes.
- ALLOW the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Optional: Add in ½ cup (97 grams) of semi-sweet chocolate chips, or white chocolate chips, or chopped walnuts
Store these cookies in an airtight container for up to three days or wrap each bar in plastic wrap and freeze for up to one month}
Serving size: 1 cookie, Servings: 12 cookies, Calories: 161, Sugars: 19 g, Sodium: 243 mg, Cholesterol: 34 mg, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 2 g, Fiber: 2 g, Fat: 9 g, Saturated Fat: 5.5 g