With an increasing number of people suffering from food allergies, Bayport-Blue Point alum Michelle Gillette saw an opportunity to launch a business dedicated to the preparation and sale of only gluten free goodies.
Gillette’s bake shop, Ms. Michelle’s Urban Gourmet, located at 572 Middle Road in Bayport, is set for a Memorial Day weekend grand opening. The lifelong local resident taught Spanish in the Center Moriches School District for three years before she left the profession to pursue gluten free baking.
Foods that are “gluten free” are made with chickpea flour or brown rice flour as a substitute for wheat (or white) flour, according to Gillette.
Gillette may be self-taught in gluten free baking, but she does have a culinary background: She holds a degree in Pastry Arts and was a culinary instructor at the Ross School (Lower) in Bridgehampton. It was through her time at Ross that Gillette discovered the need for readily available, freshly baked gluten free products.
“The kids there (at Ross) had so many wheat allergies,” she said. “I made it a goal to teach myself to bake this way.”
Though Gillette doesn’t suffer from wheat allergies, she practices what she preaches, following a gluten free diet as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Last year, Gillette was named Healthiest Kid Chef of the Hamptons, competing with 12 other chefs for the title. From there, she sold muffins in farmers markets, and soon people were requesting pies and other goods.
The shop will feature baked goods of all kinds, such as breads, muffins, pies and tarts, as well as dry pasta, coffee, espresso and gelato. Sandwiches, on gluten free bread, will also be available.
Gillette thinks her confections are on par with similar treats made with white flour.
“In my opinion, my products taste just as good as 'regular' ones," she said.
A chef at an already established local business agrees: Bayport’s own recently added Gillette’s flourless (and of course, gluten free) chocolate cake to their revamped dessert menu.
The restaurant’s executive chef Meredith Machemer heard about Gillette around town, and said wheat-free treats are in demand.
“People started asking for gluten free desserts, it's definitely becoming more popular,” Machemer said, noting Gillette dropped off a few desserts for the tavern chefs to taste-test. “We tried a couple of things and ended up going with the flourless chocolate cake.”
The gluten free goods aren’t the only reason Ms. Michelle’s Urban Gourmet is unique. As stated before, the shop will be located at 572 Middle Road, which is the former home of the Urban family.
There’s a bit of history in the location, in case you were wondering why the Bayport shop has “urban” in the title. This great house was built by a German couple with the last name Urban, who settled on Long Island around 1820. They left their old lives in Germany to live their dream in America.
“I’m following my dream of helping people eat healthy,” Gillette said, which is why the history of the home holds special meaning to her.
It states on her website:
“We could not think of a better homage to the old world desires that built our country and the new age dream of giving people fresh, homemade and healthy food.”
Bayport’s small town atmosphere was a draw for Gillette to plant her business here.
“It’s where I grew up, and the community is so wonderful,” she said, adding that in nice weather she’ll have tables set up outdoors for patrons to enjoy their treats in the sunshine. “I want people to feel welcome. It’s going to be a family-friendly, casual place.”
In addition to her “Healthiest Kids Chef” title, Gillette has appeared alongside famous chef Bobby Flay in a commercial for Hellman’s mayonnaise and was a judge on the most recent season of The Next Food Network Star, among other things.
Note: Gillette said there will be a standing special for any man/woman in uniform, from crossing guards to police officers.