By Shannon Phillips
Julie La Rochelle has a secret. It’s not that she can’t live without the cup of coffee her partner Jean-Sebastien makes with their Mokita machine every morning, or that her parents are actually her heroes, or even that her kids are the reason she is such a good mom. No, La Rochelle’s secret is tucked away in an allergy-free recipe book.
Following in the trend of DIY moms, La Rochelle, mom of two boys — Elliot, 3, and Charles-Antoine, 6, who is allergic to nuts, eggs and dairy — saw a hole in her world and found a way to fix it. And voila, Guardian Angel Foods was launched nearly two years ago when La Rochelle, based in Mont St-Hilaire, Quebec, reinvented the wheel in the world of baked goods, with a selection of cakes, breads, muffins and cookies. Her allergy-free treats — yes, we’re talking no nuts, no eggs, no dairy — are sprinkling into stores across Canada, including Loeb, IGA, A&P and Metro in New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec, and are also available online.
But it didn’t start off as a marketing venture for the actress-turned-mom-turned-baking connoisseur. La Rochelle’s light-bulb moment came the first time she didn’t prepare an allergy-free alternative for her son at a birthday. “I had to tell him he couldn’t taste the cake like everybody else,” says La Rochelle. “At that precise moment he realized he was different and it broke his heart, and mine.” So she teamed up with the boys’ uncle, Dr. Simon Phaneuf, a family physician, and with the support of Jean-Sebastien, her kids and the rest of the family, she set off to make the lives of kids with allergies a little sweeter.
As for her secret to such a delicious assortment of baked goodies, without the traditional egg, milk and nut elements, she says she’ll never tell, but that love and ingenuity are all part of the mix.
La Rochelle offers advice for families living with food allergies
On eating out
“It’s almost impossible to eat in restaurants that are safe for Charles-Antoine, but the best allergy-friendly restaurant we’ve found is St-Hubert (with locations in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick).”
On being prepared
“We often bring Charles-Antoine his lunch if we go out or, if we trust the restaurant, we give the waiter a card to give to the chef that names our son’s allergies. But my best advice is never to take “maybe’ for an answer.”
On shopping for groceries
“Read and reread the ingredients. Even if you’ve bought that product many times before, it could have changed since the last time you’ve bought it.”
On being away from home
“Always wear a MedicAlert bracelet and know where the closest hospital is, especially when you are travelling.”
On being informed
“Knowing all of an allergen’s other names and sources is very important. If your child is allergic to wheat you should know that products containing gluten, semolina and MSG are not good for her.”
Keep reading for some of La Rochelle’s favourite things.