As anyone with a gluten intolerance, allergy or just a preference for going wheat-free knows, finding restaurants to accommodate your needs can be a challenge. A Celiac disease diagnosis led Samantha Nevells to make many changes in her life including adjusting what she orders when dining out and launching an Instagram account — All Things Gluten Free — to document her experience. Over 50,000 people follow along on her journey as she shares what it’s like to eat gluten-free around Boston. Hear from Nevells about her decision to enroll in culinary school, which Instagram accounts are her go-tos for recipes and where her favorite place is to snag an awesome breakfast pizza.
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
My name is Samantha, I’m 28 and I grew up in Franklin, MA. I moved to Boston in my early 20s and I fell in love with the city. Shortly after moving here I was diagnosed with Celiac disease and had to say goodbye to the easy life of take-out. The harsh reality of my diagnosis forced me to start cooking and exploring new places in the city, although I’ve now learned to look at it as a blessing in disguise. I started my Instagram account @AllThingsGlutenFree in 2014 to share my experiences at restaurants, my favorite gluten-free brands, plus the recipes I was making at home. No one knows the struggle of adjusting to the gluten-free lifestyle like a newly diagnosed person walking in circles at the grocery store!
My account started just for fun but has quickly taken on a life of its own and has even formed my career! My aspiration for my blog is that I’m able to continue helping people and prove that gluten-free food can be just as delicious, if not more so than food with it. My blog has made me realize my passion for food and cooking. I started cooking meals for families with dietary restrictions and I decided to enroll at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. My goals for the future are to turn my brand into a full-time career. I hope to expand my business with cooking, and continue to help my followers discover the best gluten-free foods!
Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.
1. Spicy Salmon Rice Bites @ Empire
2. Zucchini Lasagna @ Nebo Cucina & Enoteca
3. Seared Scallops with Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes @ Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant
4. Roasted Wild Mushroom Ravioli @ Tuscan Kitchen
5. Strawberry Cream Cheese Cobbler @ Legal Harborside
What do you think the next big trend is for restaurants?
I think that the next big trend for restaurants will be gluten-free menus and a better understanding of food allergies; not only for diners with celiac disease but for all food allergies. When I was first diagnosed, gluten-free options were hard enough to come by and gluten-free menus were unheard of! More often than not when I would go out to dinner, waiters wouldn’t know what I was referring to when I said I had to eat gluten-free. The restaurant industry has come a long way since with regards to acknowledging dietary restrictions. I’ve now been to restaurants that have separate fryers and kitchens, and Celiac safe menus. I’m looking forward to the industry evolving even further!
What are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?
@HealthyGFFamily – She posts some of my favorite food photos, and her recipes are all healthy and gluten-free.
@Whole30Recipes– I get tons of recipe ideas from the account and put my own spin on them. They also feature other influencers, their recipes, and stories which I love.
@BostonFoodJournal– Brittany posts from all the hot spots in Boston. Her account isn’t gluten-free, but it sure is drool-worthy.
Describe Boston’s food scene in three words.
Evolving. Vibrant. Trendy.
Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?
What’s your food photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome food photos?
My philosophy for photographing food would be to find the most natural lighting. It’s the key to any great food photo. I always try to take my photos during the day; either outside or by a window. I have absolutely no shame when I’m trying to get a good shot — to the point where I will even bring my plate outside! My top tip would is not to be afraid to play around with your food. Some of my best photos are of food being held up in the air or stacked up on a plate. Oddly enough, I take all my photos with my iPhone X. I’ll admit, if I’m dining at a restaurant with dim lighting I’ll use an LED light because I don’t like how the food looks with a camera flash.
A Few Of Your Favorite Things:
Favorite brunch spot: Davio’s Boston, I’ve had dreams about their breakfast pizza.
Favorite place for outdoor dining: Legal Harborside, first floor.
Favorite BBQ joint: The Smoke Shop
Favorite late-night: Committee, they have my favorite Moscow Mules.
Favorite neighborhood for food: I’ve been obsessed with the Seaport lately, there are so many new restaurants and bars.
Favorite new restaurant: Tuscan Kitchen