In 2007, a young chef, Lena Kwak, did an internship at The French Laundry, and we asked her to stay. She was interested in nutrition, and as we found ourselves increasingly responding to diners who had specific dietary requests and restrictions, we often looked to Lena (pronounced "Lenna") to test new recipes.
One of the most common requests we get is for gluten-free breads, cakes, cookies, pasta, and other preparations. And gluten intolerance is a condition we take seriously.
Every meal at The French Laundry begins with a cornet, a savory cone-shaped tuile filled with crème fraîche and salmon tartare. So Corey Lee, chef de cuisine at the time, asked Lena to develop a gluten-free tuile. And she moved on to other gluten-free products. Lena didn't realize how important her work was until a diner came back to the kitchen, not to thank the chef, but to see her.
"She wanted to thank me for the brioche," Lena recalls. "She started crying. She hadn't been able to eat bread in seven years. People don't realize how special the simplest pleasures are until they can't have them."
Lena had worked hard to create an all-purpose mixture, based on different rice flours, potato flours, and cornstarch, that she could use in any gluten-free baked good, one that could be substituted cup for cup, gram for gram, for wheat flour.
It was so good that Corey suggested she talk to me about developing a product we could market. It was 2010, and I was already making a number of products for Williams-Sonoma, but this one was potentially the most special of all. And that's how Cup4Cup was born. It's something we're very proud of, as we are of these gluten-free brioche rolls. These are not just "pretty good for gluten-free," they are fantastic brioche rolls, period.