Vanessa Phillips, founder of Feel Good Foods, garnered the inspiration for her gluten-free foods company due to her own diagnosis of celiac disease. Vanessa's lifelong experience in the restaurant business soon led her to partner her efforts with those of Tryg Siverson, a talented chef who now uses his wealth of culinary expertise to create and convert recipes that are both gluten-free and rich in taste. Together, the pair have worked hard to create a successful commercial food company featuring a unique Asian-inspired twist.
Feel Good Foods: Interview with Vanessa Phillips
LovetoKnow: To begin, celiac disease often requires a long and arduous diagnostic process. Did you have a particularly complicated journey regarding your diagnosis as a celiac?
Vanessa Phillips: I suffered with celiac related symptoms for over 10 years. I had symptoms such as headaches, tingling and numbing sensations and joint pain. Because these symptoms were never gastrointestinal, I never thought the culprit could be something I was eating. As I got older, I started to develop stomach issues and made an appointment with a gastroenterologist who was able to diagnose me with celiac disease very quickly.
Inspiration for Feel Good Foods
LTK: The gluten-free food market seems to be expanding as awareness of celiac disease increases and the overall benefits of a gluten-free diet hit the mainstream. What inspired you to start up Feel Good Foods?
VP: I have loved food my entire life. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease there were a lot of foods that were very hard to part with, especially dumplings. I met a chef (who is now my husband) and I begged him to cook for me. We were able to recreate many of my old favorites in gluten-free versions. I felt so lucky to be able to eat these foods again and it inspired me to create Feel Good Foods. It's great to be able to share my recipes with other people.
LTK: Your company has a very specific focal point: Asian-style dumplings. With baked goods seeming to dominate the world of gluten-free start-up companies, dumplings are a bit different. What made dumplings the chief product of Feel Good Foods?
VP: My dad owns a slew of Asian restaurants in New York and dumplings were something I grew up eating. It was only fitting that my launch item be dumplings as that was what I've missed most since starting a gluten free diet. We are expanding our line and look forward to introducing even more gluten-free options. I am not as passionate about baked goods, as I think the gluten-free market is over saturated with cookies, breads and other foods in this category. What I find to be most challenging, as a celiac, is finding tasty, high-quality convenience foods. My goal with Feel Good Foods is to offer people frozen meal options that are quick and easy to prepare-and, most importantly, taste good.
LTK: It would almost seem that the delicate but elastic shell of a dumpling is only made possible by gluten. How have you managed to create such delectable dumplings without the bouncy elastic properties of gluten?
VP: It took a lot of recipe development to get our dough right. It is not an easy task to develop a gluten-free wrapper, and you are correct that gluten is what gives dough its elasticity. However, there are now some wonderful flour alternatives available to chefs.
LTK: Your company is doing very well. Feel Good Foods dumplings are now available in large health supermarkets like Whole Foods. Has it been a challenge to market your product into more mainstream venues, or is the world of food truly catching on to gluten-free options?
VP: Right now we are focusing on the natural channel, such as Whole Foods and other specialty stores. However, more and more mainstream markets are adding healthy divisions, and we feel confident that the mainstream retail market is embracing this new way of eating. As awareness continues to grow barriers to entry will get easier.
LTK: Is there anything special about Feel Good Foods dumplings that you'd like to share?
VP: While we are thrilled with our gluten-free wrapper, we feel that our fillings truly make us stand apart from our competitors. We put a lot of time and energy into creating chef-inspired, full-flavored fillings for all of our dumplings.
LTK: Finally, gluten-free pan-Asian cuisine still seems to be a rarity in the frozen foods aisle. With your recent successes paving the way, does Feel Good Foods have any plans to expand its product line to include more delicious Asian-inspired comestibles?
VP: We love Asian cuisine and are excited to offer other gluten free Asian products in the future.
For more information regarding the nutritional data and purchasing of Feel Good Foods products, visit the company website at www.Feel-Good-Foods.com.