Maureen Burke is the owner of a completely Gluten-Free and Allergen Friendly Cafe, Deli and Bakery; One Dish Cuisine, in Ellicott City, MD. This blog is dedicated to bringing readers no nonsense information for these with Celiac Disease, Food Allergies and Autism. (www.onedishcuisine.com)
Below is the story of her long journey to her Celiac Disease and Milk Allergy Diagnosis and the founding of the Cafe, Deli and Bakery.
Maureen was sick for most of her life (as long as she can remember which is back to about age 4) with many medical issues, including Bloated Abdomen, Stomach Ulcers, Constipation and Diarrhea (so severe, she was hospitalized several times, aka: IBS), Hypoglycemia, Pre-Diabetes, Bladder Infections and Surgery, Recurring Kidney Stones and Infections, Kidney Cysts, High Creatinine Levels, Recurring Sinus and Ear Infections, Psoriasis, Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH is a blistering skin rash seen in 25% of people with Celiac Disease), Migraines, Low Cholesterol, Tachycardia (rapid pulse), Hair Loss, Hashimoto’s Thyroid Disease, GERD, Barrett’s Esophagus, Arthritis, Gout, many broken bones along with Ataxia (tripping and falling, failing memory, fumbled speech, loss of balance), severe Lactose Intolerance, Neuropathy, Gall Bladder Disease and removal, multiple severe Vitamin Deficiencies, Extreme Fatigue, Anemia, Elevated Liver Counts, Uterine Fibroid Tumors along with Ovarian Cysts, Endometriosis and multiple surgeries, recurring Miscarriages and Infertility. Now we know that Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease, and many of her issues can be attributed to long term, untreated, Celiac Disease.
By 1982, at age 19, Maureen found herself at her brother’s funeral with a distended abdomen and from there, things got even worse. As her health continued to fail, it was attributed to grief. After many hospitalizations and long elimination diets in the late 80’s and early 90’s she heard her GI doctor say “I think you may have Celiac Sprue” (Celiac Sprue is what it was called back then and no blood tests or biopsies existed). At this point she was 26 years old. He did not think she was crazy and she left his office with a two page piece of paper that told her almost nothing. There was no internet, there were no support groups and she could not find a dietitian who knew anything about eating gluten-free. Back then, she had no choice but to return to her love of cooking and make her own food.
However, upon visits to her other doctors they would say “you can’t have Celiac because only kids get it and they grow out of it”, some doctors told her that she needed to eat “real food” and that eating gluten-free was causing her health issues, telling her she needed to be eating eat “whole wheat” breads to feel better. Some doctors just wanted her to take Prozac; which made her not care how sick she was. Confused and feeling isolated and alone; Maureen would yo-yo on and off her gluten-free diet. In the mid 90’s her GI did blood work for Celiac, but she was eating gluten-free and it was negative. (Now we know that you have to be consuming gluten so that your body produces the antibodies before having blood tests and an intestinal biopsy done).
Finally, after being sick and tired of being sick and tired, she stuck to her diet for good. However, full relief did not come until she used her elimination diet skills and also removed other cross reacting proteins from her diet; including Soy, Corn, Quinoa, Millet, GF Oats, etc. In addition to many lifelong environmental allergies, a visit to an allergist confirmed food allergies to Milk (after years of being told it was just lactose intolerance), caffeine, sulfites and nitrates along with many drug allergies. Along with medication, she also follows a Renal Diet (low oxalate (no nuts) and low sodium,etc.) for her kidneys. Maureen now feels better than she ever has felt in her life.
However, at age 48, Maureen still wanted a firm answer and learned that she could be tested for Celiac Disease by doing a “gluten challenge” (eating gluten so that the blood work and an endoscopy could be performed). She decided to do it and all of the previous symptoms returned quickly; it is not something she would ever do again. The test results were negative on blood work but her GI confirmed Celiac Disease via the endoscopy and biopsy; showing villous atrophy (damage to intestines). Now we know that 10-20% of those with Celiac Disease actually test negative on the blood tests, which is why the gold standard for diagnosis is the biopsy! Also, one negative blood test for Celiac Disease does not mean a person is negative for life; Celiac Disease can strike at any time and at any age. (source: “Gluten Freedom” by Dr. Alessio Fasano)
Maureen and her GI doctor were actually happy about this; after so many years, actually knowing for sure was priceless and it explains many other autoimmune diseases and issues. It took a year for her to fully recover after the gluten challenge; and in 2013 her follow up endoscopy and biopsy was negative and the Celiac Disease is in remission.
Meanwhile, when her youngest nephew was diagnosed with Autism; PDD-NOS, Maureen created gluten, casein and soy free meals for him. It was heart-breaking knowing he could not eat outside of the home. Seeing her nephew obtain amazing results after three months on the strict diet was incredible. The choices were to feel sorry for herself and her nephew or to do something about it.
In 2010, after many years of being cross contaminated by uneducated restaurants, she self-funded the company, One Dish Cuisine, because she did not want to see others go through the same long struggle. Doing all of the sales, marketing, cooking and delivery of the product was right up her alley. She designed a color coded labeling system identifying Gluten-Free and the Top Allergens that an item was free from; making it easy for a child, who cannot read, to easily determine what is safe for them to eat based on colors. She was soon supplying her frozen “one dish” meals to restaurants, hospitals and grocery stores. (the meals are prepared, heated and served in the same container to reduce the risk of cross contact or contamination)
Maureen’s husband, Dave and her mother, Vickie, were both huge supporters of her vision and also aided in additional funding to keep the company moving forward. However, Maureen felt that the biggest need was for a place where the whole family can go out to a restaurant and eat outside of the home. Opening this kind of restaurant would prove to be a challenge, but someone had to do it! As Maureen would say, “we can send a man to the moon, but we can’t safely feed our people; that is just crazy”. Maureen was well qualified for the challenge; knowing that her food passed the taste test with people who did not have any food restrictions; you don’t need allergens in food for it to taste great and have great texture. As Maureen says, “you can tell the difference when the person making your food has to eat it too, you get a far superior product!”
It took over a year to identify a facility that could accommodate the many needs that are unique to a gluten and allergen-free restaurant. Many lenders said that this concept would never work but Maureen would not give up. M&T Bank believed in her vision and they agreed to finance the continued growth of the company.
In 2012, One Dish Cuisine Café, Deli and Bakery was born; out of necessity for all of those with Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivity, Autism and/or Food Allergies who are in search of healthy food that is served in a safe environment with minimal risk of cross contact of allergens; where dining out can be an enjoyable experience. Upon opening the cafe, Maureen was joined by her husband, Dave and step son, Michael; whom she raised.
It was a tough decision, but the success of the café meant she could no longer supply meals to grocery stores or restaurants, but ODC still supplies meals for local hospitals. In December of 2013, she furthered her commitment to the food allergy community and removed all egg and tree nuts (except coconut; which is rarely used) from the facility. This streamlined her color coded system down to just two Menu Colors; Green (Contains Milk) or Blue (No Milk, Casein, Whey).
Maureen is active in the Celiac, Autism and Food Allergy communities. When not at the café, she can be found speaking at various events or chairing teams for fundraising walks. Maureen urges all who suspect that they may have a gluten related disorder; to see a Gastroenterologist for blood work, endoscopy and biopsy before removing gluten from their diets! Furthermore, if you suspect you have a food allergy please see a doctor/allergist for appropriate testing.
The Café, Deli and Bakery is dedicated to her nephew, Devin, for inspiring Maureen to do more for herself and for all of those in need of safe gluten-free and allergen-free meals. One Dish Cuisine is truly welcoming families back to the table; where they can order a meal from a menu; relax and feel the difference, while enjoying top notch food!