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An Interview with NOBREAD Founder Nicole Cogan In Los Angeles

Picture of Jarone Ashkenazi
Jarone Ashkenazi
Updated: 30 November 2016
Nicole Cogan is the founder of NOBREAD, a nationwide gluten-free dining guide. NOBREAD originated in New York City and provides diners a convenient resource for ordering gluten free in New York City. NOBREAD features over 450 NYC-based restaurants, has recently launched in LA with over 200 restaurants, and is launching in several more cities this year. In addition to restaurant reviews, images, and gluten-free information, NOBREAD features each restaurant’s gluten free menu options.

How did your background lead you to founding NOBREAD?

Six years ago I discovered I was allergic to gluten. At the time, I was a sales analyst at J.P. Morgan, where a large part of my job was taking clients out to lunches and dinners. I had the opportunity to experience some of the most popular restaurants in NYC and eat some of the city’s best food, but always explaining to the restaurant server or manager that I was gluten-free was extremely wearing. I wanted to create a guide that would help others in my position, and make dining out a less stressful experience.

How did NOBREAD start?

While working at JP Morgan, I kept a list of all the restaurants I went to and what I ate, and noted whether or not I got sick. This list was a guide for myself as I continued to revisit these restaurants and go to new ones. Over time, I decided to turn my guide into a blog and Instagram account. People found out what I was doing, and started following and turning to NOBREAD for all their dining needs. Needless to say, I became obsessed with my concept and the rest is history.

Does NOBREAD have plans for expansion?

The NYC site launched in late 2014 and now features over 450 restaurants, and we launched in Los Angeles just the other week with about 200 restaurants. It’s amazing how a one-woman passion project has turned into a full corporation with interns and contributors! I recently launched an ambassador program where college students can bring NOBREAD to their city, and I’m excited to have Nashville, New Orleans, Chicago, and more on the horizon!

How does LA compare to other big-city gluten-free dining options?

I am incredibly impressed by the gluten-free dining scene in Los Angeles. LA as a city is all about health & wellness, which makes finding the best gluten-free eats easy. Juice shops are a dime a dozen, following a vegan diet is common, and whether it is due to allergy or preference; many in the city are gluten-free. As a result, restaurants are all about gluten-free dining and accommodations. Also, given LA’s climate, many restaurants are farm-to-table, which results in naturally gluten-free dining.

What are some of the benefits of eating gluten free?

For those with Celiac Disease, consuming gluten results in damage of the villi in the small intestine, so removing gluten is necessary. A person who has a non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, like myself, experiences inflammation upon consuming the protein, and can experience a range of symptoms such as brain fog, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain, chronic fatigue syndrome and more.

Is eating gluten free a fad or here to stay?

Gluten-free is absolutely here to stay. When I first went gluten-free, gluten-free foods took up a single shelf or column of an aisle at best. Now, dedicated gluten-free markets are everywhere, and major food brands are coming out with gluten-free lines and brands to keep up with the growing demand. There are other popular diets, such as paleo, that also follow a gluten-free diet.

What are your favorite gluten-free restaurants in LA?

1. Eveleigh – The food is local and farm to table, and everything tastes as fresh as it looks. The menu changes daily depending on which ingredients the Chefs select that day, but given the Chefs’ focus on sourcing only the best food and produce, the menu is very gluten-friendly.

2. Gracias Madre– Vegan cuisine has never tasted so good. The restaurant’s ability to pack in bold Mexican flavors into healthy vegan and gluten-free dishes is extraordinary. Gluten-free tacos, quesadillas, salads and bowls; almost the entire menu is GF, and the restaurant has one of the best happy hour’s in town.

3. Malibu Farm– Located at the end of the Malibu Pier, Malibu Farm has one of the best views in all of Los Angeles and serves incredibly fresh, delicious food to top it off. Their motto is ‘eat the real thing, or don’t eat it at all,’ and produce is sourced from local and small farms. The cuisine is naturally gluten friendly and delicious – Malibu Farm is one of the best meals I’ve had in LA.

4. Angelini Osteria– Although the cuisine is Italian, the majority of the menu is gluten-free. Fresh seafood and meat are cooked in rich oils and prepared to absolute perfection. Everything from the sautéed calamari and tuna tartare to grilled fish is fresh and incredible. The restaurant has recently introduced hand-made gluten-free pasta to their menu, too, so even more reason to make the trip.

5. The Springs– The Springs is more than just a restaurant; it is a health and wellness oasis. The menu at The Springs is completely raw-vegan, which also makes each item gluten-free. The founders have created a menu using only organic, pure ingredients that are good for the body. Complete your meal with a juice or raw chocolate chip cookie, take a yoga class, and go back to your table and work for the day.

6. MILK Shop– The macaron ice cream sandwich seems to be taking over the United States right now, which is incredible for those of us who are gluten-free. MILK, located in Fairfax, is THE primer spot in LA to grab the cookie dessert, and they do it incredibly well. Cookies and cream, strawberries and cream, red velvet, mint chocolate chip, and coffee toffee are just a few of my favorite gluten-free flavors.

7. Eggslut– This fast-casual hotspot is located in Grand Central Market in DTLA. All egg sandwiches are gluten-free when you ask for them no bread. For those of you who love eggs you will enjoy this new egg hotspot, and for those of you who don’t love eggs, Eggslut will change that for you.

8. Gjelina– Yes, the restaurant is as delicious as it is made out to be. The menu at Gjelina operates seasonally, so you can be sure that you are always served the freshest possible ingredients. Traditional farmer’s market favorites are reconstructed with surprising twists, all of which work in the best way possible. You MUST try the brussels sprouts and cauliflower – they’re game changing.