Whether you have Celiac, food allergens, or have made a personal decision to go gluten free, wheat-free options in modern dining have really seemed to catch on. And while rice flour and tapioca starch abound in our grocery aisles, it can still be a task to know exactly what is and isn’t gluten free when dining out. Enter Nicole Cogan, the founder of NoBreadNYC.com. The former financial analyst left her job half a year ago to work on what has truly been a labor of love. Her food allergens and sensitivities combined with her work in an industry that often called for carb-packed power dinners with industry elites inspired the creation of her website, which has amassed a more than impressive following in a short amount of time.
Joonbug was fortunate enough to grab a gluten free lunch with the young and successful entrepreneur. During the hustle of lunchtime in Midtown East, we met Nicole Cogan at Avra Estiatoria, a chic and upscale Mediterranean restaurant owned by the same restaurant group that operates some of NYC’s most illustrious eateries including Beauty and Essex, Tao, and Lavo. Our initial impression was that Ms. Cogan looked young enough to still be in college, sporting a trendy Rag and Bone crop top and a friendly grin. Soon after sitting down with her, however, it became apparent that Ms. Cogan had a very unique story that led up to the founding of NoBread.
At 19 years old, gluten had made her so violently ill that she almost had to withdraw from school. Secluding from her social life because of her inability to find foods that met her new lifestyle, Ms. Cogan had to completely retrain herself and her relationship with food. In her time at J.P. Morgan, client entertaining became one of the most important and rewarding aspects of her job. In order to attend client dinners without fretting about food, Ms. Cogan managed and maintained a meticulous documentation of restaurants she went to, what she ordered, and how her body had reacted. Realizing the large number of people who suffer from similar dietary restrictions, the information she had amassed became the inspiration for the starting of her the Instagram account which eventually became her website.
Since that day, NoBread has continued to pick up traction, as her following grew in droves, and restaurants began contacting Cogan because they wanted to become accessible for her fans. Thusly, she founded the current website, www.NoBreadNYC.com, which has already featured over 250 restaurants and is expanding daily. Users can sort through restaurants by location, name, and type of cuisine to see what gluten free options are available at each restaurant, as well as read Cogan’s mini-reviews and tips. Lastly, Cogan suggests substitutions to make otherwise gluten-filled meals edible to her readers (i.e. substitute the French Fries for a baked potato).
NoBread’s quick success can be attributed to both Nicole Cogan’s work ethic, and the fact that NoBread truly provides a service to a population that was in need. By creating a place for people with dietary restrictions to more easily access meals, it normalizes the experience of people who suffer from these allergens and sensitivities. Everyone deserves to go to a restaurant with out feeling anxiety about what they can or cannot order there, and NoBread has truly taken the guesswork out of the equation.