Welcome to The Tastemakers, a series in which we chat with the most talented, connected and influential people in the world of food and drink.
Nicole Cogan spent three years working for J.P. Morgan, constantly entertaining clients and eating out multiple times a day. "When you're at an important business lunch with 10 or more people, no one is really taking your food allergies into account."
Tired of getting sick after every meal because of her gluten allergy, Cogan began logging every restaurant she visited, what she ate and how her body reacted. Over time, she started to share that guide with others, and that's how her Instagram account and site, NOBREAD, were born.
Now live in New York, L.A., D.C. and soon San Francisco, NOBREAD is a resource for gluten-free restaurant-goers in search of gluten-friendly restaurants and dishes. Cogan left her job at J.P. Morgan a year and a half ago with the goal of taking NOBREAD around the world and hasn't looked back since.
We chatted with Cogan about her favorite gluten-free dishes, her plans for the coming year and the celebrities she'd most want to share a dinner with.
What does a typical day look like for you?
"Every day is very different. Some days I'm just staring at a computer screen and writing restaurant reviews, and other days I'm running around to meals and meetings. Because NOBREAD is now in multiple cities, I have 20 to 25 contributors around the country, so a lot of my time is spent checking in with the team as well.
On a typical day, I'll most likely eat lunch and/or dinner out. At each restaurant I review, I go over the menu line by line to determine what's gluten free, what can be modified to be gluten free, etc. But honestly, it doesn't really feel like work to me, because it makes me happy."
What are some of your favorite gluten-free dishes?
"When I'm cooking for myself, I love doing a simple salmon with sautéed vegetables and some sweet potato, but that's when I'm being really healthy. When I want to have a little more fun, I'll sauté bacon and cranberries in a skillet with some Brussels sprouts or make some sweet potato fries. I try to take a lot of inspiration from all of the restaurants I visit and create my own dishes at home."
What dish are you tired of seeing on restaurant menus?
"Probably avocado toast. I can barely ever eat it, but everyone else seems to love it. It's just mashed avocado on toast!"
What are some of your favorite Instagram accounts?
"I love @beautifulcuisines and @thefeedfeed—they're great inspiration for me when I'm trying out new recipes. @iamgalla is awesome, and I also love @elitedaily and @girlwithnojob, because I end up tagging my friends in everything that comes up. I'm also really impressed with the @bychefchloe account, because they've taken such an artistic approach. The uniqueness of their account really pairs well with the uniqueness of the restaurant."
What are a few items that are always in your fridge?
"I'm such a chocoholic—I'm picturing my fridge right now, and it's literally all chocolate. There's always gonna be a bag of refrigerated gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate chips, because I cook with them and just snack on them. And then there're always eggs, because putting an egg on something always makes it better. Plus, avocado or guacamole.
I'm also obsessed with chips, so if you were to open up my cabinet, the top shelf would be three bags of Tostitos, and then under that are the potato chips—I'm so weird; I keep it all organized. I guess I'm really more of a 'what's in your cabinet?' kind of person."
What's the most exciting thing you've done in the last year?
"I've started traveling a lot, because my goal is really to show that NOBREAD can be anywhere, whether it be London or Germany or elsewhere. I've had the opportunity to travel to places like China and Mexico, but I think the coolest thing for me was living in L.A. last year. I went out at the end of January for three weeks to start up NOBREAD LA, and I just fell in love with the city. The reception out there was so positive that I ended up staying for three months. I've always had that itch to just pick up and move somewhere new just to see if I could, and I did it. That was really exciting for me."
If you could have a dinner party with any three people, dead or alive, who would they be?
"OK, Sam Hunt, just to look at. I've heard Mario Batali is awesome, and I would just love to hang out with him and listen to him speak. And Adele."
What was the best meal you had in the past year?
"Any time I eat at Gracias Madre in L.A. It's, like, saint-level good. Specifically, they have this flash-fried cauliflower with vegan cashew cheese, and you just don't even know what hit you; it's so good."
What are you most excited about in the coming year?
"My life changes every single day, so I'm most excited to see where I go. I'm going to keep up this life of spontaneity, and I'm curious to see where I end up."
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