Julia Ingram

Posted by on Jul 9, 2014 in Writing
Julia Ingram

Charlie

Below: a recipe for success.

First, you have to move to Charleston. Next, you have to take a risk. Finally, you have to be gluten-free. Oh, and twenty-four years old.

Okay, maybe those last two are optional.

At least that was the case for Julia Ingram, owner of Sweet Radish Bakeshop, Charleston’s first gluten-free bakery. She was twenty-three at the time. Too young? Didn’t she need more experience? To live in the city for a while first? Spoiler alert: she didn’t.

Instead, she asked herself a better question: ‘What am I waiting for?”

A Bay Area transplant, Julia moved for love and a big change. She’d begun her professional baking career in San Francisco when she developed headaches and acute gastrointestinal issues landed her at the doctor, who suggested that she try eliminating gluten. Her symptoms went away. She had more energy. Unfortunately, she was a baker.

Being an avid baker and having sensitivity to gluten can seem like being a sommelier with an intolerance to grapes. You may as well throw in the proverbial oven mitt. In school, Julia couldn’t taste what she was baking, a key step in the pastry-making process. She was only working in kitchens that contained gluten. She wanted another way.

So she and her boyfriend, Andy Henderson, chef of Edmund’s Oast, moved to the Holy City, his hometown.

“I had no plans of opening my own bakery,” Julia says. “I was working customer service at Whole Foods and always had people in my line asking for gluten-free items and I saw the demand.”

Open last September, Sweet Radish’s kitchen has no gluten. Like, ever. She ensures that not even her vanilla is processed in a gluten environment. Recently, it expanded from two to three employees, and they all have their hands full in quinoa flour and almond meal. Her shop is special not just because it’s all gluten-free, all the time. Everything she uses is organic, her menu changes with the seasons, and she explores with unusual ingredients, like rosewater or chamomile for her panna cotta.

Julia truly exudes wanting-to-make-a-difference-ness. An admitted perfectionist and a bit restless at times, she is constantly looking into how she can be more mindful. While gluten-free is more trendy these days, it’s still a relatively new topic. The mass production of foods like Wonder Bread lead to a higher gluten content in the wheat we buy. Julia wants to give people more options.

“Most gluten-free choices are limited. Like, ‘This is a gluten-free blueberry muffin that looks like a real blueberry muffin, so you should be happy.’ I want to show people that gluten-free can be delicious.”

And we’re not one to pass up delicious.

Words by: Jessica Kenny for CHARLIE Mag

Photography by: Andrew Stephen Cebulka