Cupcake Wars Winner: Interview with Lisa Cowden: The Future of Gluten-Free Living

Lisa Cowden: Food Network Cupcake Wars Winner: Survival of the Fittest: Air Date July 09, 2010

She’s affable, humble and unabashedly open. At 28, Lisa Cowden has already discovered that fame is sweet icing on the cake “cupcake” of preparation and hard work. As winner of the Food Network’s acclaimed “Cupcake Wars,” this Scottsdale, Arizona woman wowed tough judges, beat out her competitors (one of whom was a previous Food Network contestant) and kept her cool, while wading deftly in high heels through puddles of buttercream frosting- crafting for the final episode a stunning display and 1,000 scrumptious cupcakes.  

 She’s a girl after my own heart and clearly a woman of many skills. Her baking masterpiece- a delectable Rich Chocolate Carmel Cupcake- made of all-natural ingredients, that sings of decadence- even and most especially for gluten-free folks.  

Yeah, that’s right.  

Lisa, an accomplished pastry chef and baker for the renowned and allergen friendly haven – Gluten-Free Creations Bakery in Scottsdale – understands food intolerance on a personal basis. And while her cupcakes won with all natural ingredients but traditional flour- they readily translate into equally natural, yummy gluten-free confections- as do most of Lisa Cowden’s culinary treats- providing proof that gluten-free can be both delicious and upscale.   

Wheat and dairy intolerant, Cowden’s been in the trenches pioneering tasty wheat and dairy-free foods from her preteen years. It’s no surprise that she found her niche at Gluten-Free Creations – with their prolific and tasty offerings of over 150 gluten-free treats. When Lisa won, she’d been working at LuLu’s Cupcakes in Scottsdale- an all natural bakery- which was sold to LynnRae Ries and reopened as the second of Ries successful Phoenix area GF bakeries recently.  

Forgetting the time difference, I caught up with Lisa in the midst of her frantic baking schedule. Cowden, with her characteristic good humor took the call in spite of my poor planning. Says Cowden of her Cupcake Wars experience, “We geared up our brains to come up with the most creative things we could.” An easy laugh follows, “And then the pressure hit and…it’s all kind of a blur.” On auto-pilot through the tense competition, Lisa- a 2008 graduate of Scottsdale Culinary Institute Le Cordon Bleu– drew on her training and passion for natural foods, as well as a profound love for the fine art of cupcake crafting to edge out competitors.  

Lisa, shares a common vision with LynnRae Ries, the owner of Gluten-Free Café and Gluten-Free Creations Bakery, to make gluten-free and allergen friendly foods that taste as good as or better than traditional fare. “It’s a really good fit for me,” notes Cowden about working at GFC.  

Ries, who has celiac disease and is a noted author, chef, national leader for gluten-free awareness and specialty diet educator, is collaborating with Cowden on an upcoming cookbook. (Given the delectable creations that pour forth from GFC, we in the gluten-free community should wait upon this project with fork in hand.) (I’ll keep you posted)  

In addition to coming away from our conversation uplifted and encouraged, I also gleaned her prize winning recipe in the gluten-free version and gained expert pastry chef tips on converting various items into dairy and gluten-free variations, which are linked in these two posts- here and here.  

(You can view her original recipe here on the food network, if you’d like.)  

Lisa's Rich Chocolate Carmel Cupcake

When I lamented the typical plight of bland, boring or just “wrong” gluten-free treats, most of which taste far too “healthy” to be considered a delicacy, Cowden said of bakery confections,“You want a treat to taste like a treat- not like health food.” But Cowden, who uses all natural ingredients to foster her culinary delights, magically makes healthy food taste like treats- a commodity sorely lacking in most GF diets.  

She stated in a recent interview with Fox News, “People call up and say, thank God I found you, you make my life so much better… most bakeries can’t say that about what they do. Absolutely no one can tell that they are gluten free or maybe even dairy free or casein free or vegan. We service all the top 8 food allergens so everyone still loves them.” The national attention that resulted from winning the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars has brought greater media focus to food intolerance and celiac disease- as well as her mission with Ries at Gluten Free Creations. “You can’t make everything yourself, ” Cowden said, my utter agreement, “It’s nice for people to have options.”  

To me, Cowden represents the future of gluten-free living. She’s joyous, inventive and creative and able to impart flavor in living healthy while coping with-and even overcoming food intolerances. And I’m thrilled my daughter has a stake in a GF future led by women like Lisa Cowden.  

Congratulations, Lisa!  

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Recipes from Cupcake War Winner Lisa Cowden and Tips on GF Baking « GlutenFreeFearlessly's Blog
  2. Laura Davis
    Sep 15, 2010 @ 16:09:03

    Thanks for the encouraging story about GF living! I watched this episode was thrilled to see her win- and really happy she’s GF like my son is! Thank you for sharing

    Reply

  3. Trackback: Gluten Free Foodie Fun! | GlutenFreeAZ

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