Meet the team
Roanna grew up on a cattle ranch in rural Utah and her family is Greek immigrants (her grandmother claims she grew up in a restaurant kitchen). But the truth was Roanna was not a very good baker until she taught herself to bake gluten free.
Fascinated with travel, between the years of 18-30 she had traveled to more than 30 countries and had worked as a leadership consultant on several continents. She holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership as well as an MBA in Entrepreneurship, and for 10 years served as a global leadership consultant, and taught leadership at the graduate level. While she was living in Rome, Italy, she met Annabel Cohen, and the two became instant friends, bonding over their dreams of working in pastry.
When her toddler son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, she began to notice the difficulties of finding good tasting food for him.
While living in Italy, she studied cooking, baking, chocolate making, and gelato from a culture that places the highest value on food quality, freshness, taste, and appearance.
In 2015, she opened The Gluten Free Baking Co. with a cottage food license to bake for wholesale clients out of her home kitchen. With no formal kitchen training, she became a self made gluten free pastry chef. Her unique ability to see patterns in information is the basis of her ability to create gluten free recipes.
In 2018, she acquired Euro Pastry, a 2400 sq. foot European style bakery that only served wholesale clients. She subsequently turned the entire bakery gluten free, and not only did she not lose any of the existing wholesale clients, she gained more. Her first two years were spent honing recipes and processes for a successful wholesale business.
At the end of 2019, she was featured with her celiac friend Lisa Altfest on Netflix Sugar Rush, being the first ever gluten free participants on the show. They placed 2nd!
The buzz pushed her to consider opening a retail shop—but she was intimidated and so she called on Annabel Cohen—who had worked and managed retail—to help her. Together, the two successfully opened the doors on Feb 8, 2020. The retail shop was wildly successful, touted as one of San Diego’s most anticipated openings of 2020, and there was constantly a line around the block. A mere 5 weeks later, Roanna lost her entire wholesale business when the world was rocked by Covid. So, she spent the next 2 years learning and perfecting retail—a business she knew nothing of. When the world began to return to “normal” she successfully put together a wholesale a retail business, opening her second retail location in 2022.
Her goal is to create a new world of delicious foods that help transform San Diego into a safe place for allergen diners.
Cake Designer, Lisa Altfest is a San Diego native who, after studying psychology and marketing at USC, spent two years in the marketing and advertising industry. More and more, she found herself drawn to cakes (eating or baking, it really didn’t matter), so she packed her bags and headed to Canada to attend the Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionery Arts. Upon completion, she began working in bakeries as a cake designer. She felt that she’d found her true passion, and wanting to cultivate her knowledge further, she enrolled in pastry school. One month before attending, she was diagnosed with celiac disease, which was a crushing blow. She now worked in an industry where she couldn’t eat anything! Undaunted, she finished pastry school and was promptly hired by Duff Goldman at Charm City Cakes as a cake designer. Currently, she has found her place at The Gluten Free Baking Company. Lisa is known for her show-stopping cakes, her incredible talent for composition, and her desire to make stunning creations that everyone can enjoy.
Last year, Lisa was showing an incredible piece at the San Diego Cake Show. A passerby with celiac disease was examining her cake, commenting on all the intricate details. She was told the designer was a celiac. With tears in her eyes, the passerby said, “I didn’t know something this beautiful would be open to somebody like me.” With Lisa, cakes this beautiful are now open to everyone.
Born and raised in Paris, France, Annabel spent her early years in both her grandmothers' kitchens, baking traditional Jewish Moroccan treats, challah bread, honey Fazuelos, and French baked goods.
After graduating in Communication, Public Relations & Event Planning, she launched a PR & Event agency in Paris. Over the next 14 years, much of her work centered on clients in the food and hospitality industry. Although very happy in the PR industry, she had two dreams: living in the US, and being a pastry chef. In 2011 on a trip to visit her friend in Rome, Italy, she was introduced to Roanna Canete (who lived next door to the friend she was visiting). The two became friends.
In 2013, these dreams kept nudging, so she applied to the Ferrandi Pastry School in Paris, and enrolled in the American Green Card Lottery.
She received the incredible news that she won a spot in the highly competitive pastry school (24 students accepted out of thousands of applications). The same week, she won the green card lottery, securing her ability to live and work in the US.
After graduating from pastry school in June 2014, Annabel moved to The Hamptons in New York, to become the Pastry Chef at a well-known local French Gourmet Café, where she created seasonal menus with locally grown produce. Her next stop was Head Pastry Chef at the famed Chateau Marmont Hotel, followed by Head Pastry Chef at Sunset Towers, both of which are in Los Angeles. During her time between these two hotels, she led her team to create outstanding menus for all the Hollywood events (Oscar, Golden Globes...).
Her next and last stop was San Diego, where she worked as a Pastry Consultant for the Gluten Free Baking Co, with Roanna. The goal was to transform French baked good staples into gluten free deliciousness, rebrand the company and open the first bake shop. A month before the pandemic hit, the shop opened with a line around the block which continued (albeit socially distanced) even through the early days of the pandemic.
Together: during January 2020 while planning the opening of the first retail shop, Annabel and Roanna dreamed The GF Culinary School. Their timeline included opening the first retail shop, and then after 4 weeks, transitioning to opening a brick and mortar Gluten Free Culinary School. These plans were dashed with Covid and were given up completely, until Roanna traveled to Italy at the end of 2021. An Italian chef friend encouraged her to explore online teaching (to which Roanna was opposed) and although she rejected the idea at the time, upon her return home, she reconsidered. At lunch one day, she brought up the idea and Annabel was immediately interested. By the end of lunch, The Gluten Free Culinary School was born.