Living with a gluten intolerance means sacrificing warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies, my mom’s mouth-melting dark chocolate cake and everything bagels smothered in cream cheese, all for the sake of a happy and functioning digestive tract. Some foods have made valiant attempts to fill this void, but despite the new era of gluten-free awareness, finding decent baked-good alternatives has been a long and disappointing quest.
Enter: Éban’s Bakehouse, a gluten-free bakery that creates bread, cookies and specials sold at grocery stores and markets around Ohio. Started by Eric Braddock and Adrienne Novak in 2011, the business was inspired by a desire to provide the indulgent experience of baked goods to those who typically live without. Hence their motto: No Gluten. No Regrets.
The annual event showcases Columbus’ best food while raising funds for Columbus State Community College, and its honorees are Columbus State alumni doing innovative work or providing a service in the local food scene. For Novak (Class of 1995), she’s also being honored for her roles in some of the nation’s finest country clubs, restaurants, inns, hotels, and gourmet markets, including Rocky Fork Hunt and County Club, Winegarder & Hammons Hotel Group, and Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.
“You get to see the culinary landscape of Columbus all in one night,” said Jesse Jones, this year’s Taste the Future organizer. “It is the big foodie event, but also it’s a great time.”
Besides Novak, Taste the Future is also recognizing Titus Arensberg (Class of 2008), lead carver and master food artist at Rock on Ice, and Avishar Barua, executive chef at Middle West Service Bar, for their food and drink contributions.
“Food is one of the few things that allows you to incorporate everything…you taste it, smell it, you see it, you touch it, you hear it,” Avishar Barua said. “It’s something that brings people together.”
Barua became interested in cooking later than many in the culinary profession, finding a fondness for food after he started at
Ohio State University. He was supposed to be preparing for medical school, but he wasn’t thrilled about that idea, and once he got sick of the stereotypical college diet, he stumbled upon a new career option.
“I decided I couldn’t live off ramen noodles anymore, so I started getting cookbooks from the library,” Barua said. “From that point on I realized I was doing more cooking than studying, and I thought maybe there was something there.”
Barua, who graduated from Columbus State in 2013, now blends his Midwestern upbringing and Bangladeshi roots in the food and drinks he makes at Service Bar. It’s all about experimenting with new recipes—the restaurant takes this to the next level by making its own liquor through Middle West Spirits—and Barua favors creations that require long, drawn-out processes that produce food anyone can enjoy. Though, he admits sometimes “our mind goes beyond our skill level.”
This year is the 30th annual Taste the Future, and along with Middle West’s presence at the event, the restaurants represented will range from Barcelona and Lindey’s to Crimson Cup and Platform Beer Co. Each has the freedom to design their own menu; two years ago, bacon was the ingredient of choice for chefs, and this time around Jones says tacos and finger foods seem to be on trend.
Not all those at Taste the Future showcase their talent on a plate or in a glass, however: Titus Arensberg food sculptures often stand alone, and have earned him wins at multiple Ohio State Fair Food Art Championships and a 2016 US National Championship. Before Arensberg graduated from CSCC in 2008, he started out as a young cook trying to impress his old-school chef. He’d work on his carvings secretly while his boss was preoccupied at meetings, but was pleasantly surprised when the chef warmed up to Arensberg’s creations.
Now as the lead carver and master food artist at Rock on Ice, Arensberg and his colleagues go through 2,000 blocks of ice and hundreds of pumpkins and melons annually. His sculptures end up at celebrations like high school graduations, weddings, grand openings and football games, but Titus also does competitions around the country, and that’s where he comes up with his most memorable pieces.
“The contest pieces allow me to freely design and create without any restrictions,” Arensberg said. “They allow me to express myself and even celebrate events throughout my life, like two years ago my girlfriend and I told the world we were having twins by me carving a stork carrying a baby in a national contest.”
Taste the Future typically raises $200,000, and although tickets are on the pricey side at $100 a piece, attendees get all-you-can-eat access and four drink tokens to almost 50 food and drink establishments. Perhaps more meaningfully, Jones says, they’re also investing in students who will be Columbus’ future employees.
“[This is a] place where a lot of careers start, a lot of careers pivot, a lot of journeys begin.”
More than serving as the largest culinary event in Columbus, proceeds from Taste the Future (8.14, 6–9 p.m.) support student success at Columbus State. In its three decades, it has grown to host more than 1,300 people and 50 food stations. To purchase tickets or learn more about the event, visit tastethefuture.com.