Curious Fork co-owners Chef Kai Peyrefitte and Chef Barbara McQuiston. Photo David Boylan 
Curious Fork co-owners Chef Kai Peyrefitte and Chef Barbara McQuiston. Photo David Boylan 
Lick the Plate

Exploring the gluten free lifestyle at The Curious Fork

If I could have all my meals prepared by the team at The Curious Fork, I would have no problem giving gluten-free a try.


The team there is committed to that lifestyle and has obviously put a lot of thought into making gluten free delicious. I met with co-founder and chef Barbara McQuiston and her partner chef Kai Peyrefitte recently to learn more about their new venture.

The Curious Fork has a lot going on. Besides the gluten restaurant portion, you have an educational component and great culinary stuff for sale. How did you come up with this mix?

We want to provide a complete, integrated experience at The Curious Fork.  This is why our concept is a hybrid culinary space with a fresh quick-service café for breakfast and lunch, an educational kitchen offering cooking classes and guest speakers, and a culinary retail center, all under one roof. We understand that being healthy is a lifestyle. we want to be a community resource on culinary whole foods learning.  That’s why we are incorporating education classes and sell unique products we believe in, in addition to the café to help someone stay curious about food!

So, I’ll admit, I’ve always been a bit of a gluten free skeptic. While I recognize that Celiac disease is real, I feel that it’s been exploited way beyond that and it sometimes feels like a fad diet by the way it’s been marketed to the masses. That said, I’ve never really tried cutting back on gluten to see how it affects my overall well-being.  What influenced your decision to make Curious Fork completely gluten free?

I was raised cooking with my mother and grandmother using fresh ingredients from the garden. As I grew up, my children and myself were diagnosed with celiac disease — and I immediately switched my at-home cooking techniques to gluten-free. This was not an easy task to undertake and there was not enough information at the time to help out, so the task was monumental.  The result of this effort was seeing my family’s health, along with my own, improved almost overnight. After I transitioned from my national defense career, I went to culinary school and knew I wanted to create a culinary environment dedicated to healthy living highlighting the importance of quality food. I realize that some people get slightly turned off when they hear the term “gluten-free;” our food challenges that stereotype completely, and we provide simply delicious dishes that people don’t even realize are gluten-free!

So about that food, everything I sampled was really good. The quiche was the best I’ve had in a while, and your desserts were fabulous. And then, to top it off, you managed to pull off a gluten free baguette that won over even a skeptic like me. I’m not saying it’s not the best baguette I’ve ever had, but it made a great sandwich. Tell me what went into your menu development and some of your techniques.

We place an emphasis on using local organic ingredients and surprisingly, the entire menu is completely gluten-free without sacrificing taste. We are open for breakfast and lunch serving freshly baked pastries, nourishing smoothies, dynamic salads, tempting sandwiches and soups, handmade pizzas, and satisfying small plates and specials. Café favorites include the mini quiche with chorizo and dried tomato, berry tarts and treats, tantalizing charcuterie and sandwiches and unique artisan pizzas. We also have a home cured smoked salmon that melts in your mouth! We strive to source the best unique products such as the coveted Oakland-based Blue Bottle Coffee, which is the first time the brand has been available in Southern California.

The culinary classes you offer and the demonstration kitchen are quite impressive. What types of classes are you offering?

We have quite an array of educational classes in the works including Farmer Basket Fun on Thursday nights where you can pick up the box of organic vegetables and Curious Fork specialty items and enjoy a few samplings that the chef demonstrates that you can make at home! This class is an hour and you get to take your box home and play with your food!   Pete Balistreri who opened Tender Greens is preparing a summer harvest at our restaurant July 28 at noon.  If you sign up online, you will get to enjoy what he prepares and taste some of his own Italian style salumi!

I appreciate how the retail portion of Curious Fork offers functional items that can be used on a regular basis. Most of us have cupboards full of cooking gadgets that don’t get much use. Can you share some of your more popular items?

We have a number of items we sell in our store that are both unique to San Diego and practical for a home chef.   An example is a cheese making kit from Portland Oregon with all the materials you need to make anywhere between eight and 24 batches of Feta, Greek Yogurt, and/or Yogurt Cheese, and all you need to add is milk for the perfect cheese at home.

The Curious Fork is located at 512 Via De La Valle, suite 102, Solana Beach or visit online at

Lick the Plate can now be heard on KPRi, 102.1 FM Monday – Friday during the 7pm hour.  David Boylan is founder of Artichoke Creative and Artichoke Apparel, an Encinitas based marketing firm and clothing line. Reach him at                           or (858) 395-6905.