Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Meet GF Joe, gluten-free baker and cookoff show participant

There's show biz in his blood and gluten-free biscotti in his oven.

And finally, Joseph Camerieri, a 50-year-old from Clearwater with a Brooklyn accent and the energy of a battery-run bunny, got a chance to marry the two.

He fought with the fury of a grilling wildebeest Sunday on the premiereof Home Chef Showdown, a summer cookoff series on ABC's digital Live Well Network. Camerieri was chosen over hundreds of home chefs because producers liked his energy and the gluten-free angle in the videos he submitted, said Cindy Connors, the show's co-executive producer.

He and two other contestants were given a twofold appetizer challenge — one cold, one grilled.

In the first, he made hummus from the six mystery ingredients he was given, including chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes and mortadella. "It wasn't very good," Camerieri said.

He didn't win.

The grilled challenge seemed custom-made for an Italian from Long Island: pizza.

He rolled the ball of dough — gluten free, by the way — into a pie and put in on the grill, topped with artichoke and other items. Then he left it to help (help? in a cookoff?!) one of the other contestants who was struggling. (You probably know where this is going.) By the time he got back to his own pie, the bottom was burned. He didn't win.

The contestant he helped did.

"I'm happy I helped her. I had a great, great time. I went trying to win but I really just wanted to be on the show. I want to do more of those types of shows."

Shows, Camerieri said, such as Shark Tank, through which he would want to prove he's a budding entrepreneur worthy of financial backing, and Cupcake Wars, a show he could use to demonstrate he's an experienced baker worthy of accolades for creations such as his Coconut Cinnamon Swirl Cupcakes.

We caught up with the baker between batches of biscotti to ask him a few questions.

1 How did you get started baking?

My family had a bakery — Camerieri's Italian Bakery — on Main Street in Dunedin. My brother has the bakery now, but he moved it to Clearwater.

2 How did you get the show biz bug?

When I was 9 years old and living on Long Island, my uncle had a bit part in The Seven Ups, a gritty detective movie set in New York. It was exciting to see him in it. Years later, I talked him into getting me a bit part on 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage, a TV show being filmed in Miami. I played a mugger and had only two lines, but I got to shadow a director around the set.

After that, I went to Hollywood to take a three-month course on filming. The day before I was supposed to come home, I got a production assistant job at Stephen J. Cannell Studios (The Rockford Files, The A-Team). That job, along with a series of others, turned what was to be three months in California into eight years. It was like real-life film school. I walked Hollywood Boulevard every day and was on every film lot and studio, delivering scripts to stars' homes and seeing famous locations. I also was an extra in TV shows like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Nanny and Frasier, and in movies such as Kiss The Girls, The Other Guys and The Bounty Hunter.

3 When you weren't feeling well, you figured out it was the gluten. How can the rest of us know we might be sensitive to wheat?

I had a rash on my hand for years. I woke up fatigued. I had headaches. When it got worse in 1997, I saw doctors, but they couldn't figure it out. It wasn't until friends who knew about food allergies gave me a book that listed all my symptoms under gluten intolerance — lack of focus, lethargy, headaches, fatigue, rash, stomach issues, cloudy thinking, indecisiveness — that I knew. I felt like I was drunk intellectually all the time. The book had a great cure: stop eating gluten. Not easy for a pasta-loving Italian, but after only four or five days, I felt a tremendous amount of energy and my thoughts were clearer. In the next couple years, I found out I was also allergic to dairy, rice and yeast.

4 What can you tell us about GF Joe and the GF Joe brand?

In 2011, after the economy went bad and I lost my job, I decided to create my own line of GF (gluten-free) Joe products. I baked in my kitchen at first, but now I rent the bakery from my brother. Someday, I hope to have my own retail bakery to sell my GF Joe gluten-free products.

I have six flavors of biscotti — coconut is my bestseller — sesame seed sticks, biscotti mixes and GF Joe Cookie Dough. I'm hoping to get funding to expand my brand.

5 What would your dream job be?

To be a player in the National Hockey League. Second would be to be Batman. He was a very successful businessman. I'd love to have 50 GF Joe bakeries and my brand in 5,000 stores.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a mixture of proteins not readily soluble in water that occurs in wheat and most other cereal grains. Its presence in flour makes production of leavened baked goods possible because the chainlike gluten molecules form an elastic network that traps carbon dioxide gas and expands with it.

There. Thanks to Merriam-Webster, you now know what most people who avoid it don't.

Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, who says he's too pro pizza to be antigluten, last month sent a film crew to a popular exercise spot in Los Angeles to ask people who don't eat gluten if they know what it is.

Even though all four quickly said yes when asked if they adhere to a gluten-free diet, they stuttered and stammered when asked if they knew what it was they were freeing themselves of.

Not one of them did.

Meet GF Joe, gluten-free baker and cookoff show participant 06/23/14 [Last modified: Monday, June 23, 2014 7:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. Sue Carlton: Job or family when a hurricane's coming — a very Florida conundrum


    It must seem as foreign to Northerners as shoveling snow is to those of us raised in the Sunshine State: The very-Florida conundrum of having to choose between work and family — between paycheck and personal safety — when a hurricane comes.

    A hurricane helps the rest of us acknowledge the police officers, paramedics, hospital personnel, public works employees and others who stay on the job despite the storm. 
  3. After Tampa concert, Arcade Fire members party, preach politics at Crowbar


    After waiting more than a decade for Arcade Fire’s first appearance in Tampa, fans didn’t have to wait long for their second.

    DJ Windows 98, a.k.a. singer Win Butler of Arcade Fire, performed at a "Disco Town Hall" at Crowbar following the band's concert at the USF Sun Dome on Sept. 22, 2017.
  4. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa


    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  5. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.