New restaurant with keto-based alternatives eyes expansions

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The Gourmet & Keto Entree Express & Bakery on Virginia Avenue in Collinsville opened during the coronavirus pandemic, and now is considering options to expand. Dine-in options are yet available due to the pandemic.

By Brandon Martin

Diet programs have long been a mainstay on television infomercials, but one local resident has taken the idea to the next level, and the concept has been so popular that two months in, he is considering expansions.

Laurence Vanderwoods, who champions the effects of the keto diet, has been busy operating the Gourmet & Keto Entree Express & Bakery on Virginia Avenue in Collinsville for two months.

According to Healthline, a keto diet consists of low amounts of carbohydrates which are replaced by foods higher in fat. The reduction in carbohydrates puts the body into a metabolic state called ketosis, and the body becomes efficient at burning fat for energy while also creating ketones in the liver that supply energy for the brain.

Vanderwoods said that his keto-themed bakery isn’t lacking any sweetness even though sugars make up most carbohydrates.

“We use alternative sweeteners like Erythritol and Swerve. Everything that we do here is low-carb and sugar-free,” Vanderwoods said. “We also offer gluten-free because keto uses almond flour and coconut flour. We use no pea powders, no wheat gluten or anything like that. Just almond flour and coconut flour to make everything that we make.”

Before jumping into his keto-themed restaurant, Vanderwoods said that he had to know the effects of the diet himself.

“I did not go to school to learn,” Vanderwoods said. “I’ve been doing keto for a long time before it was even keto.

Brownies (pictured above), pies, Danishes, cheesecake cups and lemon pound cakes are among the sweet offerings at the Gourmet & Keto Entree Express & Bakery, but other items also are available, including keto chicken salad and other goodies (pictured below).

The keto diet is like the Atkins plan, he said, adding that the two “are pretty much intertwined, but keto is a little bit more restrictive than” the other plan. I’ve lost 141 pounds myself.”

Vanderwoods said he decided to combine his newfound passion for the diet with his other passion for cooking.

“I’ve always loved to cook. I am a certified chef, but not keto certified. I don’t think there is such a thing as a keto-certified chef,’ but I do call myself a keto chef now because that is what I focus on,” he said.

Although it might not be recognized as a specialty, Vanderwoods said that the only way to become an expert is by gaining experience.

“There’s all different processes of becoming a chef. The biggest part is experience. Working from sous chef up to work under a chef, to work being a chef,” Vanderwoods said. “Did I go to school to become a chef? No. I’ve cooked at 5-star establishments down to little local establishments. It’s all about experience.”

Before venturing out on his own, Vanderwoods said he tested his products at another local establishment.

“I was working at a different location at the time, and my product became strongly desired. So, I thought ‘why not do it on my own,’” Vanderwoods said, adding that his brother joined as a partner in the new venture.

“He does not do keto himself. He’s only like this big around,” he said of his brother, laughing while making a small circle with his two hands.”

Between his brother, another employee and himself, Vanderwoods said the staff are always busy adding onto the growing menu.

“All of my recipes here are made by me. We don’t Pinterest. We don’t use other people’s recipes. I made these recipes,” Vanderwoods said. “Most of them, I came up with by just playing around. Our new cookie brownie recipe was me taking a bowl back there and just putting stuff in the bowl and then boom, it happened. So, we are excited about that.”

The keto guru said that the bakery’s goal is to come up with two new products a week and “sometimes we do even more than that.”