Sunday, August 23, 2015

When you eat out, can you trust the Chef?

When we eat out, our health depends on the honesty of the chef in the kitchen.
Estuary Soup Chef
Even a cutie like this one. 

We hope that our chef will cook us a meal that satisfies our hunger and our health.
Sometimes, individuals will lie.
And we have to let the world know about them.
This chef decided to talk about his opinion of gluten free clients on Facebook.

Here is his post, just cut and pasted since I think the original will be taken down just as soon as he realizes how horrible this is. and I was correct, it vanished within an hour. 

I'm going to be kind and take his name off of the post. Many months have passed since this event. So perhaps he has changed his tune and attitude

"Gluten free is bullXXX!! Flour and bread have been a staple of life for thousands, THOUSANDS of years. People who claim to be gluten intolorent dont realize that its all in there disturbed liitle heads. People ask me for gluten free pasta in my restaurant all the time, I tell em sure, Then I serve serve em our pasta, Which I make from scratch with high gluten flour. And you know what? nothing, NOTHING! ever happens! People leave talking about how good they feel gluten free and guess what, They just had a full dose! Idiots!"
Here's his info on his profile...
Chef has apprienticed under Swiss, Master Chef ****.
Chef was the Executive Chef at the S*** Chalet Restaurant. Executive Banquet Chef at the Tavern on the Green N.Y.C.
He is currently unemployed.

With folks like this in the kitchen, being scared to go out to eat makes some sense.

When I'm making the decision to eat out, I have process to determine if I'm in the right place BEFORE I eat.  So many times, eating out is all about visiting with friends or a business opportunity.  Don't want to miss those at all.
First, I choose a restaurant that serves at least one of these three choices-Fried Eggs, Steak or Salad. I know, given no other options, I could make a meal of one of those choices, without sauces or dressings. Might not be the most amazing meal of my travels, but I wouldn't get sick.
Dedicated French Fry Potatoes from the County Fair
Dedicated French Fry Potatoes from the County Fair

Looking at the menu, I scan for known gluten-full items:
Anything covered in Breading,
Anything deep fried,
Anything Stuffed
Pasta,
Gnocchi,
Any creamy sauce,
Any gravy,
Sushi-especially California Rolls due to surimi (that kinda icky fake crab)
Any Asian Sauce due to soy sauce. Yes, I know that Thai food shouldn't have soy sauce but frequently enough it gets used.
Processed meat products like hot dogs, sausages.
Pancakes/Waffles etc
Muffins
Bread bowls
Leaving me with .... Sometimes not much but my "safe" foods.
Salad- Gluten-Free

Then comes the first conversation with the service staff.
In Asian restaurants, "Is there any gluten-free soy sauce?"
And I WATCH their face for hesitation, or quick response.  Hopefully, they say YES! but if they hesitate, then I know that gluten free education is NOT a priority for the restaurant.  I choose one of my safe foods and enjoy that.
In a sushi restaurant, that means sushi rice, fresh fish, steamed vegetables and edamame plain. No dipping sauces, no prepared sushi rolls since many are seasoned with soy sauce or use the surimi (fake crab).
If I'm truly prepared, I have some packets of gluten-free soy sauce in my purse to season.


In fast food restaurants the question is simple,  "is all your food fried in the same fryer?"
Yes, means that nothing fried is safe for me. So no french fries. I already know the burger line has a possibility of cross contamination.
Back to safe foods. Even the grilled chicken is likely floured. Sometimes I ask for a bunless burger but personally, I love Wendy's baked potato with sour cream (no margarine) and side salad for a quick meal on the go.

Breakfast restaurants-First question is asking about the meats, "Is the bacon/sausage/ham gluten-free?"
Any hesitation means the staff hasn't been trained well enough for me to keep it truly safe.
My meal is Easy Over Eggs with fruit. Never assume that scrambled eggs are safe. Especially in mass market restaurants, the eggs can be stabilized with the addition of some flour or pancake batter.

Fancier restaurants- I ask to see if there is a gluten-free menu.
Once again, hesitation means I choose one of my safe choices.

See the pattern?  I ask the Servers, not the chef.
Why?  I've been the chef who gets interrupted in the midst of service.  If the restaurant hasn't trained their front of house to answer those questions, then the kitchen won't take a request seriously.

My ideal answer from a server is something like this.

Yes, we have a gluten-free menu and will happily cook your gluten-free pasta in fresh water, but we could cook ours as well. We use ______ brand of gluten free pasta.  These items are prepared in a separate area of the kitchen with dedicated tools.  We source our breads from a dedicated gluten-free facility and store them in the Gluten-Free area of the kitchen.
We have gluten-free soy sauce.

The front of house needs to know, cause if only the kitchen staff is aware of the needs of a gluten-free consumer, then I'm likely to get croutons on my salad.

Now, when that kind of thing happens, I'm polite but adamant.
The mis-made dish needs to be replaced BEFORE I let the incorrect one leave my table.  I've had too many incidents of finding a crouton or scraped off sauce when I've requested new food.
They can't reserve the incorrect food anyway.

How do you handle getting a gluten-free meal when you eat out?

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