Just around a decade ago, when my fiance's grandma was one of the first in their family to be diagnosed with celiac disease and my college roomie found out she was allergic, too, you'd be in treacherous territory by even trying to dine out with a food allergy. Thankfully, it's getting less stressful, as restaurants do their best to cater to people who are dairy-free, nut-free, or gluten-free, or suffer from any other food sensitivities.
I've seen it firsthand. Usually, whenever my fiance's brother, wife, and little girls come to visit us, we go to an Italian restaurant that does gluten-free cooking. It's a treat for them to get to eat a delicious pasta dish at a restaurant, just like anyone else who doesn't have celiac disease. And it's always so nice to see the chef come out and speak with us about all of our options and explain how the food is prepared, so there's no cross-contamination.
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal talks about how many mainstream restaurants are doing the same kind of thing. For instance, The Melting Pot has a complex safety system -- which entails "educating, separating, and sanitizing" to prevent contamination -- and Chuck E. Cheese offers gluten-free pizza for its patrons now, which is delivered and even cooked in a specially sealed package, so it never touches the regular pies.
But while this is awesome news all around for anyone who suffers from a food allergy, the fact remains that there are still restaurants that, unfortunately, aren't as thorough as you may want to them to be. So diners still have to be super-cautious, ask lots of questions, consult a chef if possible, and get a detailed rundown of how their food will be prepared. And restaurants have to be prepared to accommodate patrons who have allergy-related concerns.
As Paul Sale, an executive chef with a popular NYC restaurant company told the WSJ:
The biggest thing is communication—between the guests and us, and us with all of our employees, from the managers to the servers to the cooks to the dish washers.
Seems to me that whenever patrons and restaurants get a dialogue going about the food, everyone's better off. And it's heartening to hear that's happening more and more.
How do you feel about restaurants' recent efforts to accommodate diners with food allergies?
Image via Vegan Feast Catering/Flickr