If you offer a gluten free menu, please train your staff

Dear restaurant owners, If you have a gluten free menu, please train your staff accordingly.

Your ‘glutened’ patron,

Jenna

A few weeks ago, I went out to dinner with some friends to a restaurant called the Chart House in Hoboken.  To my surprise, they offered a dedicated gluten free menu for their diners who have Celiac Disease.  I have to admit that when I go out to dinner, I get extra excited when a restaurant offers a specific gluten free menu – mainly because this means I don’t have to be ‘that person with the gluten allergy’ at the table.

If you’ve ever been to the Chart House (or checked out their menu), it’s a dimly-lit restaurant to set a romantic mood and typically reserved for special occasions like anniversary dinners and such.  In fact, it’s so dark that when our salads came, and I started eating, I was unable to see the croutons hidden just under the first layer of lettuce.  After several bites of lettuce, my fork crunched into the hidden suspect – A CROUTON!  Immediately the waiter was called over and admitted that he had not been paying attention when he served our table and brought the wrong salad.

In an effort to ‘make up’ for poisoning me, they offered to provide free desert.   Knowing that I would most likely make it through dinner without becoming ill, I agreed and shared a Crème Brulee with the table.

Needless to say, I went home and crawled right into bed as the stomach pain began.  The next morning is when the ‘gluten’ really hit me.  As I tried to sit up out of bed, I became dizzy and needed to sit down. After I put on my shoes and stood up, I became dizzy.  As I got out of my car to walk to work, I became dizzy.  I felt nauseous for days. My skin broke out into a rash.  My mood was affected and more.  I can't even begin to imagine the havoc the cross contamination causes with my insides!

This terrible scenario occurs again and again for my fellow gluten free diners – mostly because food service staff is untrained on how to handle food allergies and autoimmune diseases like Celiac Disease.  They may go above and beyond to provide a specific menu, but if the staff (from servers to cooks) is untrained on ingredients, cross contamination, and more then it’s a waste of time.

If you are a restaurant owner committed to offering a safe environment for those with food allergy and gluten free diet concerns, then I highly suggest the National Foundation of Celiac Awareness’ GREAT Kitchens certification program.

Have you ever been glutened at a 'gluten free friendly' restaurant?  Share your story in the comments below...