As life-threatening food allergies, celiac disease, and gluten sensitivities, become more common, restaurants are beginning to cater to diners with special needs. Chefs are being educated on allergy awareness, and you’ll find gluten-free options marked clearly on many menus. Servers no longer balk at special dietary requests, and it’s easier than ever to avoid ingredients that will make you sick. But some people are taking advantage of the new allergy-aware dining culture, and claiming they have allergies when there is only disdain. You’ve got a broccoli allergy, you say? Nice try.
If you absolutely despise the taste of a certain food, you might think the easiest way to avoid an encounter is to simply tell your server that you’re allergic. You surmise that your server will handle a request that involves a life-threatening allergy with more care than a basic desire for not eating a certain food.
But the fact is, you won’t drop dead from a severe allergic reaction if you eat something you just don’t like. But if you tell your server that you will, then the kitchen must act like that’s the case. When a chef sees the word “allergies,” he or she must treat it as life-threatening.
And here’s what happens in many restaurants as a result:
Your order reaches the kitchen, flagged by the server as a severe food allergy in red block letters. The kitchen stops, and an intense process begins to ensure that no speck of say, that dreaded broccoli gets anywhere near your plate. Often, a manager is called in to supervise the procedures. Cooks put on new gloves and aprons, and consult a detailed list of the ingredients in the dish you ordered to make sure that broccoli isn’t hiding out somewhere. Utensils, cutting boards, pots and pans are sent through the sanitizer, or unused ones are brought out to prepare your meal. Your plate is handled with disposable wipes.
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant kitchen or peeked inside of one, then you know the quick-moving energy that pervades the space – and is necessary to keep diners served and happy.
For those with true food allergies, no process is too much to ensure that the diner does not get sick, or worse. But some chefs are seeing food allergy requests on a huge number of tickets – as many as 10 to 60 percent in some restaurants.
By all means, if you have food allergies – say so. And of course, if you have special dietary preferences or needs, please discuss them with your server. Tell him you are sensitive to gluten, hate broccoli with a passion, or will gag if you see garlic. But stop calling your food preferences “allergies” if they’re not.
Fibbing about a fake life-threatening condition is not a little white lie, and it puts people at risk who really do have severe food allergies. If 60 percent of a restaurant’s diners are saying they have food allergies, it increases the chances that the kitchen might lose vigilance or slip up. And it’s causing push-back for handling food allergy requests in the restaurant industry. This could have disastrous consequences for the next diner with real food allergies. Like fake foods, fake allergies have no place in your life.
Read more about the subject here.
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