Monday, September 12, 2011

Eating Out with a Food Allergy: Communicate with the Chef

One of the harder aspects of dealing with a food allergy, particularly when you are newly diagnosed, is eating out. Being at home and eating with food allergies is scary enough for a parent. But eating out with allergies is down right terrifying.

When you are first diagnosed, you wish you could have a magic bubble around your peanut-allergic child to protect them from every speck of peanut the world may throw at them. But it’s important to get to the place where you can eat out once in a while.

Over the next 3 days I will cover several things you need to consider when you eat out when you or someone you love has food allergies.

1.) Check the Menu in Advance. I honestly don’t know how I would have managed my son’s food allergy before the Internet. Most large chains have their menu online and many of them have allergen information. A few clicks of the mouse can tell you if a place is safe before you ever leave home.

2.) Call Ahead. At times when I haven’t had access to the menu, I have actually called the chef of a restaurant and spoke with them about my situation. It’s important to speak with the chef. Talking to a waitress or hostess will probably not yield great results because they are not as familiar with what goes on in the kitchen. The chef knows exactly what’s in the food and what all it has touched (cross contamination issues).

Chefs has come a long way in the last several years since Tyler was diagnosed in 2006. I used to get blank stares or stutters when I asked a chef about these things. Now, more often than not, I get clear, confident answers from chefs that really seem to understand food allergies.

3.) Tell the waiter or chef. Even if you know a dish is safe, it’s still a good idea to tell the waiter or chef (the waiter should communicate the information to the chef) about the food allergies. This helps them be extra vigilant when they handle your food. It’s just one more layer of protection for you or your loved one.

4.) Bring a chef’s card. You can purchase chef’s cards online or create your own. These are pieces of paper that simply tell your chef what you are allergic to. You can also add any other special information you want to communicate to your chef. If you make your own, it might be helpful to laminate it so it’s easy for your chef to read and handle while they cook.
There are several other things to keep in mind when eating out with food allergies. We’ll visit those tomorrow…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great tips. I am in my thirties and have peanut and tree nut allergies my entire life, they are both very severe. I have managed it exactly the way that you state. The great thing about the allergy is the benefits of being served by the head chef, especially in fine dining restaurants!

My son now has the same allergies plus chicken, fish and legumes...speaking with the chef is about the only way to ensure that your food is going to be safe.