Last week I ate at one of my favorite restaurants. The restaurant will remain nameless because despite the story I am about to tell, I still rate it highly. I went there for gluten-free pizza. I know from prior experience that they prepare the gluten-free pizzas in a separate pan and that they have appropriate controls in the kitchen.
And so I ordered my favorite pizza and told the server that I have a gluten allergy. (I was dining alone and hence there was no need to explain my son’s food allergies.) I was sipping my glass of wine and checking my email when a manager approached my table. The conversation went something like this:
Manager: You ordered a gluten-free pizza. I need to ask, do you have celiac disease?
Me: (Antennas going up…) Why are you asking?
Manager: We just like to know.
Me: (Now thinking that they won’t take proper precautions…) I will get very sick if I eat gluten.
Manager: Okay. The gluten-free pizza is a good thing to order, you should be fine. But I have to tell you that we can’t actually guarantee anything.
For a minute I considered getting up and leaving. If it had been my first visit there, I would have. Instead, I proceeded to ask the detailed questions about the special pan, etc., and I got satisfactory answers.
Me: (Now feeling like I had to advocate for everyone.) You really shouldn’t ask people that question about how severe their allergy is.
Manager: Really? Why not?
Me: It makes people nervous, and if you really are doing everything properly in the kitchen you should be making them feel comfortable.
Manager: Yes, we just don’t want to get sued.
Me: You shouldn’t have a problem with that if your staff is trained properly.
I was at a restaurant that is known for it’s gluten-free food. My son and I have eaten there successfully numerous times and always felt very comfortable. I stayed, ate my pizza, took some back to the hotel, and had no problems at all.
And so I am left wondering if the “gluten-free trend” (meaning people choosing to eat gluten-free without medical issues) is causing confusion in the restaurant community. It’s too easy to lump people into two groups – celiacs and non-celiacs; there are many non-celiacs with medical reasons to avoid gluten. If I am highly gluten-intolerant (and I am) I want the same care taken in preparing my meal as if I had celiac disease.
What do you think?