I recently read an article where a well-known chef berates those with food allergies for visiting restaurants, and I cannot agree. There is a difference between not liking garlic because it makes your breath smell and actually being allergic to it. It doesn’t mean someone with an allergy to nuts should be denied the pleasure of an evening out.
But still, there is a problem
Chefs work under unspeakable pressure and there are few of them that can be convinced that there is such a thing as a garlic allergy, especially on a sweaty Friday night when the tab grab reads like a William Burroughs novel.
Be that as it may, a restaurateur’s job is to make all who are willing to spend money in their establishment, comfortable. That includes someone with a nut allergy.
Lines must be drawn, however, and I cannot defend those that think that the cream sauce from the fish would go better with the chicken, but preferably with vegetables that accompany the lamb dish. Choose an item from the menu and stick with it.
Train your staff
It is one of the most irritating experiences in a restaurant when asking a waitron whether there are nuts in a dish to see his back as he heads off to ask the chef.
Inevitably he will either have to start taking the order again, or cock it up. And rest assured the chef has skipped a beat in the kitchen. Train your staff people.
Adapt your menu
But there is an easier way. It is not rocket science, and more importantly, you do not need to change the direction of your business.
Take your existing menu, sit down with the chef on a quiet Tuesday morning, and go through the menu and work out which dishes contain nuts, wheat, dairy and, yes, garlic.
Draw up a Nut Friendly, Celiac Friendly, Lactose Friendly and Garlic Friendly menu. Have it available in the restaurant, and post it on your website so that people can make informed choices before entering your establishment.
You will not believe how accommodating you will make someone with an allergy feel.
I have experienced it. And trust me, if you cook the kind of food that I enjoy, your Garlic Friendly menu will be short. And so too will be your customer base with runny noses and an abhorrence of garlic.
And then at least you can say, I told you so.
Follow @JDHaasbroek and @Food24 on twitter.