Tips for eating safely

Check the menu in advance
Although it may not always be possible, looking over a restaurant's menu before you arrive there can make communicating with the chef and restaurant staff easier. Many restaurants have websites that include their full menu. Try an internet search using the restaurant name, city and state to quickly find the website.

Call Ahead

This was a very popular suggestion by the chefs on the forums. It is especially important if you will be attending an event that is catered since the food is prepared in advance. Here is why it is helpful:

  • While food in a restaurant is typically made when you order it, a lot of the components that go into a dish are prepped ahead of time. For instance meats are often marinated ahead of time and those marinades may contain an allergen that you are avoiding. If you can call ahead, the chef can skip the marinade for one portion to cater to your needs. This may not be possible if you drop in during the busy dinner rush.
  • It will be easier to communicate with the chef over the phone (provided you call during a slow time of day) than at the restaurant while he or she is in the middle of a busy mealtime rush.
  • It makes the chef and restaurant staff happy because they aren't caught off guard and can be prepared for you.
  • You can ask the chef for menu suggestions based on the constraints of your allergies and he or she will have more time to help you.
When calling ahead, keep the following in mind:
  • Call before or after the busy meal time hours (for instance, between 2PM and 4 PM).
  • Be brief and to the point. Even though you're calling during "down time" restaurants are busy places and chefs are busy people.
  • A little gratitutde goes a long way!

 

Be vocal about your allergies ASAP
If you can't communicate to the chef before you get to the restaurant, be sure to let your server know as soon as you are seated and are given menus. This way, the server can communicate with the chef and other back of the house staff and you can begin working together to determine what you can eat.

If you don't get the feeling that the server is taking your allergies seriously or doesn't understand the importance of what you are saying, ask to speak with the chef. If you get the same feeling from the chef, you might be better off going elsewhere.

Some of the chefs on the forums said that people don't always share the information about their allergies until they have received their meal. Do not do this! Not only will you have to wait even longer to get your meal but the chef will not be happy with you. I don't know about you but I want the chef preparing my food to be doing so with love, not anger and frustration!

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