This topic is worthy of a few posts, so here is the first stop on the Eating Out with Food Allergy Train. Excuse my sad attempts at puns, but I really do have a corny sense of humor! A few months ago I stumbled upon a gem that blows my mind and that I’m personally thrilled over! Before I reveal my current favorite Food Allergy Solution, I need to preface that my college degree is in Hotel and Restaurant Management and that industry will always hold a sacred spot in my heart. I am excited about Lara Holland of Lara Holland Food Allergy Consultancy and the AllerTrain™ Restaurant courses! Besides consulting to restaurants and literally any food service entity, she is an AllerTrain™ instructor providing food allergy training for Restaurants (which are approved by the American Culinary Federation!
Okay, I’m sure you’re not feeling the love I am feeling…quite yet! Here is why this is an exciting solution: folks managing food allergies want to dine out, but eating out involves a hearty risk. Eating at a restaurant that is trained in managing food allergies is a dream. We are all wise enough to understand that there are no guarantees and risk reduction is one critical. As someone who has worked in both the front of the house (which includes where customers eat, wait staff and servers) and back of the house (the kitchen) I understand what is needed to keep my children safe when we eat out and my personal concern is how restaurant staff think they understand food allergies when they don’t.
How many times have you had to explain to a server that no, picking the walnuts off a salad won’t work, or that you need to read the label from the bottle of barbeque sauce that the chef is using on your ribs since pre-made products may contain allergens? I worry that the knife used to cut cheese for a salad is used to cut my child’s cucumber or that sauce with sesame seeds is in the container next to the safe sauce and the ladles get mixed Wouldn’t it be lovely to speak to someone who says, “I just took a course on food allergies, may I bring you the label to confirm the item is safe?” Or that they know how to safely separate allergens in the kitchen. I believe that the more we educate chefs, cooks, kitchen managers and servers, the closer we get to realistic risk reduction. Thus, possibly saving more lives.
What I am tossing out there for thought and discussion is that maybe if we start speaking to our favorite restaurants about what are they doing about food allergies and educating their staff, we can begin creating safer choices for our families. Allergy Eats (one of my favorite websites and App) just released a great blog post this week, “The Most Allergy Friendly Food Allergy Chains in America”. What a fabulous example of this progressive thinking: let’s applaud restaurants who are trying to address food allergies.
I personally believe the next step is to encourage our favorite restaurants to participate in webinar and classroom courses that are lead by folks like Lara! As the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) used to say, “Until there is a Cure, Education is Key!” Have we possibly overlooked our restaurants? I will post again very soon about some of the other exciting projects Lara is working on for our food allergy and gluten free community. She suffers herself and has a long history of business and food and is quite fascinating on her own. Until then, here is an interesting press release about Lara!
photo courtesy of Lara Holland Food Allergy Consultancy
This link details of the next AllerTrain™ Webinar and Class sessions that you might want to share with your favorite restaurant. These programs cost around $110.00 and the individual gets certified, not the kitchen. If this food allergy solution resonates with you, then you may want to contact Lara directly to learn more about what is offered (live vs. Webinar, gluten free training vs. general food allergen management, etc.) and what she might suggest for your favorite restaurant.
Lastly, this just tickles me to see my old industry stepping up the food allergy plate (oh there goes another bad pun–so sorry, I just can’t control it today).
Happy Food Allergy Safe Valentine’s Day! Maybe next year, we’ll have more restaurants food allergy trained and ready!