I wanted to follow up on my food allergy experience in Nantucket this past weekend that I talked about in my Facebook Live this morning.
Nantucket is an island 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. I used to live there and it is home to me. Now I try to visit one of my good friends there at least once a year. I have my favorite restaurant spots which I tend to return to each year and then will usually try something new as well. This visit was no different. I wrote a post a few years back about where I often eat out on island. I went to two of those same spots, then tried a new breakfast place.
The breakfast place was a cafe where you order at the counter and then go sit down and wait for them to call your order. The cafe is family owned and run and it wasn’t crowded which I always appreciate. I told the girl behind the counter (who is the daughter of the owner) about my allergies, gave her my chef card and ordered a breakfast sandwich to have her check on. She brought the card back to the kitchen and returned with the package for the English muffins for me to read. They were okay and she said they looked at the rest of the ingredients and that everything else should be all set. When my order came up though it had potato chips on the side (and partially on top of the sandwich). I reminded her about my potato allergy and she said no problem, they would make a new one. A few minutes later she called me up. I knew it had been only a few minutes and that they had likely just removed the chips off the plate with the same sandwich. I asked her about it and she went back to the kitchen to check. They had done just that and she reassured me they would make a new one. When it came out again there were no chips and it looked new, except instead of bacon it had sausage on it. Since sausage often has many ingredients I don’t usually eat sausage out. I mentioned again how I had ordered bacon and explained about the sausage concern. This time the owner came out when the sandwich was done with bacon this time. The girl behind the counter was wonderful the entire time though and even said “I think I need to reeducate the staff about food allergies.” When I said, sorry as I sent it back for the third time, she said, “no problem. It’s not like you can choose having food allergies.” She totally got it. This is why when it finally came out I didn’t feel worried. I knew that she understood and was making her point clear in the kitchen.
- Newer restaurants sometimes need some time to learn about food allergies
- It’s important that at least one person gets it and you feel confident that they are handling the process
- As always, trust your gut
- Always advocate for what you need. It’s not always easy, but it is necessary and just like this girl said, I didn’t choose this. It’s just what I have to do.
I messaged the café yesterday as I was preparing to discuss this experience and the daughter of the owner told me that she was very upset about what happened and they had a staff meeting about it afterwards. She said it was unacceptable and wanted to make that clear to the staff. I was thrilled to hear greater confirmation that she understands the severity of food allergies and the importance of educating others and making the cafe safer for those of us with food allergies.
In this situation at the cafe I did not feel a need to leave for a few important reasons. One reason is because I knew they wanted to help and get it right. Another reason is that I wasn’t met with any resistance. The last reason is that I was talking with someone who totally “got it” as far as understanding the severity of food allergies and what needed to happen to make it safe.
What are my typical red flags?
- When the first person I speak to at a restaurant clearly does not “get it.”
- This may not be a deal breaker but I will have to speak to the manager/chef to consider staying there.
- If someone gives me attitude about handling food allergies.
- If I’m met with any resistance to making something safe.
- Body language that shows nonacceptance, disinterest, or any negativity towards food allergies (ex. rolling eyes, hands on hips, etc.)
I hope this gives you some perspective on what to think about, consider and how to safely eat out. What other questions do you have? I am planning to do at least one Facebook Live each week. Let me know in the comments!