Apropos of this post, this Allergic Girl was invited by Chris, the GM of Otto to sit down with him and Chef Dan to discuss recent events.
It was a genial, educational, and powerful hour. The good-faith gesture to meet, discuss, and continue a positive dining relationship was appreciated. Frankly, I expected no less from this establishment; these are hospitality professionals in every sense of the word. I was especially glad to hear Chef Dan utter the phrase that any diner, but especially an allergic one wants to hear: "we’re here to accommodate you".
Here are some choice highlights of the discussion.
The staff at Otto has had at least one food allergen training by a representative from Food Allergy Initiative Chef Dan [who cooks there Tuesday through Saturday; on his two nights off his sous has the lofty task] went to great lengths to explain the kitchen’s allergen-free policies:
-Clean pans are used for allergic diners.
-Clean bowls are kept off to the side [three to be exact] just for allergic diners.
-Clean knives and cutting boards are used always.
-No gluten-filled pasta water is ever used for GF pasta.
-If a diner brings their favorite GF pizza dough, it will be cooked on a completely clean griddle; clean pizza paddles and clean cutters all washed thoroughly in the dishwasher.
-Diners have brought in GF pasta for Otto to cook, which they do happily.
-Both Chris, the GM and Chef Dan reiterated that the servers and the kitchen staff know their stuff and can respond to an allergic diner’s needs once they know what those needs are.
-To that end, Chef Dan likes the allergy card, really likes it. You know the card which you can find for free here and if you want to pay for one, here.
All great stuff and I was glad to hear it straight from the Chef’s and management’s mouths.
There were some lingering howevers however:
-They couldn't explain why the reservationists didn’t know that Otto carries gluten-free pasta or why I wasn’t connected immediately to a manager who would’ve quelled any food allergy concerns when I called.
-Additionally, they didn't know why our server had no clue that Otto served gluten-free pasta. They did discuss bringing back their food allergen trainer for a refresher course. Quite right.
-No one could figure out why both my dining companion and I became ill. Given their careful food handling practices as outlined above, I suggested it might be the pasta. Furthermore, I mentioned that in the GF community Tinkyada is the GF pasta of choice, as far as I know. I asked if they had done any field tests of Bionaturae before using it. The answer was, “ No.” [As per this convo, Chef is going to try the Tinkyada.]
-Chef Dan said they hadn’t had any complaints about the GF pasta thus far. I asked how many diners to whom they serve the GF pasta are regulars.
“None.” he said.
“Then who’s going to complain? If these diners are tourists, they’re gone the next day. If they live here, they just won't come back.” To which they couldn’t really argue.
Given the slight confusion surrounding GF pasta, I suggested it might be worth having some GF bloggers in to try the GF pasta and give Otto a fuller picture of the issues at hand.
So I’m organizing a GF pasta party at Otto after the July 4th holiday. Stay tuned for the results.