Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, Food Allergy Counselor (Picture © Noel Malcolm 2013)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Food Allergy Ball

Last night, I attended the 10th annual Food Allergy Ball at the Waldorf Astoria which raises money for the Food Allergy Initiative. Over 1000 attendees and 5 million dollars were raised to help find a cure for food allergies. Fantastic! It was an inspiring event.

Now to the most important question: what did we eat? Well, being an Allergic Girl who doesn’t like to hedge her bets, I ate a 100% safe dinner at home early [veggie chili with brown rice]. Yes. Even though this was the Food Allergy Ball, it seemed a good idea to eat at home. I wanted to enjoy myself and not worry about being hungry.

My instinct served me well as the menu was not particularly THIS Allergic Girl friendly:
-Chicken pate [made with flour]
-Salmon en croute [salmon=death and pastry is wheat]
-Various desserts that all had chocolate [from an unknown source], eggs, dairy, and/or wheat or some combo therein.
-There was a vegetarian option, which were veggies en croute [with eggplant which equals itchy throat for me].

Ah well. I can’t blame them; salmon is a tried and true benefit dish and the Waldorf Astoria was feeding 1000 people!

However, what was completely Allergic Girl friendly, and an innovative surprise, was that the ingredient to each and every dish served was available on the evening program! I have never seen that before and it put me at ease knowing exactly what was in every dish [even though I wouldn’t be eating any of it].

So what happened after I explained to my table captain that I was unable to eat anything on their menu including the veggie option? He went to talk with the chef and promptly returned saying some very magical words:

“Tell us exactly what you can eat and we will make it for you.”

“Anything?”

“Yes. Anything, the chef will make you whatever you like.”

That response from the kitchen rocked my Allergic Girl world!

As I had just eaten, I asked for a simple fruit plate. However, as I’m allergic to certain fruits I told him “exactly” what I wanted [I felt like such a queen!]: grapes, apples, oranges, pears and berries. In a flash, a beautiful square large plate was delivered with a flourish with exactly those fruits, [no more, no cookie, no powdered sugar—you know how chefs love to add on!]. I happily dug in as my table mates looked on with envy. [It has happened that more than once when I’ve gotten a special order, especially at an event like a wedding or a benefit, others often ask if they can have it too because it looks so good!]

The evening program lasted until well after 930pm and by that point I was starting to get peckish. As the salmon was being served, O Captain, My Captain came by to again inquire: “What may we make for you, Madame? Anything you'd like, the Chef will prepare”. I really just wanted a little something. So I asked for a burger. Yes, a humble burger in a sea of en croute. With some steamed veggies. My captain was off with my request and returned with a burger fit for an Allergic Queen.

Here’s the proof in candlelight:

Folks, I have to tell you this guy made my night. He couldn’t have been more solicitous or kind; I already called the Waldorf this morning to tell them what a great job he did! And Devin who kept me company through drinks did too. And Megha, my lovely tablemate with the severely walnut-allergic brother did as well.

It was a great event for a great cause made better by an allergen-free dinner!

4 comments:

Danielle said...

that's incredible. I wonder if the event planner's specified that they wanted that level of service, or if it's a Waldorf standard. So how does the money actually go to finding a cure? What type of cure? Were they specific? And who is doing the testing?

Allergic Girl said...

i know!! it was wonderful.

i spoke with tracey, manager of catering at the waldorf, and it's my impression that they strive for that level of service AND made extra special efforts for last night's event.

The money goes to the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute part of Mt Sinai Hospital: http://www.mssm.edu/jaffe_food_allergy/introduction.shtml

Here's are the clinical trials they are working on:
http://www.mssm.edu/jaffe_food_allergy/research.shtml

Incredible stuff.

Gaile said...

I think it's really fantastic that they gave you such beautiful service and took care of you. I'm a bit stunned though that they would make a menu so completely impossible for so many. Wheat in everything? What were they thinking? I would really think they would at the least have one or two options that didn't contain any of the big 8. Still, fantastic to know that the Waldorf still lives up to it's stellar reputation after all these years. :)

Allergic Girl said...

the waldorf *was* wonderful.

however, i'd bet that the FAI dinner cmte and the catering dept at the Waldorf had quite a job creating a menu that every guest, allergic or not, would enjoy.

having a list of ingredients available on the program was a brilliant solution so someone like me could clearly see what to avoid.

however, you are correct. a menu heavy on the wheat, dairy and eggs was, well, unfortunate.

add to that only one veggie option that was also encased in wheaty-eggy-buttery goodness and thus not suitable for a "real" vegetarian or anyone with allergies to the above? it could have been a situation. however, clearly the waldorf had been debriefed on the inherent food allergy issues and it was handled superbly! and deliciously.