Next week, I’m heading to a new spot with Fab Foodie Four and I called ahead to make sure all would be Allergic Girl friendly. My thinking was that it because this is the new outpost of a famous French chef’s New York empire (any guesses?) it should be better than your average spot.
This is how the conversation went down with the General Manager. You tell me: how would you feel?
“Hi. I’m going to be dining at your fine establishment next week and I have some food allergies and wanted to make sure that the kitchen felt comfortable handling these issues before we came in.”
“OK, sure, what are they”
“Nuts and fish equal death.” (Yes, I really said that, no time to mince words).
“OK. Your server should be able to handle that. They are very well versed on the ingredients of all of the dishes here. Just let them know what you need and they can direct you. Have you looked at our menu?”
“Yes, I'm looking at it right now and I see that some of the Charcuterie on your menu has nuts? The kitchen feels OK handling a nut allergy?”
“Yes. It shouldn’t a problem. I mean, I don’t eat pork or beef and I have no problems eating here.”
“Are you allergic to pork or beef?”
“So, you choose not to eat those things?
"But you won’t have an allergic reaction if you eat them correct?”
“I see. OK. Thank you.”
If you read between the lines, you may get that this conversation did not inspire confidence. In fact the latter half of this conversation made me nervous which in turn made me a bit of a snippy (read: bitchy) Allergic Girl (not her most effective incarnation).
Why would this manager equate choosing not to eat a certain food with an allergy to a food? What did this say about the staff's training on food allergies? Should I trust that the servers would know what I meant if the manager seemed confused or at the very least made a poor choice of analogy: not eating pork = allergy to nuts.
We shall see. It may end up being a liquid dinner for this Allergic Girl.
UPDATE: March 14, 2008
So before I met my Fab Four counterparts, I had a business meeting with a very well-known New York-based chef who's acquainted with the Allergic Girl sitch. I've been to his restaurant many, many times and eaten safely and he has allergic kids. So he REALLY gets it.
Upon hearing where I was headed for dinner he said, "Don't eat. There are nuts everywhere in the kitchen and in the food, there are too many chefs back there so the possibility of cross contamination is certain, and the corporate chef has probably already moved on so you don't know who's cooking. Don't chance it. Don't do it."
When a chef tells you it's not safe to eat, listen.
So my dinner ended up being all vino, which was delicious, and three of us stumbled (well, I stumbled) to a burger joint afterwards for an AG safe burger.
Thanks again to the Chef for the heads up and to my Fab Four friends who are food allergic supportive and totally understanding.