I attended two weddings this month at two different restaurant/catering spaces: Bryant Park Grill and Tribeca Grill. In both instances, one without prior warning, both restaurants handled my allergies beautifully and without incident [i.e no mistakes]. I ate like an Allergen-free Princess and was able to fully enjoy the wedding[s].
How did I do it? Here are my steps (which include the assumption that you've brought your medication and have a designed safe person if possible):
1. If you can, without bother to the wedding party, do the usual: calling ahead, speaking with catering manger, floor manager or chef and explaining your needs just like you would a restaurant and like I’ve outlined in this post: "The Cheers Experience".
2. Sometimes, most times, you don’t have that luxury. So first and foremost: Don’t panic. And don’t go starved! Always bring along a safe snack. I’ve made it through a whole evening on some fruit juices and dried fruit. Yes, I may be hungry but I’m not starved; I eat when I return home. No, it’s not ideal but it’s safe. And when you feel safe, you can enjoy the party!
3. Upon entering the dining room, immediately ask for the manager in charge of catering. Don’t waste any time getting to this step; give the catering hall or restaurant as much time as you can to accommodate you.
4. Introduce yourself by name and ask for their name. This is not only more pleasant and courteous but when you sit down you will tell your serve to whom you spoke about your needs, they will know that you spoke to the top dog.
5. Gently and clearly explain to said top dog that you have food allergies/food intolerance/special requests.
6. List your needs; hand in a chef card if you have one.
7. Follow up by asking what they are planning on serving that evening.
8. Then make a YOU-friendly, allergen-free suggestion about what you’d like/need for your repast given the menu the wedding party has planned.
9. If the manager says they can take of you, great! (If the manager seems nervous, hesitant or uneducated about your needs, don’t risk it. Have one of your safe snacks instead that you packed; they’ll come in handy now.)
10. If it was a yes, when you get to your table, let your server know your needs, repeating that you have spoken to said top dog.
11. After every course, if you feel you need to, repeat your needs to the server. If there is any problem, never tell the bride/groom. Go directly to the person who is the liaison to the kitchen: the manager.
12. During and after your meal, check in with the manager (if they haven't already checked in with you first). Give the staff feedback about how the kitchen has handled or mishandled your requests. More often than not they will have done a great job, in which case thank them!
In my experience, and I’ve been to weddings all over the country, catering halls, hotels and restaurants where weddings are held more often than not are accommodating and can make adjustments as needed .
Remember to be VERY clear, assertive, and courteous with staff about your needs and the seriousness of those needs and more often then not they will be met.
PS: A public bloggy THANK YOU to Executive Chef, Stephen Lewandowski, managers Matt and Meghan at Tribeca Grill who were complete dolls and made everything so easy and delish. And to Tom and Bryant Park Grill who made that wedding a delight!