Last week, I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with Executive Chef Cliff Saladin at the Sheraton Tarrytown whilst there for an allergy-friendly product media luncheon (more on that very soon).
I asked him one question: What do you need to hear from a diner with special needs in order to serve them safely and well?
Chef Cliff's tips:
--"We are here for you, the guest, so let us know what you need".
--"When making a reservation for your hotel room, in the section for 'notes' add your special requests right then and there".
--In notes: "Tell the staff then what you need and ask them to make the kitchen aware of your food allergies or food restrictions."
--"If you are dining in the hotel, give them at least 24 hours notice of your needs".
--"When you arrive, make yourself known to the chef".
--"Bring a chef card detailing your allergies". Chef Cliff loved the card saying "it takes the mystery out of it" and "eliminates surprises".
All of this you know by now, but it’s great to hear it again from another smart chef out there in the field.
Interestingly, Chef Cliff said what helped him the most is when I told him exactly what I wanted for lunch and for dinner.
You might think that some chefs wouldn’t want to know what you want or be told how to make a certain dish for you. That's certainly true for some chefs out there who want to give you what they determine you need. But more and more the attitude is: we are here for you; tell us how to feed you.
So three days prior, the Chef and I touched base by phone and then by email. I sent him my list being very clear about what I could NOT have and what I could have and thanking him in advance for any assistance he could provide.
When our group arrived, the below lunch was the set up. Chef told me he made many of the dishes with my needs in mind. So considerate--how wonderful! And it looks lovely, right?
Mozzarella Salad [GF]:
Romaine Salad with Ginger Dressing [GF]:
House made Hummus [GF] except for pita:
Curried Coconut Shrimp with Rice Noodle [GF]:
Chicken and Polenta [GF]:
Veggies and Rice [GF]:
Dairy-free Butternut Squash Soup [GF]:
Dishes laid out beautifully:
Dessert plate 1:
Dessert plate 2:
Truthfully, I just wanted a simple salad plate for lunch with some mozz, tom, and ava (I took a Lactaid and was cool). So, Chef Cliff went back and prepared this:
And then for dinner he made this lovely dish for me.
Talking with Chef Cliff reaffirmed that more and more chefs out there want to know how to serve those of us with food allergies. They need our help: communicate with them them clearly, kindly, politely; enlist them to help you. So many chefs I've spoken with are like Cliff, supportive, nurturing and want to hear from you.
Thank you again Chef Cliff and Sheraton Tarrytown for taking such excellent care of my dietary needs!