Food Allergy Counseling

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

Monday, February 23, 2009

When to Take This Allergic Girl by the Hand

Due to scheduling conflicts, I missed Allison’s bachelorette party and shower. So I invited her to a special dinner, just we two. I took her to a spot where I had been a few times before, where they were helpful with my allergies and the food was yum.

I did my routine: I called ahead, identified myself when I entered the restaurant and general manager Oscar and I made fast friends. At every step, the restaurant said they were aware of my requests and prepared to serve me an Allergic Girl safe meal.

Once we sat down, our server, who was being extra careful with my requests, let it slip that tonight’s chef was “worried” about my arrival. A worried chef equals a worried Allergic Girl. The server was doing his best to be responsible and communicate what he was hearing from the kitchen and I appreciated the efforts of everyone front and back of house, but by the main course, it became clear that the lines of communication had broken down.

In short: we were told that the cabbage had nuts and my dish would be made without it; however, my lovely hen showed up with a layer of cabbage underneath and the GM followed soon after.

“I was told the cabbage wasn’t safe for me,” I asked, puzzled.

“It’s fine. I’m 1000% sure,” he said.

“But I was told the cabbage was made with nuts. I’m confused. How can I eat this”

“Who told you that?” he asked

You can see where this convo was going: nowhere fast except down scary miscommunication lane.

Allison said, “Don’t eat it.

I'm certain my face registered some fear.

The manager who was still standing there, said: “Do you want to see the chef? Let’s go see the chef.”

He literally took me by the hand into the spotless kitchen downstairs. I met Chef Robert who was expediting orders. He smiled broadly and reassured me that the cabbage only had caraway seed (like another yummy Austrian red cabbage I ate recently) and that everything was safe. I breathed a sigh of relief and returned to the table to eat.

And yes, everything was delish and totally safe, no reactions to anything.

***

Now, I imagine some of you would still be freaked out and wouldn’t have been able to eat. I know because I’ve been there: when your trust in a restaurant feels ruined and you just can’t bring yourself to eat. And that’s okay. If that happens, if you don’t feel safe for whatever reason, then don’t eat. Never take the risk.

However, after cutting through the miscommunication, after meeting the chef, after seeing the spotless kitchen, enough trust was restored for me to be able to dine. It was solidified the next day when GM Oscar emailed me: (sic) “Please email me next time you come in so I take all your fear away before you enter the restaurant.”

Nice follow up.

Bottom line: miscommunication happens and mistakes will happen. How you deal with them, how you restore trust in the dining experience and how a restaurant handles the exchange are all factors in being able to dine successfully with food allergies.

4 comments:

Jennifer B said...

Great post. It's true, people make mistakes. Things will happen. It's SO nice that the restaurant and staff took the time to do that for you. That's pretty good customer service!

Your post is another reminder for me (seems to be a theme lately here!) that we get those worry vibes or discomforting vibes for a reason--our little intuitive self-protection mechanism. We should not suppress it, but heed it. I wasn't 100% comfortable the other day at a restaurant, and dismissed those feelings as excessive worry. I later found that those worry vibes had been right! It's nice to hear someone else say that it's okay and right to listen to those "worry vibes".

Jenny said...

I'm continually reassured by your restaurant successes, even when things don't go like you planned.

And thanks for telling us it's OK to reject food--even when we're told it's "safe"--if we just don't trust it.

So many people feel that it's "rude" to reject food, but health comes first.

I'm glad everything turned out OK for you. We can all learn from your example and your wonderful effectiveness in dealing with chefs/waitstaff.

SueS said...

So .... all's well that ends well, I guess. Great observations.

Allergic Girl said...

thanks ladies!