Food Allergy Counseling

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

Monday, April 25, 2011

Three celiacs and a food allergic walk into a restaurant...

Recently, I had a fab dinner with three fab women, all of whom you may know: Jill Brack of Glow Gluten-Free, Rachel Begun RD and Ilise Ratner of Go With Your Gut. We went to Keith McNally’s Pastis, a place I have been to many, many times (safely) but not in ages.

This rainy night, Pastis proved that just because you may be running a hot, trendy restaurant doesn’t mean you don’t take the time to make each guest feel special and take care of their dietary needs. Pastis couldn’t have done a better job if I had scripted the evening myself. Here are some highlights of what they did so well that indicated we were going to have a great gluten-free, food allergy friendly night.

Rachel and I arrived at Pastis early for a pre-dinner drink. The reservation was under my name so I checked in with the hostess and asked to speak with the manager as we had diners with dietary restrictions. The manager came over, pulled up a chair and sat down to have a chat. We introduced ourselves, as did he, Michel. We created rapport, smiled and went over menu options and needs.

Michel’s sitting down with us was a great sign and exactly what you want: a manager who is giving you’re their full attention, is at your eye level, is listening and has an attitude of “let us know what we can do”.

We discussed menu items and needs. Michel said, “We handle this all of the time and are happy to do so. Thank you for you telling me now as this will be no problem. I will let the kitchen know and your server. Just let me know when you’re ready to be seated and I will meet you at your table.”

When our full party arrived, Michel swooped in and escorted us to the table. He personally took our orders, writing down every tiny detail and fastidiously checking in with the kitchen's team about their abilities and our needs.

Now this was no easy table: four women, all with different dietary restrictions *and* taste preferences. The manager talked to us each individually, changed existing menu items to suit our medical needs and tastes and did it all with knowledge, sympathy, a huge smile and a sense of humor.

While Michel was taking our orders, the server was nearby to assist. I stood up, so I could be eye level with him, asked his name, Will, and thanked him personally for taking such great care of us. I also asked if the table could buy Michel a drink for after his shift. Will smiled and said he’d check and get back to me. (He did and said, "No problem and thank you!")

Every dish was brought to the table by Michel and explained and confirmed that it was free from this or that, sauce on side, extra this, no that. Every dish was correct! Michel thanked the table for buying him a drink, again, huge smile, and checked on us a few more times with a smile and a joke or two.

We truly felt like rock stars.

All the ladies asked me sotto voce: “Is that normal for a manager to be like that?”

In my experience, yes!

My best tools: a clear request about my needs, a lot of smiling, flexibility and kindness. You have all of those free tools at your disposal anytime and they work, every time. (You can also read my article about dining out safely in the current US issue of Allergic Living magazine.)

Yes, there have been some major stories in the media about dining out with food allergy/celiac disease blunders, misdeeds and misunderstandings and downright criminal activities. Yes, that can happen – people can lie about ingredients or be innocently misinformed but in my lifetime of dining out experience, it's mostly like this evening at Pastis: a safe and fun party!

Don’t let some bad press stop you from finding that hospitable and knowledgeable General manager or Chef who is ready to welcome you to their establishment.

Thank you Pastis for a wonderful evening.

Pastis
9 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10014-1203
(212) 929-4844

2 comments:

Rachel said...

As a registered dietitian with Celiac Disease who teaches others how to ask the right questions and advocate for safe gluten-free meals in a restaurant, I learned a thing or two from Sloane. She is a master! And it was a fun evening.

Rachel Begun, MS, RD
The Gluten Free RD
www.glutenfreerd.net

Sarah said...

I envy your experience and wish I had one of these restaurants in my city! Some servers and managers are so bad that they make eating out downright miserable. It sounds like you had a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing. :)