Restaurant Fail… If they can’t make it Celiac Safe, they shouldn’t plate it


I’m fresh from returning for an overall great trip to Seattle.  Look for a sizable trip report soon.  Also: Trip Reports tag.  I did want to tell you a quick story about a bad experience that I had in hopes that you’ll learn from my misfortune.

The primary reason we went to the Seattle area was a family function.  We flew from the Midwest to Seattle.  The family function had an associated luncheon with it.  Great… that’s always fun for a Celiac [About Me].

I called the restaurant a few days in advance and spoke with the Chef.  He was polite and respectful.  I asked him if he knew what Celiac Disease was and he said… not really, could I tell him about it.  I explained it in general and let him know that I’m very sensitive to even small amounts of gluten.

After chatting, he told me he didn’t feel comfortable providing food to me.  Surprising, since this was an actual Chef at what appeared to be a well-rated and moderately expensive restaurant.  Nevertheless, I would have rather heard this vs sweet nothings combined with sickness from gluten.  He suggested that I bring my own food in and they would plate it.  Good solution.  I asked him if I should just ask for a plate and he said that he would prefer that I give them the food for plating.  Ok.

The morning of the event I drove 25 miles in the wrong direction to get a gluten free breakfast at a highly rated Seattle based dedicated gluten free restaurant.  It was delicious.  The restaurant also prepared and packed up a lunch for me.  Yay!  I have no doubts that the lunch I received was gluten free and Celiac safe.

Upon arriving at the luncheon, I spoke with staff to let them know I was there and went over plating my food.  They immediately knew who I was and what my situation was.  They expected to see me and seemed to have it under control.  The last thing I said before giving them my food was… that whoever touched my food needed to wash their hands and change their gloves prior to doing so.

Upon receiving the food (a panini and a cup of soup), I knew that the food had been warmed up.  My assumption was that this had been done in a microwave (wrong).  Within a couple hours, I became certain that I had been poisoned by gluten.  I would say it was a small amount of cross contamination.

I emailed the manager about this.  He was apologetic and confused at what happened.  He said that “kitchen staff had washed their hands multiple times” preparing my food.  Wait.. preparing my food?  I was already told that the restaurant didn’t have the capacity to safely prepare my food.  Their task was to… put it on a plate.  Yet, they felt the need to “play chef” and contaminate my food.  Note that he (rightly) never disputed the gluten free status of the food I brought.

This leads me to a new rule that I’ve made up for myself… If they can’t make it then they shouldn’t plate it.  If a restaurant staff isn’t trained to understand basic food safety, including cross contamination, then they can pretty easily botch anything up.  If you’re in a similar situation to me, I’d say skip the eating altogether. If for whatever reason you feel that they must plate your food then I would suggest that you talk directly with a Chef or cook and walk through every single step that the food will take.

Lesson Learned.

I had a good discussion with the management and asked them to commit to discussing this issue among their team.  They agreed.

AlsoGluten Free Dining Out Cards (English and Spanish Edition) – Review

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