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Gluten-Free Food in Restaurants

Hi, it’s Alexis.  This week, I decided to write about a topic that I feel very strongly about.  Many restaurants now are claiming they make gluten-free foods.  They spend money on advertising to get the word out, but yet my question is, “Are you taking all the precautions necessary to make this a safe food for celiacs to eat?” Unfortunately, a lot of businesses are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon, and this could end up getting us celiacs sick if we don’t ask the right questions before eating it.

I am the perfect example of what can happen in a “gluten” mishap. I have spent the last 6 months in and out of the hospital paying for a mistake somebody made. And I’m still trying to recover from it!

Although I appreciate restaurants and companies trying to make gluten-free foods, I wish they would take the time to really understand the importance of gluten-free cooking.  Perfect example, about a year ago I went to a local pizzeria who had advertised they had a new gluten-free menu. I was so excited to go eat there because I could order gluten-free chicken parmigiana for the first time in my life. When we got to restaurant, my mom asked to see the gluten-free menu. They had a wide array of gluten-free options, I couldn’t believe it.  However, when my mom started asking her questions, “Do they prepare it separately? Do they use different cooking utensils? How do you avoid cross-contamination?” the waitress looked confused. We asked for a manager. He responded that although they use gluten-free ingredients, the chicken parmigiana is cooked in the same fryer. I remember my mom looking at the manager and explaining that although we appreciate them cooking gluten-free, they need take all the precautions necessary to avoid cross-contamination or it’s not really considered gluten-free for celiacs. If we hadn’t asked those questions, I would have eaten the food that I thought was gluten-free and ended up in the hospital. Instead, we walked out, never to return again. 

On the other hand, there is an amazing Chinese restaurant nearby that does take all precautions necessary of making “safe” gluten-free food. This local owner makes 80 different gluten-free Chinese dishes.  He has a separate part of his kitchen dedicated to gluten-free cooking.  He avoids cross contamination at all costs with dedicated cooking utensils, plates, etc. The owner is the only one who cooks the gluten-free food. He took the time to fully understand about celiac disease and gluten-free cooking. People with celiac from all over New Jersey travel to his restaurant to enjoy his gluten-free Chinese food.

It would be my wish for restaurants to really take the time to understand about the importance of gluten-free cooking. As I grow up, I want to be able to go out to restaurants with my friends and not have to worry if my gluten-free meal is going to be prepared correctly.  I want to be as normal as I can be when it comes to dining out because eating out in restaurants is a social thing for everyone. Although, some restaurants have come a long way with their gluten-free menus and are giving people with celiac a safe place to eat, restaurants still have a long way to go.

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