I have food allergies (tree-nuts and salmon), and food intolerances (wheat, dairy and soy) and I love dining out and trying new restaurants. (I even blog about what restaurants are allergen-friendly and food-allergic-diner friendly.) Over the years I have refined my strategies for communicating with restaurants and servers about my allergies and what I can and cannot eat and have dined well all over the world.
A few months back a friend asked me: why don't you combine your coaching practice with your relationships with restaurants and your ability to dine safely? What a natural fit!
Thus, after months of planning, Worry-Free Dinners was created. It's a membership dining group for people with manageable food allergies, food intolerances and celiac disease to dine out together. The goal is to dine safely at a restaurant I have pre-screened and prepared an allergen-free menu with the chef; to learn how communicate with a restaurant about your food allergic needs; how to increase your confidence about dining out of your safety zone; and to get the true sense that there are others who understand your fears and frustrations about eating with food issues.Our first Worry-Free Dinners event was April 1st and it was incredible. I had contracted for a gluten-free dinner at a Chinese restaurant that had been certified Gluten-Free by the GFRAP program here in New York. Before I had gone to this spot, I hadn't had fried rice in 20 years! What a relief to find a restaurant that had been trained about cross-contamination and had created a completely gluten-free menu (using gluten-free soy sauce) for its diners. Each WFD diner had a custom printed menu delineating multiple choices for appetizers, entrees, and sides. People were so happy to be able to choose from a list of dishes rather than just having to make do with what they hope would be one safe dish.As soon as we all sat down, there was an immediate, and I mean immediate, sense of belonging and camaraderie amongst the diners. People were laughing and sharing; bonding over diagnoses and medications, cosmetics and new food products. The food arrived to exclamations of, "This is wonderful!" and "I haven't had Chinese in years!" which, of course, I totally understood. We spoke with the woman who created the gluten-free menu for the restaurant about what restaurant owners need to hear from diners in order to make the safest meals possible. We talked about safe dining strategies; looked at books that talk about how to dine out safely; and chatted about the efficacy of chef cards. Most of all we enjoyed each other's company, dining in a safe, supportive environment that was allergy-free. I can't wait for the next one!
Published On: April 11, 2008