What's a Restaurant's Responsibility Regarding Gluten-Free Items?

Categories: Bites & Dishes

Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail laura.hahnefeld@newtimes.com.

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Jewel's Bakery & Cafe
Strawberry Shortcake With Fresh Whip
For people with celiac disease, ingesting just a little bit of gluten (a protein in wheat, barley, and rye) can mean serious problems.

And when it comes to finding restaurants aware of the auto-immune disorder that, according to the New York Times, affects about 1 in 100 Americans, those who are gluten-averse may be having an easier time than they did, say, five years ago, but more understanding doesn't necessarily mean a better dining experience.

What's a restaurant's responsibility when it comes to gluten-free products? I asked several Valley chefs and restaurateurs and this is what they had to say.

See also: 25 Thanksgiving Dinner Tips from Valley Chefs

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Aaron Eckburg
Owner, Go Lb. Salt

"To offer" or "not to offer" is a choice. Once the choice "to offer" is made, then the responsibility is undeniable. The term gluten-free means just that: not "mostly" gluten-free or "pretty much" gluten-free, but gluten-free. Those who are gluten intolerant may be able to consume nominal amounts of gluten, but for those who have been diagnosed as celiac's, as little as 20 ppm gluten content can turn their life upside down for days. Cross contamination is something that must be closely scrutinized and scrupulously prevented if gluten-free options are offered. Realistically, gluten contamination is the same thing as food poisoning or allergen components and the responsibility in those cases is crystal clear.

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Pauline Martinez
Chef and Owner, Perk Eatery

It's so hard for restaurants to keep up with all the dietary restrictions nowadays. For us, it's a space issue -- we don't have any and it's difficult to carry new items that are not fast movers. For places that have the space, it's good to provide an alternative for gluten since it has become so common place.

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Chef Maurice Gordon,
The Westin Phoenix Downtown

I think the restaurant's responsibility is to make sure there are options for anyone who chooses to dine. However, I don't think restaurants should be required to have gluten-free items on their menu. It should still be the diner's responsibility to alert the restaurant of their gluten allergy and the severity of their allergy.


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6 comments
ericadermer
ericadermer

THANK YOU! I appreciate the chefs giving their honest opinion on how to work with food allergies and gluten-free lifestyles (I myself have celiac disease and have to be incredibly careful of cross contamination as well). I appreciate you bringing this to light to the general NT population! :) 

Hotch75
Hotch75

It is ironic that Chef O'Dowd is in this conversation since I went to renegade with some friends last week, one of whom is Gluten Allergic. He ordered the Seafood in a bag which is clearly marked as gluten free and Chef's kitchen delivered it with a big piece of Bread that was clearly not Gluten Free Bread.  Thankfully his front of house staff jumped on the problem when we pointed it out but his kitchen staff are morons.

jliven23
jliven23

@Hotch75 There is no such thing as gluten allergic. There is celiacs, which is an autoimmune disease.

Julie
Julie

@jliven23 @Hotch75 I have customers with allergies to gluten, even anaphylaxis reactions. So I would call that gluten allergic for sure. There is also the auto immune disease, Celiac.. 

Hotch75
Hotch75

I used the incorrect terminology, I apologize. I DO KNOW that he gets violently and painfully ill if he eats gluten. Does that help?

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