3 Lessons to Prevent Freak-Out Moments When Ordering Gluten-Free
By Mara Alexander
Have you ever had one of those “freak-out” moments when trying to order gluten-free at a restaurant? Very rarely do I get so frustrated at a restaurant that I want to cry and run away at the same time. But today I had one of those moments. Both the tearing up and almost wanting to run out of the place. I had phoned the manager of a chain Italian restaurant earlier in the morning to let him know that I would be coming for lunch and to make the necessary preparations for me to have a gluten-free pasta meal. He understood that I would be available to stay at the restaurant for lunch for 1 hour, but no longer. When I arrived and reminded them of my order, they had not made the necessary preparations.
At first, I patiently waited for 40 min; upon the first time of bringing out the gluten-free pasta, it had fried glutenous chicken on top of it. Not what I ordered, so I sent it back. Then I patiently waited another 20 minutes. When they brought it out a second time, and I took a bite of it, the pasta was so crunchy that it felt like I was eating it raw. At this point, I asked to speak to the manager again. I was so frustrated that I just wanted to cry; I was already late for an afternoon meeting and I didn’t have time for them to boil another set of pasta again. The manager was kind and ended up not charging me for my husband’s meal or my drink; he also prepared some grilled chicken in a to-go box for me.
So, lessons learned here…
1. Be as patient and caring as possible, especially keeping in mind that many people in the food industry are not well-trained on what gluten is and what cross-contact can do to someone with Celiac. Some restaurant staffers have never even heard of gluten. Efforts are being made nationwide by many Celiac foundations and gluten-free companies to provide education to both chain restaurants and local restaurants. It is still a learning curve for many in the food industry, so continue to be patient and don’t be afraid to educate those in your favorite restaurant.
2. While being patient and caring, you also have to be firm and unemotional in what you want and how it should be prepared. Let the manager and waitress know that when you sent that salad back to the kitchen because it had croutons on it, that they cannot just take the croutons off of it and give it back to you. Be very firm in explaining that they need to make a fresh salad and that even a few crumbs can cause a reaction in your body. And be firm without being emotional. Being calm goes a long way.
3. As much as possible, don’t be in a hurry and try to allow for extra time in your dining process. The best time to order gluten-free in a restaurant is during their least busy times. Most restaurants this would be avoiding the 12-1pm lunch rush and the 6-7pm dinner rush. If you know that you have to go during rush hour, try to keep a protein bar with you to tide you over. Remember: the hungrier you are, the less patient you may be. Filling up on a gluten-free protein bar will add to your energy and your patience.
So being patient, caring, firm, calm as well as keeping your energy up will help you to have a safer gluten-free dining experience.
Mara Alexander is the Founder of GlutenFreeWorld TV©, a Certified Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, a Certified Health Consultant and a Professional of the Academy of Healthcare Management. She can be emailed at email@example.com