I am lucky enough to live in an almost gluten free household. I say almost because my husband does have one cupboard that is dedicated to the few gluten filled packed items he might buy to take to work. We are so strict about the whole gluten free thing at home, that if my husband wants a sandwich made with normal bread, he will prepare and eat it out of our home to prevent any crumbs from falling anywhere that can accidentally make me ill by cross contamination. My daughter is given a gluten filled snack when they go out for a walk. Some people might think I am being paranoid, but other coeliacs who experience debilitating symptoms with the slightest contamination would understand my actions.
This is why I find it strange and a little too ambitious when a restaurant owner claims that they serve 100% gluten free food. If the restaurant serves gluten free food only, or has a separate kitchen to prepare gluten free food, it is a possibility- although the 100% claim is still not technically correct due to many gluten free foods containing a minimal amount of gluten (<20ppm) that has been deemed safe for most coeliacs.
But how on earth is it possible for a busy restaurant that prepares foods containing gluten to put a 100% gluten- free claim on some of their dishes? Can you imagine kitchen staff changing clothes, washing hands every time gluten is touched, and totally scrubbing down the kitchen to prepare a gluten free dish in a place where gluten is everywhere? And what about the waiting staff? They touch plates containing gluten, and handle gluten free dishes at the same time. Is there absolutely no risk of contamination?
I have to hand it to the Italians. In the land of pizza and pasta, they always take these things seriously. From my experiences, the first thing they ask if you request gluten free food at a restaurant is if you have coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity. If you reply in the affirmative, they either say that it is impossible to cater to your needs in their restaurant due to the risk of cross contamination, or else they proceed to accomodate you, with no risk involved. At one particular pizzeria, they told me that they would cater to my needs only if I went to dine as their first customer at the opening time, before they started preparing pizzas so that the restaurant would not be contaminated. They refused to serve me at any other time.
And this brings me to the point of this post. I appreciate honesty. I would prefer if a chef or restaurant owner told me that they can prepare food with no gluten containing ingredients, but that there is the chance of contamination so that I can make my own informed decision about whether I would like to dine at their establishment or not.
There are a few restaurants that are truly honest about this. They state that they will try their best to avoid cross contamination. But they do not put a 100% gluten free claim on their food. In my own humble opinion, these are the ones that we can trust to take care of our needs. They do not take things for granted. They make efforts to keep us healthy but do admit that it is difficult.
Anybody that assumes that it is easy to prepare a gluten free dish in a busy restaurant by not including gluten containing ingredients in a dish only, has no idea about how to prepare gluten free food.
How do you feel about this?