Special Dietary Menus

Published 30th October 2010

The number of food allergies seems to be growing rapidly in our society and gluten free diets are becoming more popular even to those who don’t suffer Coeliac Disease. At Chelsea Clinton’s (that's Bill & Hillary’s daughter) recent wedding, her gluten free wedding cake made headlines across the nation and bought attention to this dilemma.

Restaurants and caterers are finding there are more requests for special dietary requirements and after a request I made to many of the local restaurants in Tropical North Queensland, it seems most of them are geared to cater for the usual gluten free, lactose free, vegetarian and vegan diets. Many of the restaurants have icons beside the items on their menus or denotations that offers any special dietary dishes.

Whist I sometimes wonder if we are all getting too much gluten in our diets, there are other allergies to foods such as shellfish, nuts, eggs, even fruit, meat and vegetables that can have life threatening effects to some. Anaphylaxis is an issue that restaurants must take seriously. It is too big a responsibility for any waiters to ensure the food from the menu is completely free of the allergic ingredient.

When a guest asks for a special diet, there are two reasons why it is important for wait staff to notify the head chef on duty. 1. The chef will ensure there is no mistake, 2. The guest feels confident their request is being taken seriously. It maybe that the waiter returns from the kitchen with menu suggestions, but best of all is when the chef takes the time to come out of the kitchen and speak directly to the guest.

Functions can be tricky, with agency staff serving canapés. They can be unfamiliar with all the ingredients and not aware of the seriousness of an anaphylaxis. At a cocktail reception I witnessed a good friend of mine suffer before me, an anaphylactic shock from food after she was told there was no seafood in the canapé.

Most of our best restaurants and caterers are geared for special dietary requirements, but as a guest, it is always good to let them know when making a booking at a restaurant or accepting an invitation to a catered function; that you will require a special menu.

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