With the rise in food allergies, restaurants are seeing a growing number of guests making special menu requests. They ask for dishes that are free from gluten, peanuts, or other specific ingredients. Others want vegan or vegetarian fare. According to the while dietary restrictions cause chaos in some restaurant kitchens, others have learned to adapt, serving up creative solutions to please any palate.
Deb Schneider, executive chef of Sol Mexican Cocina, a Newport Beach restaurant, has simplified the process of ordering by offering menus that note wheat-free, vegan, and vegetarian options. She has taken care to provide a lengthy, diverse menu. She also notes that because the restaurant makes everything from scratch, it is easier to leave out a problem ingredient.
Pascal Olhats, a chef who owns two Newport Beach restaurants, also notes gluten-free dishes on the menu. He says that by adjusting his cooking techniques, such as thickening by reduction (boiling) rather than adding flour, he can make some dishes allergy-friendly.
Being allergy-friendly goes beyond menu adjustments. Zov Karamardian, who is the executive chef and owner of several restaurants, notes that staff training is also important. She requires staff members to pass a written test about ingredients so that “Each server knows the ingredients in every dish.” This ensures that “If a guest says that they are allergic to something, the server knows the dishes that have that ingredient,” she says.
photo by John Nyboer