In light of the Damian Cardone fiasco, I thought it was time we revisit the education part of The Gluten Free Life. One of the most important things that a newly diagnosed Celiac can do is to educate himself/herself on what that really means. There’s a great deal to learn about what you can and cannot eat, and all the funny names that gluten can hide behind. But, no matter how much you educate yourself, it’s clear that you still have a lot to watch out for. And, even then, you end up getting gluten’d by people like Damian Cardone. Which is why your education efforts don’t end with yourself, or even your friends and family. You’ve got to attempt to educate your entire community.
Let’s start at the beginning. You’re planning on going out to eat at a local restaurant. Don’t wait until you get to the restaurant to find out if it will be safe for you. If you can, do it days ahead of time. Not every trip will be scheduled that far in advance, but, try to give yourself at least an hour or two.
- Start by looking online to see if they have a website. If they do, see if you can find any information on allergy/dietary needs or (if you’re really lucky) a gluten free menu.
- If they don’t have any info online, call ahead, before they’re busy and discuss your visit with the chef. You’ll likely get some wonderful advice on what you can and can’t have while visiting the restaurant. Avoiding discussing it at the table while everyone else is trying to order will help avoid any annoyance on the part of the wait staff, and the chef.
- If you have days before the event, offer to stop in and visit with the Chef. You may be surprised with how many times you’ll get taken up on the offer.
Taking steps to keep yourself safe, while doing it ahead of time, and in a respectful way, can help other celiac sufferers too. The more positive experiences that chefs have with gluten free diners, the less likely it is that they will develop an attitude towards gluten free diners like that of Damian Cardone. Another thing to keep in mind is that if the restaurant that you’ll be visiting is one that is local to you and that you will likely be revisiting again, the more important it is to develop a relationship with the chef and staff of that restaurant. Putting in a little time here and there to help educate them can give you a safe haven dining spot where you know that, not only is the staff attempting to deliver food that is safe for you, but that, because of the education help they’ve received from you, they likely will deliver food that is safe for you.
Additionally, many of the gluten free and celiac organizations offer educational materials and classes to help educate people, and the staff of food service companies like restaurants.
Celiac learning is an offering by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. They have great courses for both food service professionals and medical professionals.
The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG) also has a wealth of information on their website, including a training/education program specifically for restaurant workers.