When you go out to eat, you are taking a risk whether the kitchen will use safe gluten handling practices to prevent cross contamination.
It is important to alert both your wait person and the manager to your gluten allergy. Many restaurants can not differentiate between a person avoiding gluten as a fad diet, and a person who is Celiac or gluten sensitive. You will not believe how much this comes up in my interviews with restaurants. You need to help them understand how gluten affects you because most restaurants don’t understand as much about gluten as you may give them credit for.
The biggest rule about dining out is to ask questions! If you do not speak up, the restaurant will not know you have a medical reason to avoid gluten. The biggest questions to ask:
- Where does the kitchen prepare gluten free meals? Do they have a separate section of their kitchen? If they do not have a separate area, do they put a liner under the prep area when they prepare your food?
- Do they use separate cutting boards, utensils, knives, pots, pans, dishes for gluten free orders?
- Do the cooks wash their hands and change to new gloves before preparing a gluten free order?
- How does the kitchen keep your plate separate from the others if it ends up under a food heater? Cross contamination can happen if your plate is below plates containing gluten.
- If the cook wipes a spill on your plate to make it look nice, do they use a fresh towel for this?
- Is there a separate fryer for gluten free foods?
- How about for breakfast? Is there a separate toaster for gluten free breads? Do they use a separate grill for gluten free orders? Do they sterilize the waffle iron, or have a dedicated waffle iron for gluten free orders?
Here are a few of my favorite resources for dining out safely:
Let’s Eat Out: Safe Tips for Restaurant Dining, Living Without Magazine
A Basic Guide to Serving Gluten Free Customers, Gluten Intolerance Groups (GIG)
Gluten in the Wine Making Process – what you need to know if you drink wine.