Today I journeyed up the Peninsula to visit Executive Chef Jeremy Cheng from the Avenir Restaurant Group (ARG). ARG owns Town in San Carlos, Milagros in Redwood City, and Nola in Palo Alto. The restaurants have widely different themes: Town features steak and seafood, Nola features Cajun inspired cuisine, and Mlagros features modern Latin cuisine.
Chef Jeremy has worked at the Town Restaurant location for over nine years. Chef Jeremy created the gluten free menus for all three Avenir’s restaurants. Although the restaurants are very different, each restaurant follows the old school way of cooking; they do not use flours, thickeners, or other processed fillers. Flavors are brought out by slowly reducing ingredients over low heat in a more traditional way of cooking. They source all of their meats and produce locally.
What inspired you to bring gluten free menus into your restaurants?
“In late 2007, we decided we wanted to offer a similar dining experience to our gluten free diners. Two things were important to us. First, being able to define gluten free, and doing enough research to enable us to offer a safe assortment of menu items for our gluten free diners. Gluten free is the most asked for food allergy modification requested by our customers.”
Gluten Free in Avenir’s restaurants
1. Servers are trained in all gluten free menu items. This training includes what a server should say about modifications, and which questions to ask diners when talking about their food allergies. Staff are periodically tested on safe handling procedures.
2. Gluten free and food allergies are included in their plating guide, which is given to all staff.
3. All gluten free orders are handled separately and are clearly marked on each order. Single use pans.
4. All utensils, cutting boards, and knives are kept in sanitizer before use. None are re-used for other orders.
5. No table breads are served to any diner, which reduces potential for cross contamination.
6. No fried foods are available gluten free because they do not have a separate fryer.
It is rare that I find a restaurant that gives back to charity in so many ways. ARG partners with two charities, The Ronald McDonald House in Palo Alto and the 49ers Academy Foundation. They provide free meals to families at the Ronald McDonald house 2-3 times per month and they help with fundraisers by donating running cooking booths. ARG never advertises the fact that they do these wonderful things but I think it is important. My background is in non-profit fundraising, and I can honestly say that, not enough companies give back to help make lives better for those less fortunate.
Each restaurant has a large gluten free menu as you can see here:
Would you like to try to make Town Restaurant’s famous steak tacos in your own kitchen? Here is their recipe for the steak tacos, chimichurri sauce, and smashed avodado.