This was my second trip to New York. The first, six years ago, was an eye opening experience regarding many aspects of the culinary world. The ‘City’ was so much more and so much less then I anticipated.
I am thrilled to have found a definite improvement to general attitudes regarding food allergies and sensitivities. From tiny cafes to old guard, star studded venues, my discussions with servers about the ingredients and how food was prepared was met with respect and a smile. Considering I was shown the door in both Portland and Canon Beach, Oregon in September, due to my special preparation needs, this was a refreshing change.
My dining experiences almost always involve ‘staff education’, regardless what city I am in. I’m never surprised when my server, and the kitchen aren’t aware of the hidden soy in many dishes. As a Chef and someone with a severe soy allergy, I must know. I was a bit flabbergasted, though, when a server in Manhattan asked me, “What is this, uh… “gluten”? He was serious!
I like to carry simple cards with my allergy/sensitivities printed on them. I can give this to the server, who in turn should give it to the kitchen. When I’m cooking for the public, I love getting these from my guests. This method is so much simpler then depending on the information to be given verbally, especially when the list is extensive or contain truly severe allergies.
Do please be aware that providing the card is still not a guarantee that you will be able to eat safely. If you have a serious allergy, you need to understand where it can be found on a menu. You need to politely ask questions and make specific requests for further information. Please always respect that the staff is going out of their way to help you. Sincere Thank You’s are a must. When the kitchen must extensively customize to create food for you, tip those hard working people, as well. The people working the hardest to keep you safe are seldom rewarded or acknowledged. A few dollars in recognition go a long ways toward keeping the next guest with an allergy safe, too.
By the way, the pretty kitchen above is Tavern On The Green. If you can consume dairy, order the Lobster Soup.