Chef Daniel P's Autobiography
I started working at the age of 13 and began my work in a very small tourist town and was promoted up from busboy to dishwasher. I was so fast at washing the dishes that I was promoted up within a month to cook. I went from the buffet type restaurant to an ala cart restaurant and buffet line. At the age of 17 I was completely in charge of the kitchen—this included all ordering, menu making, staff hiring and firing, and every task a person would do to run a successful kitchen. I didn’t know how to cook though—at least not compared to what I learned later. Yes I could do the basic menus but I wanted more and I left to climb the ladder of a big kitchen—so I set my sites on gourmet food. At that time I saw that Prince Charles from England was visiting Palm Beach Florida. I saw that he visited two places while he was in Palm Beach—the Palm Beach Polo Ground and he also visited the Breakers Resort. I applied at both places when I came to Florida and both wanted to hire me.
Every one has to start somewhere and you as the traveler are the ones who are going to train the future cooks or chefs. Yes you—the cook is going to learn from you as celiac patrons, so you need to do the right training. Let’s use the example of eating on a train that cooks for their patrons as they travel across the country. I like to think of a small boat or train as two of the most difficult places to prepare a gluten-free meal. They both are going to be small, and both have the potential to get bumpy while the cook is preparing food. This means there is a good chance an accident can happen and of course cross-contamination.
These kitchens probably keep their fires contained in the stove or flat top burners. By keeping the flame for cooking contained in a box, this means they have less chance of a fire starting and that is very important if you are on a river or going down the train tracks. The cooks are going to use sauté pans, hard top grills, ovens, steam boxes and possibly microwaves. If you know that you are going ahead of time to these types of restaurants you should see if they can send you the menu ahead of time so that you can look it over.
Hint: If you know your destination for any of your trip, see if you can get the menu before you arrive, as most places always have their menus prepared ahead of time. If you get the menu you can make up your Chef Daniel P Restaurant Form before you go.
I would try to spell out your entire meal in great detail. I also use this technique for all mom and pop restaurants. You are not insulting a cook or chef by asking them to prepare your meal a certain way. Every day the cook receives orders from the waitress on how to prepare a particular meal. Just because you are giving the instructions yourself only means to the chef that you are very serious about how your food is prepared.
What to Eat And How to Cook Your Meal
In these type of restaurants that are small and have limited space you have to try to eliminate any mistakes that the cook might make. How…you ask? Try some of these ideas:
How the Cook Prepares Your Food:
As you look at the menu take the item you would like and ask them if they can cook it in a sauté pan or maybe in the oven. This is a very safe way to have your food prepared.
When I was employed at the resort and we would often have banquets for over 200 people. If the meal was New York strip steak we would put the steaks on the broiler and mark the diamond char marks in order to get the steaks cooked exactly at the same time. We would then pull the steaks off and put them on large sheet pans. Just before we needed the steak, we would put them in the ovens and cook them until they were the proper temperature. The customers never knew that the steaks were cooked in the oven and not the broiler. The char marks on the steak made everyone believe that it was broiled.
The point is that you can have your food baked as long as you don’t get sick—for me that is the most important thing. When I do eat out, I don’t care too much about the taste or temperature of the meal—my number one goal is that I get a gluten-free meal and that the restaurant doesn’t ruin my vacation.
Also, you have to be very careful when you send your food back. Just remember how busy the cooks are and whether or not they are going to remember your specially ordered meal when it comes back to them. If they are busy in the back and the waitress says to the cook, “Cook it more,” what do you think happens—will they take as much time as they did the first time? These are the types of questions that you have to ask yourself when you are sitting at your table and thinking about sending your meal back.
I know that we all expect a perfect meal when we pay for it. Sometimes it is just easier to ask them to only warm it up in the microwave. Something to think about is that the microwave is like a closed room where it is not likely that your food will get contaminated. Most kitchens, especially smaller ones, have a microwave like the one that you use at home. If you do need your meal cooked more, try to explain it to the manager and remind him that you will get very sick if it gets contaminated—ask the manager nicely if you can watch and see if the cook does it right.
Another thing to remember when you are eating in these types of restaurants is that they are small and that means the kitchens are small too. The cooks are going to be right next to each other—only arms and shoulders apart. Remember; if you don’t think they will be able to feed you properly always have a plan B, so you can still eat. Plan your meal to be as simple as possible for them to prepare and you will be able to conquer the Gluten Monster and have a wonderful train or boat experience!
Chef Daniel P.