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gatita

My Friend Who Owns A Restaurant Wants My Advice

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I'm pleased but a bit overwhelmed. My friend owns a classy but very busy Mexican restaurant and would like me to spend time with the cook and others so she can train staff to deal with gluten-free customers, maybe eventually offer a gluten-free menu.

 

I don't know where to start! She said the chef has been there 30 years and is stuck in his ways, but she will back me up.

 

I ate there last week and felt there was very little I could safely eat. The waiter seemed to be saying whatever he thought I wanted to hear about keeping corn tortillas completely separate from the flour ones. (It wasn't a language issue, the wait staff are all fluent in English and I speak Spanish anyway.)

 

Still, I can tell it's going to be a real challenge! Any ideas where to begin?

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There are many Gluten free training courses available for foodservice managers and waitstaff. They should all complete appropriate courses. Many are available online. That will make you life a lot easier when it is time to meet.

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the restaurant i go to in nj has their staff trained at the local hospital and they get some sort of certification.  never even nervous eating there even though they also serve 'regular' food.

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There are a couple of Mexican Restaurants in Houston that do gluten-free menu's and it looks like they keep it all gluten-free except for flour tortillas.  Nothing in the fryer w/ flour, all gluten-free sauces.   So I'd say look at what all has gluten in it and see if it can be easily made gluten-free.   Start with the bar mixes!  

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I hope this link is of some help. I know its in the UK, but there is an online course which caterers can do (although bear in mind that catering laws maybe different if considering obtaining certification)

But I'm sure there must be something similar over the water :)

http://www.coeliac.org.uk/food-industry/caterers-and-restaurateurs

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That's too bad that the chef isn't really on board. Mexican is, IMO, one of the easier ethnic fares to do gluten-free. There are so many non-wheat/gluten options that are still super delicious and not a far cry from the "regular" Mexican foods we see on menus. 

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Massachusetts has a very strict food allergy law and mandates training for all restaurant staff. Ming Tsai (celebrity chef) worked with the legislature for years to get it passed.

 

http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/senate/185/st02/st02701.htm

 

it was enacted about 5 years ago and it makes it much easier to eat out. WIthin it are rules for training staff and providing safe food. As a result there are a lot of resources/training on setting up restaurants to deal with allergies in Massachusetts.

 

The thing to tell the friend is that first it's not too hard to accomodate this and second it will bring in a lot of new customers because a group would with one celiac/food allergic person would choose a restaurant their friend could eat at.

 

Most eating places now have all the staff trained and have procedures. Like in an ice cream place they change gloves and get toppings out from the bins below. They have systems like color coding the gluten free plates nad having the manager bring the food directly from the chef.

 

Here are some sample gluten free menus and restaurants with policies. Look at their gluten free menus and they describe how the protect from x-contamination.

 

http://www.legalseafoods.com/index.cfm/pk/download/id/43950

 

http://www.stonehearthpizza.com/food.htm

 

The Elephant Walk teaches courses to other restaurants:

 

http://www.elephantwalk.com/index.php/2012-02-18-23-52-24/2013-03-04-02-10-56/dinner-menu

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