Celiac.com Sponsor (A1):


Join eNewsletter


Celiac.com Sponsor (A1-m):



Join eNewsletter

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

frec

Ordering In Restaurants

Recommended Posts

I've been on vacation for two weeks, and I had to eat out a lot. I was in England, so things were more precarious than usual as far as ingredients. I am still trying, even after six years, to find the best way to communicate with waiters. (This is assuming I don't go for the bare naked chicken breast order or the plain salad order, but that gets really tiresome!) My usual approach is to say I have lots of allergies, and can I find out the ingredients in the _______? Could I talk to the chef? Or read the label?

Waiter: What exactly are you allergic to?

Me: Wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, ... It would be easier if I just looked at the label?

Waiter: Does dairy mean milk?

Me: I realize this is inconvenient, but if I could just look at the label.

Waiter: I am sure there is nothing in the ______ that you are allergic to.

Me: Could I see the ingredients?

Waiter: (disappears and comes back) It doesn't say wheat on the label.

Me: What about malt or modified food starch or maltodextrin? They can contain wheat. (I actually started a full lecture to one waiter on their derivation to get him to show me a can of baked beans.)

Waiter: (looks annoyed) I'll go get the label.

Now, I am very nice to waiters and I give very good tips. They have a hard job and I am sure food allergies drive them wild. I am just trying to save them running back and forth to the kitchen, and they won't do it. Managers won't do it either. Has anyone developed a tried and true approach? I got so discouraged the last two weeks, and so hungry (I lost six pounds) and so tired of chicken!


diagnosed with celiac disease in 2002--all test numbers off the charts

dairy free since 2000, soy free since 2007

other food intolerances: citrus, sesame, potatoes, corn, coffee

fibromyalgia, osteoporosis

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Celiac.com Sponsor (A8):

Celiac.com Sponsor (A8):


In some cases they may not want you to look at the label because they don't want you to know what sort of cheap or pre-processed food they are serving. And if they cook from scratch, there may be no labels. But I do know what you mean.

At one restaurant we used to eat at, one of the owners just told us she didn't know what was in anything! Said nothing came in with labels on it. Her brother (another owner) was good to tell us what was in stuff. We were very limited as to what we could eat there, but it worked for a while. Then they changed their menu. Not only did they up their prices, but they limited us even further by adding all sorts of fancy sauces to the food. Grrr...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds like you just got a tired/grumpy waiter :D

I don't know about surefire, but here's what I do. I start with asking the waitress, if they don't know or unsure I ask for the manager. If the manager doesn't understand or even attempt to help, then I don't usually go to that restaurant again :D If a waiter or manager goes out of their way to help me, then they get more added to their tip. Also, never be afraid of asking the same questions every time you go there either. You never know when something will change.

Sometimes you'll have more success calling ahead by a day or two and asking questions of the manager when it's not a rush time for them. I have, however gotten conflicting information when doing this. A manager on an earlier shift will say this or that is ok and then when i get there another manager says it's not or "I'm not sure and do you really want to take a chance?" :o For some places though, this gives them the chance to call a supplier and ask questions. I've even had a manager go so far as to look up information on Celiac just so she new exactly what to look for.

Basically, I find the ones that are helpful and trustworthy and stick with them. Keep in mind, when they know you they tend to be more understanding and careful. If my family wants to go to a different place and I don't want to risk problems, I pickup something to go from a place I trust and bring it with me. This prevents the problems of "Oh Mommy we ALWAYS go THERE!" :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are multiple problems in English resto's.

You don't say where you have been but in London many/most waiting staff are not English and many do not speak English past learning a menu by heart.

The higher end the resto the more unlikely the staff are English ... my Gluten-free is not English and works as a waitress and has worked in quite a few mid-high end resto's. It is unusual to have a single English person waiting or in the kitchens. Many of the staff will speak next to no English, she also teaches English (her actual University qualification is English teacher) and presently is teaching two colleages from a level of absolute beginner.

Quite often the staff sound like they speak English ... but they have really just memorised a few phrases and watch TV in English... its not the same thing..

Family run places... often the problem is like Juliebove said... they are using the cheapest commercial packs.. basically a tin can with a stick on label...

Tips have limited utility, there is nolaw to say the waiter/waitress get to keep the tips.. in some places the company will take them all and in others they may be divided between everyone and somewhere inbetween ... my girlfriends present employer is in most cases quite good but the tips are all pooled and deductions taken (credit card charges etc.) and then shared by everyone including the managers.

Elsewhere you might have different profiles, univeristy towns you might get part time students... etc.

Overall, the hospitality business in the UK is the cheapest of everything. The absolute bottom line in staff costs, food costs etc.

New places start-up and do a good job but after either failing to make a profit or loosing money they all seem to end up following the same path of cutting costs and cutting them again.

A curious fact is its illegal in the UK to specifiy English as a job requirement... you can spcifiy ANY other language (Welsh or Gaelic) or the most widely spoken of Urdu or Hindi but not English... (this is apparently discriminatory) ... HOWEVER the non-English resto's can get away with this ... so a good indian resto will make sure its staff speak English... The law around this is so bizarre as to be unbeleivable but you can ask for a translator for a job interview... if you don't get it you can sue the company and claim you were discriminated against for not being English... (and the state will provide the translator for that too)

The reason I go on about language is stuff like gluten and allergies etc. are the last things anyone learns (except us) in another language. Even waiting staff who speak good English will usually respond far better in their mother tongue .. and the conversation is easier because they are not spending the whole time trying to hide the fact their English is limited... their convrsational English is likely limited to conversing with colleages or our English specialities of weather/soccer.in a bar. and at home they speak their mother tongue...

Discussing health issues is not something they really do in English...

So my number one tip is try and find a waiter who speaks English outside of work ... or one who's mother tongue you share. In London the Aussies and South Africans are most likely candidates.

Anyway, my approach varies depending on the resto. Its certainly not faultless .... but you need to sum up... are the staff immigrants or are they students.. do they get to keep the tips or not... can you communicate with them in thier language? This last one seems the best...


Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt. (JC, De Bello Gallico Liber III/XVIII)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're right about the waiters in London not speaking English. I spent most of my vacation in Devon and Cornwall. Most of the waiters were young Europeans working their way through school and they didn't speak much English either. One young man was very helpful because his brother has celiac disease. It's not just England--I have trouble in Oregon too even when the waiters speak English.

Do the restaurant cards they sell on this website help? Has anyone tried those?


diagnosed with celiac disease in 2002--all test numbers off the charts

dairy free since 2000, soy free since 2007

other food intolerances: citrus, sesame, potatoes, corn, coffee

fibromyalgia, osteoporosis

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This doesn't relate to a restaurant... but it might shed some light on not knowing what foods are which... I am a Spanish/French teacher. We had an activity where you read clues about what a persons likes were and you selected something from the menu in Spanish or French based on their likes.

Juan can't have dairy products- what should he order for desert? Student answer (10th grade) : plain yogurt.

Ana is allergic to shellfish- what should she order for the main course? Seafood platter...

We had a short lesson about food groups that day...

Here's another one: The Work and Family studies teacher (new name for Home Economics...) asks me what to do for a student who is lactose intolerant, peanut, and wheat allergy. This student had to prepare foods she could not eat in class or not participate and do book work!!! All because my colleague was to lazy to get informed or make some menu changes!!!!

One last thing- I tried the restaurant card/ingredient card from the food and allergy network. I still got orzo served with salmon once. I got a gyro with the pita, and baklava at my dh's favorite greek place. I only know of one place here where you can get a normal Gluten-free meal. But you have to call and make reservations for a night the owner is working there.


Knitting is a gluten free hobby!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't expect to be able to eat ANYTHING out except the naked meat and a plain vegetable or salad--- It's too much trouble---- Boring yes, yuccky, yes, and in my case, RISKY---- --- So I RARELY eat out.

Don't know what I'll do next time we take a trip abroad--- (starve to death, maybe ????) :lol:


CeeCee

Allergic to: wheat, peanuts and Penicillin

1995 severe anaphylactic reaction to Wheat

Gluten free since Sept. 2006

"Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently"--- Henry Ford

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't expect to be able to eat ANYTHING out except the naked meat and a plain vegetable or salad--- It's too much trouble---- Boring yes, yuccky, yes, and in my case, RISKY---- --- So I RARELY eat out.

Don't know what I'll do next time we take a trip abroad--- (starve to death, maybe ????) :lol:

Sadly mostly true....

We had an activity where you read clues about what a persons likes were and you selected something from the menu in Spanish or French based on their likes.

Unfortunately that is rarely the issue.

An amazing amount of people have no idea what the ingredients are on so many different levels.

(personally I can't understand this at all.... that people eat things and have no idea what the raw ingredients are but it seems that most people really don't have any interest in what to me has always been a fundamental question.... )

On one level you have people who don't realise bread is made with wheat flour but I think this is (hopefully) not a majority. Some people don't know pasta is made from wheat or that cous-cous is cracked wheat...

This doesn't seem to have much correlation to levels of education either .... quite a few MD's I know don't realise this either whereas a poor Italian subsistence farmer is probably making their own pasta... (I actually once saw a hovel in the mountains in greece, no electricity or running water and the old lady outside drying spaghetti on her bed. )

Much of western Europe, including Scandanavia have little or no interest in food as a pleasure. "nourriture vs cuisine" ... Holland, the north of Belgium and the UK people eat mostly crap and have no interest in anything other than processed food. If it doesn't come in a microwavable packet type cooking... and they have no clue how to make it or what goes into it.

@slmprofesseur: for instance do you know what <<biscotte>> is? (It's not a word you often learn in a foreign language unless you work for the food industry){if you do fine I'm trying to make a point that presumably you speak good French but certain words are just words you don't need/learn unless you live somewhere, it's all very fine teaching students what a <<relev


Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt. (JC, De Bello Gallico Liber III/XVIII)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Suellen
I've been on vacation for two weeks, and I had to eat out a lot. I was in England, so things were more precarious than usual as far as ingredients. I am still trying, even after six years, to find the best way to communicate with waiters. (This is assuming I don't go for the bare naked chicken breast order or the plain salad order, but that gets really tiresome!) My usual approach is to say I have lots of allergies, and can I find out the ingredients in the _______? Could I talk to the chef? Or read the label?

Waiter: What exactly are you allergic to?

Me: Wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, ... It would be easier if I just looked at the label?

Waiter: Does dairy mean milk?

Me: I realize this is inconvenient, but if I could just look at the label.

Waiter: I am sure there is nothing in the ______ that you are allergic to.

Me: Could I see the ingredients?

Waiter: (disappears and comes back) It doesn't say wheat on the label.

Me: What about malt or modified food starch or maltodextrin? They can contain wheat. (I actually started a full lecture to one waiter on their derivation to get him to show me a can of baked beans.)

Waiter: (looks annoyed) I'll go get the label.

Now, I am very nice to waiters and I give very good tips. They have a hard job and I am sure food allergies drive them wild. I am just trying to save them running back and forth to the kitchen, and they won't do it. Managers won't do it either. Has anyone developed a tried and true approach? I got so discouraged the last two weeks, and so hungry (I lost six pounds) and so tired of chicken!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Suellen

I had a friend type up a card and had it laminated. It says please read before placing my order. And it lists in English and spanish what I cannot have. I feel bad for you that you have to travel. Makes it harder than preparing foods at home. I also email specific restaurants and they email me back giving me a specific meal I can order at their location. But I tend to just order plain chicken hoping the cutting board was clean. Luckily I like plain chicken a lot. If you come up with any solutions you have found worked for you please post them as we are going on vacation in August.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi,

Wow, it must have been a real challenge to face the risks associated with eating while in England. It's a real challenge just to keep things in order here in America. I spend quite a bit of time in grocery stores, reading labels and searching for new foods that might have become gluten-free since the previous time I shopped.

Since I have severe asthma attacks when ingesting foods to which I'm intolerant (all grains, all milk & dairy, egg whites, yeast, and grain-fed meat products) I have learned to take responsibility for my own good health, and have gone vegan. When I'm traveling even a few blocks away to a restaurant, I always take some of my own food (in a small round styrofoam container, in Glad Ware, in a simple plastic container with a lid--whatever) and carry it in my special food bag (sometimes lined with plastic, sometimes not).

I had a severe asthma attack from eating salad at a Sizzler that washed their lettuce in some toxic (to me) chemical wash, so I have gotten really careful since then, usually only eating in places where I'm certain that I can tolerate their offerings. Since I live in my hometown and rarely go further than 50 miles or so, I'm pretty familiar with the places which are safe. Mexican restaurants offer tostadas with corn tortillas and refried beans, as well as salsa, rice, green salad (hopefully safe), tamales, enchiladas without cheese, etc. Green salad seems to always be the old "standby," so you can see why the Sizzler scare was so upsetting.

I can carry anything I want to in my "food bag." fresh fruit (strawberries, pineapple, mango, papaya, etc.), fresh vegetables, cooked corn pasta with spaghetti sauce in a plastic container, tortillas, beans, etc. etc. etc. The choices are almost endless. It really sparks one's imagination when working on these challenges! Anyway, once you get with the mindset that grocery stores are there offering all types of choices, then start stocking up on what you like best, then taking the initiative to take your own selections along with you, just in case, then I've found that we're on the road to success. And that's a good place to be. Best wishes! Welda

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've been on vacation for two weeks, and I had to eat out a lot. I was in England, so things were more precarious than usual as far as ingredients. I am still trying, even after six years, to find the best way to communicate with waiters. (This is assuming I don't go for the bare naked chicken breast order or the plain salad order, but that gets really tiresome!) My usual approach is to say I have lots of allergies, and can I find out the ingredients in the _______? Could I talk to the chef? Or read the label?

Waiter: What exactly are you allergic to?

Me: Wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, ... It would be easier if I just looked at the label?

Waiter: Does dairy mean milk?

Me: I realize this is inconvenient, but if I could just look at the label.

Waiter: I am sure there is nothing in the ______ that you are allergic to.

Me: Could I see the ingredients?

Waiter: (disappears and comes back) It doesn't say wheat on the label.

Me: What about malt or modified food starch or maltodextrin? They can contain wheat. (I actually started a full lecture to one waiter on their derivation to get him to show me a can of baked beans.)

Waiter: (looks annoyed) I'll go get the label.

Now, I am very nice to waiters and I give very good tips. They have a hard job and I am sure food allergies drive them wild. I am just trying to save them running back and forth to the kitchen, and they won't do it. Managers won't do it either. Has anyone developed a tried and true approach? I got so discouraged the last two weeks, and so hungry (I lost six pounds) and so tired of chicken!

I'm sorry to hear you had such a hard time. I've had one really bad dining out experience with the wait staff, and the chef of a restaurant in California! The chef couldn't even manage to tell me what were in the mash potatoes, but he did tell me they came out of a box which made me really suspicious. I had been reassured via email by the owner that they could accommodate me, as the chef would come out to the table to discuss things with me, but when I was there the attitude of the staff was completely unacceptable, and I made a huge fuss and took my business elsewhere. I generally do alot of research before eating out, especially when traveling, because I don't want to get sick while on vacation. In fact I have a 3 inch binder full of gluten free menus and what not from restaurants I've contacted. The wait staff just generally doesn't get it. When I'm dealing with someone not so helpful I generally throw out a comment about they would be very concerned and helpful if I were allergic to peanuts, and my allergy is 5X worse. Peanut allergies seem to be something the generally population can relate to. Not the greatest comparison but it usually helps snap the wait staff to attention. I hope your next dining out experience goes more smoothly!


Sacramento, CA

Rheumatoid Arthritis since 1986

Gluten Free since 2005

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just don't eat at restaurants. I still go to them, and order drinks, and then I eat my own food before or afterwards.

As simprof. pointed out, people are just too uneducated about food to be able to accommodate a gluten, dairy and soy free diet, and it is just too risky. When I travel I find my way to a grocery store and mostly eat simple foods that don't have labels (fruit, veggies etc.). Not the most exciting solution but it keeps me safe and prevents me from losing my mind while trying to communicate with the waitstaff at restaurants.


"Let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be food." - Hippocrates

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites