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I'm confused by what seems like a more relaxed standard for restaurants than for our own home kitchens. I keep reading that to make your kitchen gluten-free, you need to replace all your plastic/wooden items and nonstick pans, rigidly segregate all gluten-containing foods, etc.

I'm not an expert in restaurant kitchens, but I'd assume that even those that have a gluten-free menu don't meet this standard (unless the entire restaurant is gluten-free). Even if the utensils, pots, and countertops are clean and the cooks wash their hands regularly, there are probably still trace amounts of gluten everywhere. So why is it considered generally safe?

I'm just trying to get a handle on what we can & can't expect to do with our celiac kid -- assuming we can get her to eat something gluten-free (i.e., not grilled cheese) in a restaurant in the first place.

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I personally feel you have to make that choice for yourself and your family based on how much, if any gluten that a person can be in contact with/digest. For example my son actually has to eat the gluten to become symptomatic. So we do not worry about personal care products with him. He is tube fed now so no worries about cross contimanation now. Before though, we had dedicated "little man" pots, pans, etc. I would scrub the counters if I had gluten filled things on them before preparing little man's. Never had a problem with him but others would have to go to a gluten free house. We were able to take him out to eat at certain places without an issue, Chilli's was WONDERFUL! Outback is supposed to be a good place as well. What we started doing though is packing his own food, that way we knew exactly what he was getting and not having to worry.

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There are many of us here who do not have dedicated gluten-free households, although I am no longer one of them. We had a mixed kitchen for years. Even though we do not intentionally bring any gluten into our home, there is always a risk of accidental contamination.

Thorough washing of utensils is sufficient for most of us. Restaurants such as Outback are aware, and ensure that only fresh, clean implements are used in preparation of gluten-free orders.

Yes, there will be trace amounts of gluten in the kitchen. There is a risk. The level of risk varies from establishment to establishment.

I am careful--I am not paranoid.

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Some thoughts:

If they have never gotten an order right pre- gluten-free, how would you expect them to get it right now? (Appleby's is an example for me)

Are they very busy ?

Do they have a lot of teens or a high turn- over of wait staff & kitchen staff? ( never see the same waiter twice or always has a help wanted sign, etc)

Is most of the food naturally gluten-free? Like Bonefish Grill or a Persian restauraunt that uses little to no flour other than bread. A place that never puts croutons on salads.

Do they have regular procedures that keep the gluten stuff apart from the non- gluten. For example, Five Guys only fries potatoes nothing else.

Do they have trained chefs rather than $9 an hour cooks?

You don't need each of these before eating there. For example, if they have a teenager who only fixes salads during lunch rush but has no gluten ingredients for her to mess up and add, it's probably OK.

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You eat every single meal in your kitchen. You only eat sometimes in a restaurant.

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As a former restaurant chef, while I would say that there's no 100%, if you talk to the chef, and they have a decent understanding of the issues of Celiac and gluten free, you might be able to trust things.

In my former non-SAHM life, I had a number of regulars at my restaurant who were gluten free, a few who were celiac, and I totally respected their issue and was always honest when I couldn't guarantee that something would be gluten-free. Wood cutting boards are not allowed in restaurant kitchens, btw, only plastic ones, though I know that's not perfect. Utensils are usually metal or silicone because they're more durable. And pans are usually stainless steel for similar reasons - nonstick would be ruined in no time flat. Also, most restaurants prepare glutened foods, like cake, at a different station than the line where most dishes are prepared for service, which cuts down on cross contamination on the line.

Really, the biggest danger in restaurants for a knowledgeable chef, from what I can see, is convenience foods. If a chef doesn't truly know what's in their food, they can't guarantee that it's safe. At my restaurant, I made almost everything completely from scratch, so while I was honest that my kitchen was not gluten free, I always did my best to keep gluten-free foods on non-contaminated, clean surfaces, and could generally tell people which products did not contain gluten. There were a few products that I wasn't sure about and those I would offer to show the labels on, but I could pretty well guarantee that, for instance, my salmon or steak or chicken, often their sauce, and their sides were all gluten free.

So find a small restaurant and talk to the chef and find someone you can trust to work with you, that's my best advice.

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