Dining Out with Celiac Disease

For Celiacs, dining out can be a nightmare. Kitchens are a breeding ground for cross contamination, and often food service employees are ignorant about Celiac. Personally, I avoid dining out as much as possible, saving those trips for special occasions or for when I am out of town and have no other option, like I was this past weekend.

Traveling with Celiac Disease and having little control over where your meals will be coming from is one of the most stressful experiences I’ve encountered since my diagnosis. But fortunately for me, I managed to find a dedicated gluten-free restaurant around the area where my family was staying. While researching Celiac-friendly restaurants in Nashville, Tennessee, I came across AMOT (A Matter of Taste), which has absolutely no gluten on premise with the exception of various types of beer.

The food was absolutely incredible, and for the first time in six months, I got to indulge in fantastic southern cuisine – fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and apple fritters – and in my opinion, it was one of the best meals I ever ate. But what stuck out the most to me, however, was my conversation with one of the chefs and co-owners, Charlotte Miller. I spoke with her for a long time after the meal, telling her how grateful I was that I could eat somewhere and not have to worry about the safety of the food I was eating and how nice it was that I could choose anything off the menu. But Charlotte didn’t think what she was doing was groundbreaking by any means. She believed that most restaurants should be able to provide safe, gluten-free options for Celiacs. What’s so hard about getting a clean pan? What’s so hard about changing gloves?

She’s right. With the exception of bakeries, pizzerias, or any other restaurant that bakes bread products in house, Celiacs should be able to receive a safe meal anywhere. All restaurants have gluten free options anyways – there’s bound to be at least one thing on the menu that naturally doesn’t contain gluten. So why aren’t restaurants willing to take a few extra minutes to ensure the safety of the food?

Perhaps it’s laziness. Unfortunately, many people are ignorant about the prevalence of Celiac Disease, and to some restaurants, putting in the effort for a single customer isn’t worth it, but they don’t understand that making meals for those with allergies can make their restaurant more accessible to potentially hundreds of new customers.

Or maybe they’re afraid of liability. Many times I have spoken with managers who have simply thrown their hands up, quick to tell me that they can’t guarantee the safety of a meal and that those with food allergies or Celiac Disease should not eat at their restaurant, not aware that nearly 15 million Americans have food allergies and 1% of the American population has Celiac Disease.

Regardless of their reasoning, it is the people like Charlotte Miller who are going to revolutionize the food service industry by helping to destroy the idea that accommodating Celiacs and others with food allergies is impossible. AMOT and other allergen-free restaurants are setting an example for restaurants worldwide.

Why do you think restaurants aren’t willing to accommodate Celiacs? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!