The Close-Minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me

Just getting over a few days of food-allergy misery. I’ve been eating out a lot–just check my Facebook or Instagram photos!–so I’m not all that surprised a bit of gluten, soy, dairy, or corn snuck into my food. I guess I tempted the Food Allergy Gods one too many times.

This may sound slightly paranoid to some of you, but I kind of wonder if this time at this particular restaurant the chef didn’t intentionally leave an allergen in my order. It’s horrible to suspect someone who is preparing your food isn’t taking your food restrictions seriously, but we all know it happens.

The Close-minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me

Here’s how the dining experience–er, dining disaster–played out. The waitress is terrific–very aware of my needs because she herself is gluten sensitive. She asks myriad questions and goes over the menu in detail. To be safe, it’s decided I’ll order plain grouper and steamed broccoli and cauliflower. The table will share crab legs for an appetizer, butter on the side.  The only unanswered question is what kind sauce of the six offered I can have on my fish. She goes back to the kitchen to find out.

When she returns, her face is flushed  She explains that the head chef is “old school” and believes the front of the house–the waiters and servers–shouldn’t converse with the back of the house–the chefs.  I thought this only happened in the movies! How in the world is our waitress suppose to find out if  food is allergen free without talking one-on-one with the person preparing the food?

“I told him you’re not going to have to use an epipen on my watch!” she says. Her pen flies up in the air like a sword.

This waitress went to battle for me. How awesome is that? But that’s also why it makes getting sick from this meal even worse–and why I suspect foul play.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just leave the restaurant then. In hindsight, I should have. But it was late, few other restaurants were opened, and we were so enjoying this view of the full moon.

IMG_2772

So I ate my plain grouper that was nondescript, which was fine if it meant not getting sick.

Of course, you now know how that panned out.

While rolled up in a ball on the bathroom floor, I rehashed that meal in my head. I pictured the chef ignoring that lovely waitress. I wondered what he missed–or added–to my order that made me so sick. I kept asking myself, If this chef had a wife or a child with food allergies, how would he feel about interacting with the front of the house then?

I’m often quick to blame a waiter for leaving croutons on my salad or butter on my vegetables, but maybe I don’t know what he is dealing with behind those swinging steel doors. When a hierarchy exists in restaurants–when good communication between all food staff members doesn’t exist–those of us with food restrictions pay the price.

The only time I’ll return to this restaurant is to see the sunset. I’m pretty sure this chef could care less about losing me as a customer, but the waitress may. She did her job exactly right. I’ll give her a high-five the next time I see her.

The Close-Minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

12 thoughts on “The Close-Minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me

  1. How awful for you. Head chefs are notoriously up their own backsides at times. I worked as a waitress when I was a student and we regularly got shouted at by the head chef, so I admire that waitress for standing up to this one! We had a similar situation with our son, in that all he supposedly had was plain gluten free pasts with olive oil, but five minutes after he ate it, he had to run to the toilet. I asked them to double check that they had given him gluten free pasta and that it didn’t have butter on it or anything, but of course they denied it and we will never know will we? We just have to suffer the consequences until people like this chef, finally get it.

    You know, it’s not just allergies that they deny. Once I had food poisoning so bad and I rang up the restaurant to let them know the next day. They told me that no one else had complained and I later heard that my name had been branded all over the place, with them telling everyone I lied so as to get a free meal!

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  2. As someone who works in the restaurant industry my heart breaks knowing that you had to experience this. But thanks for sharing because the public and chefs alike are becoming numb to paying attention to allergies because they believe it’s a fad and everyone’s paranoid or lying. But as a person with shellfish allergies and asthma I tend to stay away from restaurants that have heavy seafood menus because I’ve experienced the same thing you have before and wondered if I was poison. I hope
    chefs in the future will care a little more and educate themselves regardless of requests being due to “true allergies” or “personal preferences” alike.

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  3. Ugh. That is just awful. I’ve made decisions that I would have changed in retrospect — We all have. I’m sorry to hear that it turned out so badly. I hope you’ll review it on YoDish or AllergyEats so others can learn what type of chef lurks in that kitchen!

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  4. What a mixed bag of a story — the fact that you had a front-of-house staff member so invested is awesome, but still getting sick? And the chef’s attitude? UGH. This is why going out to eat is so little fun for me most of the time. The worry sort of kills the fun a lot of the time.

    Hoping I run into your waitress on my upcoming trip (which is nowhere near a beach, so …)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have gone to a restaurant and placed my very specific order for take out. When the chef was given the order he started laughing. I am allergic to peanuts and he included them. The Hostess caught the issue and had him remake it and this time he put shrimp in it and that is also a food item I do not eat. I did not discover it until I got home and had to throw out my food. I called the restaurant and told them what they did. I am a Personal Dietitian and have a client that likes to go there on our meetings. I really emphasized to the waitress that I was very disappointed in the kitchens behavior and the ramifications they could face if that is there practice. I will not be going back there and will try to steer my clients away from them too.

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  6. Kat Norman MS RD says:

    I have gone to a restaurant and placed my very specific order for take out. When the chef was given the order he started laughing. I am allergic to peanuts and he included them. The Hostess caught the issue and had him remake it and this time he put shrimp in it and that is also a food item I do not eat. I did not discover it until I got home and had to throw out my food. I called the restaurant and told them what they did. I am a Personal Dietitian and have a client that likes to go there on our meetings. I really emphasized to the waitress that I was very disappointed in the kitchens behavior and the ramifications they could face if that is there practice. I will not be going back there and will try to steer my clients away from them too.

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  7. What a terrible experience.
    I’m finding that it’s about 50/50 when it comes to chefs. Some are MORE than happy to speak with you or to alter things and the other .. not so much.
    Thanks for sharing though. I would be writing the owner a letter too to let them know.

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