If you are one of the three million Americans that suffers from food allergies you know how difficult it can be to feel safe when dining in a restaurant. You may have experienced the "eye-roll" from your server, a clueless manager, multiple miscommunications with the kitchen, nagging uncertainty about the ingredients in your dish, or you may have even been refused service. This list does not cover, of course, a severe reaction, gotten from a "surprise" ingredient in your food.
Sloane Miller, social worker and president of Allergic Girl Resources, Inc. knows exactly how you feel and yet she dines out at least five times a week.
"Fifteen years ago, mistakes in restaurants were very common and scary. These days, many chefs and restaurants recognize that food allergies and food intolerances are on the rise and that food safety regarding allergies is as important a consideration as other food safety guidelines, says Ms. Miller."
After much trial and error, Ms. Miller has found local restaurants and chefs that were only too happy to create safe meals for food allergic diners. Craftbar, Lilli & Loo, Candle Café, Sambucca, Chef Michael Lomonoco of Porterhouse New York and Chef Josh Eden of Shorty's .32 are but a few local chefs and spots that cater to the needs of diners with special dietary needs with grace and without judgment. Following those relationships, she created a dining club for food allergic foodies who, like her, find restaurant dining to be a potentially harrowing experience.
Worry-Free Dinners™ offers an intimate and safe environment in which to dine with similarly restricted diners at a pre-screened restaurant. The chef carefully plans special menus with a range of choices with valuable input from Ms. Miller. Meals are open to a small group of 8-12 diners whose allergies are manageable and match the planned menu (e.g. wheat allergic diners would sign up for a wheat-free meal).
The camaraderie of dining with like-minded patrons is a key factor in the design of Worry-Free Dinners events. And it distinctly adds to digestion.
"What a welcome relief it is to eat with others who won't judge me for wanting the sauce on the side, wondering aloud if the meat is grilled on the same grill with the fish or asking the server about each ingredient in a dish to ensure that I can eat it safely", says Ms. Miller.
Ms. Miller gives the public tips on successfully replicating a positive dining experience and provides language to dialogue with chefs and restaurant management so that other restaurant doors open to allergic diners.
"I have perfected a system for clearly communicating my allergy needs with sympathetic restaurants that ensures a safe meal. I'm thrilled to be able to help other diners like me dine out with confidence and have a great time," says she.
Ms. Miller continues, "Ultimately, it's what any allergic diner wants: to enjoy a restaurant experience without worry. And we are the most loyal bunch: feed us safely and well and we'll bring friends and family back again and again."
For more information about Worry-Free Dinners™ see the website. And in the meantime, let that server know of your needs. It will be time well spent. Dessert should not be spent in the emergency room treating an allergic reaction.