In 2012 alone, the NPD Group estimates that 200 million gluten-free meals were requested in restaurants across the country. The key question was, Were those meals prepared safely for diners with celiac disease?
Great Kitchens, an educational training initiative developed by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), completed the fall leg of its 10-city Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour to speak to chefs and foodservice professionals at colleges and universities about the importance of proper gluten training protocols. Through this training, NFCA hopes to make safe, gluten-free menu items accessible to all gluten-free restaurant goers and students.
“People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity require a 100 percent gluten-free diet to avoid serious health consequences, and when dining out, our health is in the chef’s hands,” says Alice Bast, president of NFCA. “One of the biggest risks for diners with gluten sensitivity is cross-contact. For a person with celiac disease, a single crumb of bread is enough to cause painful symptoms and damage to the lining of the intestines. Our goal through the Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour, is to educate the foodservice industry on how to serve gluten-free safely so that gluten-free diners are not at risk when dining out.”
For the fall leg of the tour, Great Kitchens paired with nationally recognized executive chef and restaurateur Jehangir Mehta to demonstrate the ease of gluten-free training for various types of restaurants, from fast casual to fine-dining establishments. Visiting New York City, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, Great Kitchens partnered with nine restaurants to host gluten-free chefs table events as well as several university partners to educate dining staff on the needs of gluten-free students.
“All diners deserve a safe and enjoyable culinary experience,” says Mehta, NFCA chef ambassador and executive chef and owner of New York restaurants Graffiti and Mehtaphor. “We echoed this message throughout the country on the first leg of our tour. And I was pleased to find my peers so open to learning more about integrating gluten-free protocols into their current environments. To take it a step further, I believe the Great Kitchens training provides the proper training and tools for all foodservice institutions to easily accommodate those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.”
Great Kitchens is a training program that prepares restaurants, caterers, and universities to meet the needs of gluten-free diners through its Web-based, multimedia course. It teaches foodservice providers front- and back-of-house skills and strategies, such as how to check ingredient labels for gluten, how to avoid cross-contact with gluten-containing foods, and how to respond to mistakes.