Spo TliGh T oN …gluten-free
Wheat gluten is the main ingredient in most foods Americans eat—so much so that the U.S. has tripled its amount of gluten consumption in the past 40 years, according to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. However, the Celiac Disease Foundation, Woodland Hills, California,
reports that the number of people going gluten-free has tripled since 2009.
Although the No. 1 reason that people avoid gluten is because they are allergic to it, during the
last decade, a gluten-free diet has enjoyed increased popularity. Americans swearing off gluten
claim it helps shed pounds and boosts energy. According to an article in The New York Times, 2016
sales of gluten-free products rung up a whopping $15 billion compared with 2013’s $10.5 billion.
“Gluten-free eating is not a fad like Atkins. It’s a mainstay dining habit for people,” says Tony
Gemignani, chef/owner of Tony Gemignani’s Restaurant Group & International School of Pizza,
San Francisco. “Restaurants need to take this dining segment’s needs seriously.”
PrEpArInG GlUtEn-FrEe FoOdS
Steps that restaurants can take to serve gluten-free foods begins with recipe development. From
a chef’s standpoint, constant manipulation of recipes during service is something to be avoided.
“The fewer audibles called during service results in better-quality food, avoids mistakes, prevents
delays in delivery of orders and ensures the guest is eating a gluten-free meal,” says Charlie Foster,
executive chef at Woods Hill Table, Concord, Massachusetts.
To complement gluten-free recipes, there should be a separate gluten-free menu or, at a minimum,
gluten-free items on the regular menu labeled “GF.” The kitchen also should use different pans,
utensils and gloves when preparing gluten-free orders, or have a separate cooking area.
Panzano, at Denver’s Hotel Monaco, has gluten-free menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner and
brunch with a combined total of more than 50 items. “Cooking gluten-free does not mean you’re
serving flavorless or colorless meals,” says Nic Lebas, executive chef. “With a little research, a chef
can create a recipe that can stand toe-to-toe with a recipe full of gluten and still be sexy.”
Server training is an essential component to ensure food safety. It should include daily meetings
to review the menu and highlight gluten ingredients; dissemination of allergy menu guides that list
ingredients; and a point-of-sale system that allows servers to flag orders that are gluten-free. Servers
also should ask guests if they have food allergies.
MoRe VaRiEtY AnD BeTtEr FlAvOr SeRvE
ThE NeEdS Of An InCrEaSiNg NuMbEr Of
DiNeRs EaTiNg GlUtEn-FrEe.
By RoB BeNeS