Food Allergies and Preferences Put Even the Best Chefs to the Test

Food-AllergiesLately it seems as though you can’t dine out (or in) with a group of friends without dining with someone who has food allergies — or strong food preferences. Be it an allergy to dairy, gluten, nuts, or seafood or a preference for raw foods or vegan cuisine, diners are testing the mettle of many chefs with extreme special requests. Janny Hu, of the San Francisco Chronicle, visits the issue, talking with chefs at Coi, La Mar Cebicheri­a Peruana, and Saison to find out how they handle multiple special requests — often from the same individual.

Find out if the diner is ALWAYS right, and let us know what you think about folks who make multiple special requests relating to ingredients. Should someone who is allergic to dairy and gluten expect to be accommodated at a pizza place? Should chefs be ready to prepare raw foods on a moment’s notice? Weigh in here or over on Facebook.


  1. Lisa says

    As a person with lactose intolerance I love dining out. However, recently it seems like more and more restaurants lately have ZERO dishes with no “cream based sauce”. I understand some dishes the cheese and cream is imperative, those dishes I don’t order. But other dishes where it’d be easy to have a wine, garlic, butter sauce with no cream . . . for instance a seafood pasta. I think they should be available or at least have ONE dish on the menu. On the other hand, I don’t think a pizza place should accommodate. When I eat pizza (which is one of my favorite foods) I just take off the cheese. Then I still get the flavor of the cheese and toppings. So I think there is a happy balance that can be found. Another instance, if you go to a five star restaurant with a tasting menu . . . then people with allergies and strong preferences should steer clear if they are not up for the menu as-is. There’s a time and a place for everything and hopefully people use their best judgements.

    Here is one MAJOR comment, I have been to restaurants that do not put on their menu that there is milk or cream in the dish and after it is delivered then I realize I can’t eat it. So if the restaurant is going to accommodate or not, the dairy items should be noted.

  2. Matt says

    Simple: put it on the menu! Mention any common allergen in the description, so the customer can avoid it. Particularly nuts or shellfish, which can kill people. It’s common now to list the name of the farm that produced the chicken, but neglect to mention the walnuts in the stuffing.

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