Monday, July 18, 2011

Foods can kill

Greetings all,
I wish to get a little off track at this time and talk about a very mundane but very important issue to a kitchen, allergies. I myself have one very serious one and one very annoying one. I have a severe reaction to almonds and this is the one in particular that I would like to address. More than nausea , more than dizziness and shortness of breath, this one can kill me.
Recently I was accidentally exposed to my allergen. This was scary for me as you can imagine but also very scary for the head cook, autocrat and server who put the dish in front of me,  and all of this could have been avoided with some simple communication.  I have been a head cook, so I know the stress of the kitchen, this cannot be an excuse for potentially fatal mistakes and all allergies should be treated as potentially fatal. I can only share my way of doing things to avoid this happening.
1. I try to avoid if possible the allergen. If it is not possible I try to makes its use limited and keep it separated from all the other foods.
2. I try to identify and talk to the persons with the allergies as soon as possible. When I find them I talk over with them about what to expect, i.e. what dishes to avoid of if there is no possibility of  a substitute or let them know if they should be expecting a separate dish for themselves.
3. Something that I have not done consistently but have done is to make available to the populace a list of ingredients in each dish. IMPORTANT note: if you do this and then make a substitution or add an ingredient please have it announced!
4. Speak with the servers and try to identify to them or at least your head server the people with allergies and make them aware of what is in the dishes or if there will be extra dishes for those people.

As a person with allergies I usually try to find the cook and ask what is "safe" for me and what to expect. I also usually try to double check with the server when the food is served to me if it is the appropriate dish. If for some reason I have not done this,  I have  assumed that if the cook has not approached me or if the server does not identify to me that the dish contains my allergen I will assume it is safe to eat.
As you can see there is much room for error on all parts. The trick is not to let all the errors occur.

1 comment:

  1. In Gyllengran we try to avoid food containg nuts (and almonds) and if we know that someone with severes onionalergy is coming we dont use any onions either (and make our own stock).

    We have a member with extreme allergy to fish, and have learned how to handle that (she is often one of the cooks, all fish is made by another person in another room). Recently we all were to an event where not only forgot that she was that allergic (an event she has been to many times), but where they also served the food on big servingplates without servingutensils! When everyone uses theie own cutlery it is both unsanitary and really dangerous!