[This AllergyEats Blog post guest written by Lisa Giuriceo, Facilitator of The Food Allergy and Asthma Support Group of North Jersey]
I am the parent of an eleven year old child with multiple food allergies to wheat, eggs, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, oats, rye, barley, sesame seeds, peas, and green beans. Our child was diagnosed with food allergies at nine months of age. From the beginning, my husband and I partnered with this philosphy: we would do all we could to provide our daughter with the tools to live a complete life while safely managing her food allergies. At the young age of 2-1/2 years old, our child had an anaphylactic reaction after consuming French fries at a restaurant in New York City. Thankfully, we had our Epi-pen with us and were able to get her immediate medical care at a city hospital. We thought we did all the right things as parents. We communicated our daughter’s allergies to the server and we were told the French fries would be safe for her to consume. However, we never spoke directly to the chef to find out that the fryer was indeed contaminated with wheat and egg allergens. After our feeling of guilt, we vowed never to make that mistake again.
My husband and I live an active lifestyle and we thoroughly enjoy dining out. We enjoy going to a restaurant to relax and have a wonderful time with our family and friends. Many cherished family memories have been made at restaurant tables over the years. However, any parent of a food allergic child will tell you that dining out safely can be a daunting task. Although years have passed since our daughter’s anaphylactic reaction, we always dine out with the memory of that terrible day of the reaction with us.
Throughout this eleven year long journey, we have discovered that Disney World is a good place to vacation because of the procedures in place at table service, sit down restaurants. At Disney, we are given the opportunity to speak directly with the chef to discuss our child’s allergies. After that discussion, she is served a safe meal free of her food allergens. This protocol at Disney World restaurants has allowed us to dine safely while on vacation.
It has not been so easy to find this service and awareness from restaurants elsewhere. After reading some positive review on the AllergyEats website, we discovered a true gem for food allergic diners, Legal Sea Foods. I must admit we were hesitatant from the start. It did not make sense to allow our child with a fish allergy to dine at a seafood restaurant. Prior to a weekend trip to Boston over Easter Break, we called the Legal Sea Foods restaurant in Boston, spoke to the manager, and asked if she could indeed insure a safe experience for our food allergic child for a Sunday lunch.
She told us to make the reservation and she noted our daughter’s allergies. She also said that it would not be a problem for us to speak directly with the chef. We arrived at the restaurant and the hostess saw the food allergy notation. She told us to notify our server of the allergies and that a chef would come to the table to speak with us before we placed our order.
It was wonderful! The chef greeted us warmly and prepared our daughter a safe meal of grilled chicken, sauteed broccoli and carrots, and a cucumber salad. He also told us that the meal would be prepared in a separate area of the kitchen and that clean utensils and pans would be used. He delivered her meal directly to the table and made sure she was having a wonderful time.
After this wonderful experience at Legal Sea Foods in Boston, we called the Legal Sea Foods near us in our home state of New Jersey. The manager answered all of our questions and we safely dined in Paramus the weekend after our Boston trip. All of the same protocols were followed that were successful in Boston. The chefs and staff of both restaurants were wonderful. We have not experienced this level of service at any restaurant oustide of Disney World. Our family is so excited to have Legal Sea Foods on our safe list of places to dine.
Legal Sea Foods now has our family as lifelong loyal customers. We have a reservation for this Sunday and we cannot wait to dine at “Legals” again. Our family is grateful for the food allergy awareness that the Legal Sea Foods chain has put in place for diners with special dietary needs. We thank them for meeting our needs and exceeding our expectations.
[Subsequent to Lisa sending this blog post, I received the following email from her]
Just an FYI, we made a new friend in Chef Dan at Legal Sea Foods in Paramus. He was great again. He made my daughter a great meal and even cut the cucumbers in her salad in a fancy way. Now I have to do that at home. LOL
I just wanted to let you know how grateful we are to you and AllergyEats for introducing us to them. It was nice to come home after a day at Yankee Stadium and enjoy a meal in a restaurant and not have to cook. We are so happy. My daughter is just thrilled.
I want to thank Lisa so much for sharing her story. I also want to add two final thoughts.
1) If a restaurant (independent or chain) truly commits to allergy-friendliness, they can accommodate virtually anyone with a food allergy.
2) Sharing this story with restaurateurs will reinforce the point that accommodating food-allergic diners well will help them gain loyal customers, which is good for business over the long-term (as well as being good for our community, of course).
So what are your thoughts? Do you have a similar story where you found your “go-to” safe restaurant? Please share your comments in the Reply box below.
And as always, please take a minute to rate any recent restaurant experiences on our core AllergyEats website or smartphone app. Each review takes just a minute, but makes AllergyEats a more valuable resource for our entire food allergy and intolerance community. The more ratings you add, the more “Legal Sea Foods” will be found.