|A Celiac at a restaurant. She knows she is going to die.
Let me tell you something, come in close now, real close. You listening? Good. EATING AT A RESTAURANT AS A CELIAC IS TERRIFYING. I'm not being dramatic or extreme here...it's fucking terrifying. Alfred Hitchcock level of scary. I know Celiacs that never eat out...ever. It's THAT scary.
You have to put so much trust in so many people. People you don't know, nor particularly like, and you just have to pray. Pray and wish and hope and dream like a Disney Princess waiting for a prince or an education.
You have to trust the waitress and hope they were trained properly, can read, aren't hung over and don't have too many tables so they have the time to listen to your lengthily order and that they aren't fighting with the kitchen so they will tell them about your Celiacs. You have to trust the chefs, that they have heard of Celiacs, and know what in their kitchen contains gluten. You have to trust their trainer who months or years ago taught them what they needed to know about cross contamination and pray that on that day, everyone had their thinking caps on. You have to trust that the hostess controlled the flow of guests and didn't seat twenty tables all at once causing the kitchen to crash and burn in a blinding wall of tickets, leading them to not be able to see, or have time to prepare, your Gluten Free meal. You have to trust the manager, that they treat their staff well, and encourage them to take their time with special orders and double check all meals for quality and accuracy. You have to trust the owners, to adhere to the guidelines and spend the money training everyone about Celiacs. They also have to make sure that the products on their GF mcnu, are indeed Gluten Free and that their suppliers notify them of content changes.
That...is a LOT of trust.
Every once in a while though, I find a gem of a restaurant who gets it. Really, really gets it and it's the most satisfying thing you could imagine. Eating out is such a simple thing for the rest of the world and it's so rare for a Celiac to feel that simplicity.
I got to get that feeling when I visited the Chateau Louis Hotel and Conference Centre for the Gluten Free Festival put on by the Edmonton Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association. I was invited to be a speaker and I personally, was just excited to get a night away from the spawn and attend the festival. The restaurant was just a massive bonus. The Chateau Louis is this charming hotel close to the Edmonton downtown core. The rooms were clean and the bed was super comfy. After registering and scoping out the vendor fair at the Chateau Louis Convention Centre, we walked back along a covered flowered walkway to the dining room.
I was a little nervous to see that the dining room had a Pasta Buffet that night which for a Celiac is the worst thing ever. However, a lovely server came up to let me know that about eighty percent of the buffet was Celiac friendly. Not just vaguely 'gluten aware' we are talking CELIAC FRIENDLY. That means all the ingredients have been checked, that they have exclusive equipment and are careful with every little step of the food preparation process. This was big news people.
So once we get seated, I decided to order off the menu because there was some seriously awesome stuff on there, even though the buffet looked amazing too. The lovely server's name was Tracy and she wasn't just lovely, she was fantastic. Tracy wasn't just happy and charming, she was super smart and knew everything a server needs to know about Celiacs and eating gluten free. She made great recommendations, she made sure the chefs knew about my meal and made sure I knew that my meal would take a little bit longer because it was being made from scratch. From scratch! She even added, "I hope that's okay."
Uhhhhhh yeah... that's okay. That's awesome! That's amazing! That's the best thing I have heard all day!
I had the mushroom soup and the Shrimp and Scallop Rizotto. It was one of the best meals I have ever had. I was in Celiac heaven.
We couldn't stay after the conference because we can only unload the spawn off on friends for so long because they are kind of annoying, but I totally wish we had! Turns out, the Chateau Louis has a completely Gluten Free Prime Rib Buffet on Saturday nights! Wow! I was so sad to miss it but might just make a plan to go back to Edmonton JUST to eat there.
Thank you Chateau Louis Hotel and Conference Centre for a wonderful stay. Thank you Tracy for being so smart and charming. Thank you Chefs for taking the time I know you don't have to feed us Celiacs.
Thank you to the Canadian Celiac Association Edmonton Chapter for inviting me to speak at the Gluten Free Festival. I had an amazing time.
Make sure you make the Chateau Louis a stop when you visit Edmonton, you will be as gleefully happy as I was.
Here is a few clips of my talk where I delve into the horror that is, restaurants for Celiacs.