|No Food For You! Go Starve..|
All right, all right, all right....here we go. This post is going to ruffle some feathers and we are all just going to have to ride this wave together okay? This issue has been stuck in my craw for a long while and although I've touched on it a bit in past posts and in public appearances, I feel like it's time to hit it head on. Brace yourself bitches, we are going in.
Currently, I am sitting on my couch, with a glass of wine sitting coolly beside me, my belly is uber full of gluten free pizza (more on this later, this is a full circle post), I'm binge watching Shameless, and the spawn and my handsome partner in crime are up at the trailer and I have the house to myself. By all accounts, I should be as content as I can be.
Yet, I'm irritated and we have to talk about why. Why? Because it's my blog and my opinion, that's why.
Mature reading only here folks, not only have I had a glass of wine but as stated previously, I'm watching Shameless and the curses are going to flow like the River Nile.
It is a simple request, yet steeped in controversy and trouble.
IF A RESTAURANT IS GOING TO OFFER GLUTEN FREE FOOD, YOU NEED TO FUCKING OFFER ACTUAL GLUTEN FREE FOOD!
Simple right? And you'd think it is a no brainer, but, dear Gluten Eater, you are wrong.
This is what happened today.
I have a wicked awesome job where I get to work with some wicked awesome people and we have a wicked awesome boss. Our boss paid for all of us to attend a fantastic conference/info session from 8 to 5 today at a conference centre in Calgary's North East where we learned so much and loved it all. I got to take a nice long car ride with two work gals where we laughed and caught up. When we arrived at the hotel, the group decided to go to the The Toad and Turtle Pub for our upcoming lunch break. I secretly and immediately goggled said pub and discovered to my glee that they had a Gluten Free Menu (a rarity for a pub I assure you). When lunch came around we all jay walked (we were worried about the jaywalking, no shit) over and grabbed a table.
I requested a Gluten Free Menu and asked about Celiac awareness. The look on the server's face sent a chill through my bones. She'd look more confident if someone had just asked her to perform open heart surgery. After receiving the Gluten Free Menu, I asked the server again about cross contamination and if the cooks felt comfortable preparing my meal with a high level of care. Again, she looked both terrified and confused. This was going downhill fast and now I'm embarrassed and feel like a jerk. I don't like that I have Celiacs. It's the thing about myself that I struggle with the most, other than my penchant for running over loose cats (kidding, calm down Shelby) but I really dread every experience like this and it just got worse from there.
Several minutes later, (please note that we only had an hour for lunch), a manager came to the table and informed me that since I had Celiacs Disease, she tells all Celiacs that, "another kitchen might be better for me." This is a direct quote.
Now, let me be clear here, I deeply appreciate her honestly. I really do and I told her so. I would much rather she turn me away rather than do a shitty job feeding me and make me sick while I had to sit at in a conference room far from home AKA sit in the bathroom vomiting and sobbing in pain.
However, I wonder, beyond all wonderings, WHY OH WHY, couldn't they make me food?
After this conversation, I stayed a few minutes to finish my pepsi and left shortly after to sit in the lobby of the hotel, hungry because I certainly wasn't gong to sit and watch every one else eat. No... can't do it. As much as I love and respect my work colleagues, I could not sit there and watch them eat their lunch.
All Celiacs right now are yelling at their screen, "Laurie, you jackass, why didn't you bring food? We ALWAYS bring food, it's our thing, our gig, our secret to the universe. We bring food where ever we go. You KNOW this." And I say to you all, I DID have food bitches. I did. But I had a apple and some almonds and after sitting in a restaurant with the aroma of hot, fresh, delicious food wafting about, I can tell you, that apple looked about as appetizing as a piece of coal but I ate it, for sheer nourishment while my work friends sat at a cozy table digging into a satisfying lunch. I ended up liberating some peanut butter packs from the left over breakfast table and ate them with a coffee stir stick. True story, no shit, this is who I have become as a person.
So, I've been thinking back to that lunch all day and like most writers, once something gets in this chaotic mess I call a brain, I can't let it go.
So let's talk about the Gluten Free Menu shall we?
Who the fuck do you have a Gluten Free Menu for if it isn't for people who can't eat Gluten? Who? Who?
What kind of evil game are you playing here?
So, after years in the restaurant industry, and might I add, having the deepest respect for back of house, front of house and everyone in between, I want this shit broken down. Because everywhere I've worked at, could have made me something to eat and they would have given enough of a shit to make it happen.
So let's examine shall we?
Why couldn't the Toad and Turtle Barlow feed me today?
REASON NUMBER ONE: LAZINESS
In order to feed someone Gluten Free Food you have to make absolutely sure that their food does not touch (by hand or by utensil or by pan) anything that contains gluten. I completely understand that this is a tall order. It means someone has to be pulled off the line to exclusively make my meal. They have to pull fresh ingredients from the cooler, they have to pull a fresh bowl, clean tongs, clean pan, new gloves, possibly a new apron if they have been dredging wings in flour. They have to pull my plate either fresh from dish or from the bottom of the plate pile to make sure it hasn't touched anything else. Yep....that sucks. I get it, please don't think I don't appreciate the effort kitchens take to feed me. This is evident in my previous posts. However, your job is customer service and, like it or not, I am a customer. Agreed, a pain in the ass one, but a customer all the same. It is done. All the time, at Moxies and Earls and countless other restaurants who have agreed that my dollar is just as valuable as the next guy. Remember too, that I tip excessively for the privilege of you making my meal safe. I tip servers a lot and I have walked back and handed a fistful of bills to the cook who made my food, and looked him in the eye and thanked him from the bottom of my heart, I am not a waste of time, I assure you.
And before you start....
Please don't try to tell me that you were "too busy" to ensure the safety of my food. I did a quick count (and trust me, I can do a table/labor count) and you had 14 seated tables in the restaurant with 5 servers and two floor managers. That means that your kitchen should have had no less than 5 white coats on line (in addition to the two or three in the back on prep alone, because it's Friday and I know my shit) and because it was a Friday afternoon, I would bet my bottom dollar that your head chef was in the house if only to ensure a smooth Friday Happy Hour. So maybe SHE knew how to prepare my meal but everyone was too lazy to get her. Maybe she didn't know how to make a Gluten Free meal, thus we go to....
REASON NUMBER TWO: LACK OF TRAINING
Possible. Totally fucking ridiculous, but possible. The MOMENT you put a Gluten Free menu on your rack, you MUST TRAIN YOUR STAFF TO UNDERSTAND AND BE ABLE TO PREPARE A GLUTEN FREE MEAL.That means a meal that is FREE of GLUTEN. Plain and simple. Celiacs is a fucking disease and it's effects on it's sufferers is long and deep and to just sit back and say "well, we just don't know." is bullshit. Get educated. Get informed. Train your fucking staff so they know what to do and you don't have to send away paying customers. Do better. Be better. Rock that shit. Do not offer Gluten Free Food and then refuse to serve a Celiac. It's the most ironic, foolish thing I have ever heard. This is the equivalent of advertising a "Peanut Free Menu" but then stating, "Not for Peanut Allergies." What the actual fuck? What is the point? Spend the money, spend the time, take the initiative.
Let's be clear, this restaurant didn't just have random items on their menu that are Gluten Free by default. They had Gluten Free Buns and Gluten Free Breads and Gluten Free Pizza crusts. Now, I know the places in Calgary that make these items and I KNOW that they are Celiac friendly and I fucking KNOW that when you signed your contract with them, they advised you and trained you on how to prepare their breads without any cross contamination. THEIR PRODUCTS ARE MADE FOR CELIACS AND FOR YOU TO IGNORE THEIR WELL EDUCATED TEACHINGS ON HOW TO PREPARE THEIR PRODUCTS FOR CELIACS IS RIDICULOUS. For you to not continuously train your overturn staff on these policies is nothing more than laziness (see number 1).
REASON NUMBER THREE: THE GLUTEN FREE MENU ISN'T FOR CELIACS
The Gluten Free Menu isn't for Celiacs, it's for people who are Gluten Sensitive or people that choose a Gluten Free Lifestyle. Oh lord, let's all take a breath here. To say that a Gluten Free Menu isn't for Celiacs is like saying the wheelchair ramp is only for people on crutches or people who don't like stairs. Why don't just have an "Onion Free" menu for people who don't like onions but then make it clear that you might still get onions? Let's have a menu for people who are avoiding red meat because their wife read a facebook article that said it was bad but THEN tell the customer that you aren't willing to take ANY extra time to make sure that a hunk of sirloin doesn't make it onto his plate. Oh wait, that would be fucking stupid. And here's a big fucking shocker to all of you....BRACE YOURSELF... people who are Gluten Sensitive, can't eat any more Gluten than a Celiac. They have been told by a medical doctor that they can not eat Gluten, so stop calling your menu's Gluten Sensitive and then not ensuring that it is indeed, Gluten Free. Stop it. Now.
The Toad and Turtle calls their menu Gluten Free. Which it isn't. Well, maybe the items themselves are but they aren't willing to take any extra time to prepare it so it remains Gluten Free until you eat it so tough shit on you people who can't eat Gluten. Our Gluten Free Menu isn't for you, as bizarre and stupid as that sounds. Go ahead and leave.
Again, this is not the managers' or the servers' or the cooks' fault. They work their asses off and they only do what they are told. Who knows, maybe the head chef told the manager to turn me away today, maybe. I will never know. The staff was not trained to serve someone who needs to eat Gluten Free food off their Gluten Free menu so I don't want them to come into any shit for this, seriously, don't do it. Just train them, step it up. Do better. Be better.
If you want to have a Gluten Free Menu, my God, I applaud you, I am grateful for you, just don't suck at it.
That was the thorns, now for the roses. I, in general, avoid pubs and would not have wasted my time jaywalking to the Toad and Turtle unless they had advertised a Gluten Free menu. I would have taken a cab over to Earls and eaten there but by the time the 'Eat somewhere else' comment got made, there was no time for me to make an Earls meal happen, much to my regret.
My belly is full of Gluten Free Pizza because on our long arduous journey down Deerfoot Trail during rush hour, I called the only pub I eat at. The Bull and Finch in Bridlewood. They have lots of Gluten Free options but the best is the pizza. I told them on the phone that I had Celiacs, I ordered my pizza and swung by on my way home to grab it. Upon picking it up, I was assured by the bartender (who had a full house by the way), that it was totally Gluten Free and he was kind and fantastic. I have eaten at the Bull and Finch numerous times and have NEVER been burned, which is a feather in their finch, or in the Bull's cap. Do bulls wear caps? Maybe on fancy days like weddings or branding days, who knows. Stop getting off topic!
The Bull and Finch GETS Celiacs, has Gluten Free Food and trains their staff on how to handle it. They had a full house when I picked up my food but had all the time in the world to make sure I knew that the food they advertised as gluten free, was indeed free of gluten. That's why they got my money today, and will continue to get my money for as long as they will take my pain in the ass order because they get it. They get that once you win a customer over, they are yours for life. They also get, that no one is louder and more obnoxious than a pissed off customer.
Take a lesson from the Bull and Finch, Toad and Turtle, do it right, or stay in your lane.
Respectful comments and emails welcome. Feel free to swear, but be assured, personally insulting me for my opinion makes you look like a small minded douche. Arguing with me is fine, however futile....because I'm right.