If you dine out often enough, you can tell the difference between restaurants that are offering a gluten free menu because it’s in style (and have little or no education — thus, can be a dangerous place for us to eat), and those who have it down to a very smart and tasty science. We celiacs and people with gluten sensitivities are so thankful for the companies who have taken the time to get educated about what cooking gluten free really means. We tend to be loyal patrons when we have a great experience.
That’s where the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’s GREAT Kitchen program helps. GREAT stands for”Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training”. The program helps restaurant employees get gluten free savvy, so we feel safer eating out. You don’t have to look far to see which restaurants across the country have already used them, you can see the list of clients right on their website. That’s where I saw the Minnesota gluten-free fave: Pizza Luce.
Making the Gluten Free Move
During ant interview last week with Laura Hansen of Pizza Luce she told me she was serious about adding a gluten free menu a few years back. So serious she contacted the NFCA AND even went gluten free herself for a few weeks to experience the challenges we all face when reading labels, dining out and cooking. “I think anyone that lives with or knows someone that is gluten free should try going without gluten for a week. Then they’d become more empathetic of people suffering from Celiac Disease”, Hansen said.
The NFCA training is available to businesses who want to make that gluten free addition to their selection of products. It starts with getting a basic understanding of what celiac disease is and what gluten free really means. “The NFCA helped me by making me very aware of the care I needed to take in reading ingredient labels,” Hansen said. “I read EVERY label of EVERY item that came through our doors. This is where I found malt in the Rice Crispies and wheat in the hoisin sauce (amongst other things).”
And then the course helped the Pizza Luce staff, in part, by keeping the testing serious, “Training and testing in-house is one thing, but when they have to sit in front of a computer and it’s another company grading [the staff], it seems to shake them up a little so they really get into it. I had all the managers take the test and get certified. I wrote training and tests based off of the NFCA info and we use those for staff.”
As a patron of Pizza Luce’s I watched as they took baby steps, rolling out their gluten free menu to one restaurant first, then a second and then to more of them, to make sure they did it right. They even let my brother (who’s highly sensitive) back into their kitchen when they launched the gluten-free menu at their Duluth location to show him how it worked.
And here’s some new information for Pizza Luce lovers: they’re expanding their breakfasts to include gluten free options. “Over the last few months I’ve tweaked our Brunch recipes to be able to offer a lot of sauces and other items gluten free,” Hansen said. “We’re about to launch breakfast in Hopkins and Duluth (only) and on those menus is a gluten free English muffin and some other delicious gluten free choices! Soon after Hopkins and Duluth get up and running, I’ll add all that to our Downtown Minneapolis, and St. Paul locations.” Looks like the NFCA training has paid off for them.
NFCA & Celiac Awareness Month
Celiac Disease Awareness Month just launched May 1st. While the NFCA is always doing awareness (it is in their title after all) they are doing an additional concentrated effort right now. Click here to learn more and see what you can do to help raise awareness this month. Included in their month-long dedication, is the Blogger A Day Series. The Savvy Celiac is proud to be highlighted on May 2nd.