Today has been a whirlwind day of emotion for gluten free folks after reading a comment from Restaurant Alma chef, Bryan Morcom in the Pioneer Press.

This afternoon, after a lengthy conversation I had with Alex Roberts, owner and executive chef of Restaurant Alma, I was able to update my original post with his side of the story, which I believe is an important thing to do.  He continues receiving emails from frustrated gluten free eaters who may not have heard Restaurant Alma’s side of the story yet.  So he shared an official statement (separate from our original conversation) and he asked if I would post it — here it is..unedited.

“This is Alex Roberts, owner and executive chef of Restaurant Alma. I would like to start by saying that the quote in the paper is not representative of our restaurant’s view or practice. My chef Bryan was poorly quoted and misrepresented by the words in print today.

In reality, our restaurant has made a point of offering safe gluten free meals for years. We make all our food from scratch, changed dozens of recipes, eliminated all forms of gluten other than bread flour from our pantry and have every possible system in place to prevent cross-contamination. We are acutely aware of the importance of respecting people’s dietary needs and dangers of not doing so. Whether the need is Gluten free, Onion/Garlic free, Citrus free, Soy free or other we are able to serve safe and delicious meals to every customer every day.

I too was disturbed by the impression the quote made and spoke with Bryan moments after I read the article. He is overcome with frustration and emotion because his life revolves around providing safe, delicious and special meals for everyone who comes in the door at Alma. Cooking has been his passion and occupation for 50+ hours a week for over 10 years! He told me he clearly told the writer that while he completely respects all customer’s dietary needs, he was frustrated by diners that demand a gluten free meal and later in the meal order a dessert or eat bread containing gluten. This happens frequently and while it does not obscure our understanding of a very serious issue and possibly fatal disease, the casual or off/on practice of gluten free eating is confusing and frustrating to some. My guess is that some people are using the term gluten free when ordering to help them execute a carbohydrate restrictive diet when eating out. It’s an unfortunate practice.

In short, it was a mistake to comment or write about such a serious subject in a brief format. Too often a partial quote makes a far different impression than an entire conversation and I know this is the case here.

I truly regret the words in print offended or made you feel unwelcome. I can assure you that myself, Bryan and every single member of my staff is totally committed to providing safe meals for every diner that comes in the door and we welcome the Gluten Free dining community… as we always have. In this case, our actions of 12.5 years as a restaurant will have to speak louder that the few words in print today.”


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8 Responses to “Statement from Restaurant Alma Regarding Gluten Free Food”

  1. I don’t know how I should feel after reading this response… Am I getting a behind the scenes eye roll when I specifically order a gluten free meal at one of his restaurants?

    I frequently dine at Brasa and it is quite an easy experience, I don’t order one of the items that contains gluten and I don’t get any… I don’t have to state that I have Celiac. That alone drives me to believe that they really did misquote Bryan. Don’t you find it frustrating when people point out that they eat some gluten free things? Just for fun… it’s not fun!

  2. His response does not start out well. I’m thinking that he’s blaming the reporter by saying his chef was misquoted. And then he says his chef is frustrated trying to provide safe meals for his customers.

    But then it kicks in a bit when he says he’s frustrated by people ordering gluten free and then having bread or a dessert. Now, I totally see his point. It drives me mad to no end. I have a friend who is “gluten free” and he makes it known loud and clear when we’re out together (where my approach is much more quiet and private.) And then he’ll just “taste” the bread.

    No problem with anybody who does not have celiac going gluten free. Just please, don’t drive everybody else nuts if you’re not committed to it.

  3. I believe him because the dining experience at Brasa is so easy and wonderful, and the staff there is always extremely helpful (haven’t tried Alma). I have to believe that attitude spans from the top down.

  4. I promise you 100% that these guys take cooking and their customers very, very seriously. The kitchen team volunteers at farms to understand how to respect meat they serve. They read cookbooks for hours in their downtime. I have brought in clients with every possible dietary restriction you can imagine–including gluten free, and the team is consistently and authentically gracious, thoughtful, always ask lots of questions to make sure to get it right. I have been enjoying meals at Alma for 10 years, I have cooked in that kitchen with those chefs, as a ‘stage’/internship (though I am not by any means a professional cook–this was for my learning). I have learned from them exactly how serious they take dietary restrictions, because they schooled ME on it. Rest assured, Bryan and Alex are not only great chefs, they are great men, and I will happily vouch for them and their team in any forum, any time, I have that deep a respect and appreciation for how they make Alma a very, very special place.

    In auditing, we make a point to get things very right, and by clarifying the issue and the context, Alex helped make sure that people who are gluten-free not only will be served properly, but they will be made to feel welcome, which is quite a nice thing.

  5. I’ve known Bryan for a few years now. We were friends before I became gluten intolerant and after. Every time I go to Alma he’s more than accommodating and he always made sure to let me know that I could come in and eat…no matter what. When I was going through my diagnosis for an auto-immune disease he always asked how I was feeling and if the gluten free was working. He’s not an insensive person. He’s just frustrated like the rest of the chefs I know…

    There are people out there taking advantage of the term GF to be low carb. It’s annoying because those of us who ARE sensitive and intolerant to gluten then get the roll of the eyes and the “Oh, you’re one of those.” It’s not by choice people. It’s a serious thing that if I eat gluten I get sick. Not fun.

    Alma’s food rocks and if you haven’t been you should go…soon! They do the very best with what Minnesota’s got to offer and no joke people…they will make you whatever you want for whatever dietary need you have.


  6. I think perhaps eating there is not worth all the fuss and worry.

  7. Glad the owner clarified the chef’s comment. Yeah, it might be damage control, but I’ve eaten enough at Brasa to know that they do take GF seriously and have done a lot to make their menu GF friendly.

    I too hate the pseudo-celiacs that give the ones of us with an honest-to-god allergy a bad rap. I’ve had 2 restaurants in the last month ask me if I had an allergy when I asked for the GF menu. Good for them for checking, but that makes me a little nervous that the waitstaff thinks gluten-free means picking off the croutons.

  8. The person cooking since last 10 years can never let his restaurant let down due to him only. Working more than 50 hours is a compliment for his dedication. The Alma is well known for providing gluten free recipes

    free delicious dishes.

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