Time for Soccer Camp (Emma in blue)

We have all had those times, whether it is at a restaurant, with friends or family, or going to a party….your contact  at the location or event says they have gluten-free food…but do they really know what they’re talking about?

Because we’ve all gotten bad information from incidences like these before….we get awfully suspicious very quickly.  We wonder, “Do they know what they’re talking about?” or “Maybe they know the food, but do they know about cross contamination?”

Believe me I had those very thoughts cross my mind when we were in our early discussions with the overnight, week-long soccer camp that Emma is doing the first time.  The soccer camp starts next week at Northwestern College in Roseville, MN — only about 25 minutes from where we live.

When we found out she was doing it, I was in contact with the organizer and then eventually the chef.  That’s when I asked my standard questions to gauge how much they really knew about cooking for a person with celiac disease and how much I might need to work with them.

Here are questions which you are welcome to use and even amend based on your needs.

Questions to Gauge Gluten Free Savvy

  • How familiar are you with the gluten free diet and/or celiac disease?
The goal with this question is really to see if they know what gluten really is.  If they know what celiac is– even better.   If they do know what celiac disease is, Great!!  You should be a step ahead already in the conversation since you don’t have to go into your “celiac disease elevator speech”.
  • What foods do you have that are gluten free?
This is where the rubber meets the road. When you hear them saying things like, “Well, we have breaded chicken, she can have that right?” Red flags are going up awfully quickly.  This happened to me when we were looking for food at the Charleston, SC airport about a year ago.  I asked these very questions to the gal at a restaurant there.  She said she knew what gluten free was and instantly suggested we get Emma a bagel. Ugh.
If the person being questioned answers with good clear gluten-free friendly answers, you might need to throw in an additional curve ball like, “Is the chicken injected with anything?”  or “Is the meat marinated at all?”  Getting answers to those questions will help you whittle down the savvy from the un-savvy.
  • How would you prepare the food to ensure it remains gluten free?
This question gets you into the discussion of cross contamination.  If they get it, they’ll talk about using a separate area, utensils, and other kitchen items for strictly gluten free use.  If they don’t get it you’ll find yourself asking about whether the oil for the fries is shared with breaded items.  Or if hamburger buns are placed on the grill with the hamburgers and steaks.

How the Questions Worked with Soccer Camp

So with our soccer experience, Monday I talked to the chef and he explained (without much prompting) how they actually started a new system during this last school year of having a celiac/gluten-free preparation area in their cafeteria where the gluten free kids can use the safe toaster and more.  He talked about having gluten free breads, muffins, pasta (and he even added that they cook pasta “prepared in separate water with a separate strainer”)….  He said this new plan to help celiac kids manage their gluten free diets at school worked very well, and helped about 30 students over the last school year.

Color me impressed.

Later this week he’ll be sending us the menu, plus when we check in, he will meet with Emma and I about her tastes and get to know her a little bit better!

This was definitely a positive outcome to the questions I like to ask people.  I do believe the answers to these questions are the key to pursuing this food option(at an event or while dining out) or walking away.

Do you have questions like this?  If so feel free to share yours in the comment field below.

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2 Responses to “Gluten Free Savvy? The Questions I like to Ask to Find Out!”

  1. After finding out that a restaurant that touted a GF menu flash-deep fried their “steamed” vegetables in a communal deep fryer (to give them flavor. You couldn’t tell from looking at them), I now ask restaurants who serve steamed veggies if they do this practice.

    I also pay close attention to the waiter/waitress’s confidence level. Two nights ago I was at a popular higher end restaurant that has a GF menu. I asked about whether the seasoned peanuts they served to us prior to the meal were GF, and she hesitated for a moment and then said yes. When I asked if she could verify that, she left and came back and said she had just confirmed with the manager that the peanuts were indeed NOT gf.

    It’s important to be have the ability to ‘read’ restaurant staff, whether you are talking to them in person or over the telephone. Always go with your gut. DOUBT MEANS DON’T.

  2. Nice post, thanks.

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