But if you are concerned about travelling and being able to eat safely, the place with the proven track record is Walt Disney World. Gary Jones is the Culinary Dietary Specialist at Walt Disney World & Resorts in the Florida and California locations. Having been with Disney for nearly 30 years, he has helped get gluten free accommodations at Disney restaurants for people during most of his time there.
“I remember the first couple of requests coming through probably before 1990,” Jones says. Even though the requests only came in every few months or so, they found ways to accommodate usually with whole, minimally processed foods.
Now he says it is so much different, with so many food and ingredient options to make fabulous gluten free food. By 200o, formal training for gluten-free cooking began. Now they have a process in place for preparing a gluten-free meal.
He says when guests make a dining reservation online, you can go to a dropdown menu where you can define your food allergies. They have the top 8 food allergens plus corn. Let them know you are gluten free. Also, when you arrive, remind the staff you have a gluten-free need. The chef or another trained staff member will come out and talk to that person.
Some restaurants also serve gluten-free meals on separate colored trays or with GF labeled toothpicks.
The most popular gluten-free foods at Walt Disney World resorts involve breakfast! “Pancakes, waffles….when you can make the Mickey waffle out of gluten-free flour you’re in pretty good shape,” Jones says. Dedicated waffle makers are used for the gluten-free crowd.
If you are at a food cart and don’t find a gluten-free item there, Jones says another one with other options shouldn’t be far away. And if you go to a buffet-style restaurant, make sure you contact the chef and he or she will bring your gluten-free meal out from the kitchen.
Jones says his favorite gluten-free food at Disney is the pancakes, but he also pointed out the cream puff at the Be Our Guest restaurant in Magic Kingdom is great. “The cream puff there is gluten free. I would eat that cream puff over any other cream puff.”
All of the gluten-free education and processes that have been put into place over the years is so all guests can have a great experience. “People shouldn’t feel different and the bottom line is that it has to be great food to start with,” Jones says, “so whether it’s allergen free or not, it should be great food.”
*Note: I interviewed Mr. Jones for an article published in Gluten-Free Living in 2014. This article is based on that interview.