“Next Iron Chef” Finalist Battles Gluten-Free Myths at National Restaurant Association Show
Gluten-free options are among the hot ticket items gracing restaurant menus, but they’re not always safe for those who need that food the most – customers with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders.
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) will address the importance of offering gluten-free options in restaurants and tackle the “Top 8 Myths about Gluten-Free Menus” during an informational session at the 2013 National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show on May 21. Joining the presentation will be Chef Jehangir Mehta, a two-time contestant on Food Network’s “The Next Iron Chef” and one of NFCA’s chef ambassadors. Chef Mehta is the chef/owner of three restaurants: Graffiti Food & Wine Bar, Mehtaphor and Graffiti Me – all based in New York City.
“In the rush to introduce gluten-free options, many restaurants have neglected the due diligence and staff training that are so essential in protecting the health of consumers with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Our community is getting sick, and it all could be avoided with a few changes in protocols,” says Beckee Moreland, director of gluten-free industry initiatives at NFCA, who will lead the presentation with Chef Mehta.
NFCA has been helping restaurants, caterers and college dining halls meet the needs of gluten-free customers through the organization’s GREAT Kitchens program. GREAT Kitchens consists of a gluten-free training course that teaches skills and strategies like how to check ingredient labels for gluten, how to avoid cross-contact with gluten-containing foods and how to respond if a mistake is made.
“Everyone, including those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, deserves to enjoy a fine dining experience. As a chef, I want to please every single person who visits my establishments, no matter what food restrictions they may have. With the right gluten-free alternatives and staff training, it’s very possible to do that,” Chef Mehta says.
Gluten-free requests accounted for 200 million restaurant visits in 2012, according to The NPD Group, and NFCA expects the numbers to climb. “An important thing to remember is that gluten-free customers are the ones who decide where to dine out,” Moreland continues. “There may only be one person with celiac disease in a group of 10, but that one person is usually making the reservation.”
The “Top 8 Myths about Gluten-Free Menus” will take place on Tuesday, May 21 at 10 a.m. (CDT) at McCormick Place in Chicago. NRA Show attendees can also visit NFCA at Booth #9336. Join the conversation about gluten-free training by following @CeliacAwareness or tweeting #GoGREAT on Twitter.
About the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness