I swear…I feel like the “gluten police” all of the sudden.
But if companies would just do gluten-free right, they wouldn’t need to be policed.
And believe me…I get no sadistic pleasure out of taking these companies to task (I get my sadistic pleasures elsewhere ;))
I’d much rather sing the praises of large companies who do it right…if I could just find one.
Which brings me to the latest carnage in the gluten-free world: Chevys Fresh Mex restaurant.
A few days ago, Chevys’ PR company sent me a press release that included the following:
Chevys Fresh Mex launches an all-new gluten-free menu of its mouthwatering, made-from-scratch Mexican cuisine. Suitable for those on a gluten-free diet, the menu features salads, corn tortilla-based entrees and more. As part of Chevys Fresh Mex pledge, the brand promises all products are made daily from scratch, with freshness as a theme in all dishes. The restaurant chain created its gluten-free guidelines and menus with guidance from Healthy Dining, and instituted a company-wide training to inform team members of proper food handling and accommodations for gluten-free guests. Where possible, Chevys can also modify additional menu items to accommodate guests’ specific dietary needs. Preparation facilities vary by location and all guests with gluten-related disorders should inform their server beforehand to ensure that preparation and ingredients align with dietary requirements.
At first glance, I thought this would be a pretty cool option. Gluten-free tacos and margaritas? Bring it on!
But then I saw that last sentence (bolded for your viewing pleasure) and it gave me pause.
So I sent the following email back to them:
Can you share with me how Chevys prepares the the Gluten Free food? Do they use separate utensils and cookware? Do they have a separate location in the kitchen for their gluten free food? Does each staff member have a full understanding of celiac disease and the danger gluten poses? The more info you send me, the better. And I’d be happy to share the info on my blog.
I received a response yesterday…and I think you can see where this is going:
Chevys’ gluten-free menu features entrees that naturally do not contain gluten, or have been modified to omit the ingredients flour, soy and beer. The restaurant cannot guarantee dedicated gluten-free cooking surfaces, spaces, utensils and cookware at every location. Chevys has taken several steps to safeguard against cross-contamination, including excluding all fried items from their Gluten-free menus, and executing detailed training of all team members earlier this month. This company-wide training educated all staff members about how to identify which ingredients contain gluten, how to prevent cross-contamination and the dangers that gluten poses to those with Celiac Disease and other gluten-related disorders. All guests with dietary restrictions should inform their server before ordering to ensure their needs are met.
Where do I even start??
How about we start with the ingredients they are omitting to make the items gluten-free: flour, soy and beer.
First of all, soy does not contain gluten. Soy sauce does. Perhaps that is what they meant. Secondly, do they include beer in a lot of their food? This would seem to be a strange item to highlight. Thirdly, there are 1000 other ingredients that could contain gluten. Shouldn’t they have said that they are omitting wheat, barley, rye, etc?
Seriously…this really confuses me.
Then they say that some locations do not use separate cooking utensils, cooking surfaces, etc. Which really means that none of the locations do.
And they also seem to think that we can avoid cross-contamination by not eating fried food??? [shaking my head]
And lastly, they sent along their gluten-free menu. And on the bottom of the menu, it has this gem: Many of our meats and foods are cooked on the same mesquite-grill, which is not dedicated for gluten-free. Our management and service team members are not trained on the intricacies of Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance and cannot be expected to provide recommendations or other advice on this issue.
This is actually as bad, if not worse, than Domino’s.
So to you Chevys, you get a total swing and a miss and I can only assume you are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon without a care in the world for the people who really NEED to be gluten-free.
Considering this is Celiac Awareness Month, it has been the most bizarre month in the celiac community.
I’m so proud of all of the advocates who have raised their voices and raised awareness, but the large companies who could really help raise awareness just don’t seem to get it.
Fyi…I’ll forward this blog post to Chevys’ PR company and ask them to comment below. Perhaps we can show them the light.