I only have to work five more years until I retire and then I got laid off for a couple of months. I thought “I used to be a pretty good breakfast cook in my 20’s, I’ll go do that again for a while.” This was a bad idea…my multitasking is not what it used to be.
Getting glutenized at a restaurant definitely gets my attention in a negative way, but doesn’t send me to the hospital. So I was excited to see how a restaurant that professes to have a lot of gluten free items handles things nowadays and it was not pretty.
While corporate Denny’s has the intention of producing gluten-free items the reality is the field is no. For example they have separate fryers set up for different classes of food. (Good restaurants do this. Fry a fish in the same fryer as your fries and your fries all taste like fish.) However in this kitchen only two of the four fryers were working, so the cooks (none of whom could read the labels which were written in English b.t.w.) put everything in the most convenient fryer, breaded items, french fries, all in the same pot to spread the gluten and other flavors all around.
There was also no effort made to identify and separate foods being cooked on the open top grill, so oil or bits of other orders from previously cooked items could contaminate the next.
Being a fast paced (read, understaffed) kitchen there was lot of food being slopped about, splashing into the next open bin of what used to be a gluten-free ingredient. (OMG if you are allergic to eggs just stay away.) This is going to be an issue at any busy restaurant; when it gets busy you don’t have time to be neat.
And then the attitude of most of the cooks themselves who are not GF is, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” And frankly, since there are so many people who order GF just to be trendy, that’s often true. The chef may know and care but in a chainstraunt he’s in a corporate office 1500 miles away. The guy on the line either doesn’t know or doesn’t care, has the work of three people to do so he doesn’t have time to care, or doesn’t get paid enough to care.
To their credit Denny’s produces much of their food at a company commissary offsite and then freezes it in single portion bags. If those type of items are billed as GF they might stay that way to the table unless we are too busy to care. (Understaffing forces productivity up and raises profits.)
If you really like Denny’s, go when they are not busy so they can take the time to prepare your order properly. Don’t get anything that involves a deep fryer. This cook may be your best friend, but that oil may have been contaminated last night during the 2AM bar rush when no one has time to care, and it will stay contaminated until that oil is changed out altogether. They don’t have any way to know so don’t make your body into a test indicator for their gluten contamination.
Most cooks will fix things right for you when they have the time and really understand what you need.