Accommodating people with food allergies is a fairly common practice today. But a growing number of meeting attendees are learning that they need to follow a gluten-free diet—which demands much greater attention to detail than simply keeping one or two specific ingredients off the menu.
BeckeeMoreland,afood-serviceconsultantwho lives in Lincoln, Neb., has celiac disease, and has followed a gluten-free diet for 18 years. But even the people closest to her didn’t understand the hur- dles that she sometimes has to jump over simply to get something to eat—until one memorable hol- iday weekend in the Colorado Rocky Moun- tains.
After working up an appetite during a day of
hiking and sightseeing, Moreland and a group of family and friends stopped for dinner in a crowd- ed resort town. They’d left Moreland’s stash of gluten-free snacks behind in the car, so by the time they ended up at a Mexican restaurant, Moreland was famished. But their busy waitress wasn’t knowledgeable
about gluten-free dining and wasn’t interested in spending any time deciphering the ingredients in
A Gluten-Free Diner Tells All
As part of the approximately 1 percent of the population who follow a gluten-free diet out of necessity, I managed to fly pretty much under the radar professionally for years. My family and close friends knew how to cook for me, but I fended for myself out in the larger world, ordering selectively at restaurants and, when I was on the road, filling my carry-on bag with frozen loaves of gluten-free bread and gluten-free snack bars. About two years ago—at PCMA’s 2009 annual meeting—I came out of the closet and began
to request gluten-free meals. Since then, my experience attending industry events has been mixed. In the fall of 2009, I traveled throughout Scotland on a fam trip for nine days, eating glori- ously prepared gluten-free meals the whole time. In other destinations and venues, I’ve been served food that was touted as gluten-free but clearly was not. For me, the good news is that, in those two years, it has become more and more common
for “gluten-free” to pop up on meeting and event registration pages, and it’s easier to find gluten- free options identified on menus, and to find kitchen professionals who are well-schooled in preparing gluten-free food. To further help make attendees who must follow a gluten-free diet a lot happier—and a lot less hungry—at your meetings, here are a few highly personal tips: It’s nice to be asked. By including a “gluten-free” option in your registration materials, you
the restaurant’s menu items. After a perfunctory exchange, she broughtMoreland the one thing she thought would be safe for her to eat: a plate of plain shredded lettuce. “I was so hungry,” More- land said, “I was thinking about drinking the ketchup.”
‘This Is Our Medicine’ Trying to put an end to those kinds of experiences —not just for herself, but for the thousands of peo- ple who have been diagnosed with celiac disease and gluten intolerances—“iswhyIdowhat I do,” said Moreland, who manages an educational training programfor food-service professionals and dieticians for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), and with her husband also operates a restaurant offering gluten-free items in Lincoln.
GLUTEN-FREE GURUS: Beckee Moreland, top, is on a mission to help educate the nation’s commercial kitchens on how to cook gluten-free. Below, chefGeorges Perrier, founder of Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia, one ofthe nation’s finest French restau- rants, prepares a gluten-free dish at a National Foundation for CeliacAwareness event in Philadelphia.
BOTTOM PHOTO COURTESY OF PICTURES BY TODD PHOTOGRAPHY