(To clarify: the writer of this particular post was communications consultant Carol Blymire, readers of whose own blog, Alinea At Home, have called her out for her tone in writing about the disease. Blymire is a sufferer of celiac.)
I'd like to start out by saying I'm completely offended by the use of the term "dietary restriction" when referring to gluten intolerance or celiac. This is a non-contagious disease, not a dietary restriction.
Celiac disease is the complete physical inabilty to process gluten in even the smallest amount. If I use a knife to cut a piece of bread and then use the same knife to cut a carrot that I serve to a person with celiac disease, I can make them violently sick.
For the most part, dietary restrictions—no dairy, no flesh, no onions, no garlic, and the like—are choices or inconveniences. If I forget that there is small amount of garlic in the mashed potatoes, my guests probably won't go home sick within 30 minutes of eating, violently ill for three-to-seven days. If I messed up like that, the customer would be unhappy with the restaurant and probably not return—justifiably so.
With that said, I'm also offended that someone with celiac disease could treat my business negatively because I can not accommodate them. If I'm honest with that person, they should be happy with my honesty, not mad.
I charge, on average, $28/person. This doesn't equal the amount of money to have a separate, celiac-safe kitchen to serve those patrons. It's not a matter of not wanting to or being to lazy to; I just can't.
I have complete sympathy for people that have celiac disease, but deserve the same when I'm honest with them about the limitations of my restaurant.
This week's recommedations:
La Gaudalupana, Haddon Township — Very good authentic Mexican for a quick bite
Scotto's, Crispin Square, Marlton — There's lots of Scotto's, and some are very bad, but the one in Crispin Square is excellent.
— For a quiet breakfast for less then $10, you can't beat it. They only have seating for 15 inside and 10 outside, so I hope you're lucky.
Fred Kellermann is the owner and chef de cuisine at Elements Cafe in Haddon Heights. He is also the president of SJ Hot Chefs, and urges you to support your local restaurant with your dining-out dollars.