Tag Archives: CommuniCater

Intolerance Tolerance

Gluten-Free ∙ Lactose Intolerant ∙ Allergic to Eggs ∙ Milk Sensitivity ∙ Shellfish Restriction ∙ Severe Peanut Allergy!

Have you noticed an increase in requests for special diet meals? If so, you’re not alone. Food allergies and intolerances are a growing health concern – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted an 18% increase in the United States between 1997 and 2007. Food allergy awareness and advocacy are also growing, leading to increased demand for allergy-friendly meals when dining outside the home. In the special events industry, where just a few years ago menu exceptions tended towards religious or lifestyle needs such as vegetarian or Kosher plates, caterers are seeing increased requests to accommodate allergy-related dietary needs – often multiple exceptions at a single event.

So how do caterers meet the challenge of providing several special plates without incurring unreasonable costs, interfering with streamlined operations, or risking slighting food allergy-sufferers with unimaginative “plain” food? A food consultant and ICA members share some tips below:

Event planner and food and beverage consultant Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC of Thrive! Meetings and Events provides education on dietary practices within the realm of special events. She recommends asking specific questions to determine the exact nature of the allergy – directly to the planner or even the guest. Maybe two or three guests with special dietary needs can receive the same meal. Think about ingredient substitutes, she continues, such as cashew “cheese” sauce or various gluten-free flours for baking to provide a dish equal in quality to the contracted menu. Consider being proactive when preparing seasonal menus, says Stuckrath. Creating two or three versions of recipes will save time when you receive requests shortly before the event.

Heidi Vail of Tempe, AZ-based Heidi’s Events encourages clients who themselves have dietary restrictions to plan a menu for all based on their own requirements. Where multiple guests need a special meal, when appropriate Vail suggests increasing variety to allow guests to make their own choices.

It’s not just about menu selection, says Stuckrath. To avoid cross contact with allergens, it’s important to consider exactly how the food will be prepared and brought to the guest. Based on specific requirements and available resources, this may involve cooking the allergic person’s food first, using separate utensils and surfaces or even dedicating a sous chef to prepare the special plates and nothing else.

Puff ‘n Stuff in Florida has an operational plan to minimize risk of cross contact. Regardless of the reported severity of allergies, prepared special meals are transported separately, clearly labeled, then finished on-site first or separately from the main dishes. The person receiving the special plate is indicated on the seating chart and staff apprised before service.

From a risk management perspective, you may consider devising a written plan for dietary restrictions outlining how special requests will be handled. Welcoming Guests With Food Allergies is a guide for restaurants, much of which also applies to on-site and off-site caterers. Created by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, an allergy advocate group, the complete guide is available at www.foodallergy.org .

As the incidence of food allergies continues to grow, caterers are discovering that education and acceptance are key to the management of special requests. Some embrace the challenge as an opportunity for creativity and exploring new ingredients. Others market their ability to work with dietary restrictions to attract this growing customer base, surprising and delighting clients with complete menus for common dietary conditions.

Despite fervent work in the research community, it is clear that food-related allergies are not going away any time soon. Responding appropriately is not only legally necessary but also demonstrates your commitment to customer service and desire to excel.

It is important to remember that allergies and intolerances are disorders, not food preferences. There is no cure or medicine; strict avoidance of the allergen is the only way to prevent a reaction. For some, the sensitivity is so great that even trace amounts of an allergen can cause a reaction from mild discomfort to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Not a responsibility that caterers eagerly bear, but a reality to those afflicted. Food allergies are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and guests with food allergies should be able to enjoy the same quality of food as other guests.

Photographer credits: Grains – Kathleen Brennan;  Flourless Hazelnut Pear Torte – Annabelle Breakey

Thrive! Meetings & Events: www.thrivemeetings.com

Heidi’s Events: www.heidisevents.com

Puff ‘n Stuff: www.puffnstuff.com

 

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The COOLEST ideas from the CommuniCater!

It’s in your email inbox NOW!  The September/October volume of the  ICA CommuniCater

This edition of the  CommuniCater is filled with

  •  a “cool” cover story created by Chef Elgin Woodman of A Joy Wallace Production
  • comprehensive coverage from the 2011 CaterArts Conference
  •  a fabulous profile of Chef/Owner Debby Stein of Cartewheels Catering
  • a thorough look at the pros and cons of trendy camera apps by Cade Nagy
  • sales and marketing strategies

and SO much more.  Lots of delicious recipes too– and we saved Debbie Stein’s beautiful and savory Venetian Seafood Salad recipe for our ICA blog readers!

Venetian Seafood Salad

Seafood Poaching Liquid:

1 Celery Stalk

1 Medium Onion, halved

1 Medium Carrot

1 Bay Leaf

3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice (about one Lemon)

1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

2 quarts Water

Seafood:

1 lb C cleaned Calamari cut into rings and tentacles

½ lb Sea or Bay Scallops, foot removed

1 lb medium to large Shrimp

1 lb Octopus

To poach the seafood you will need a large saucepan fitted with a colander insert. In the bottom of the pan combine the poaching liquid ingredients and bring to a boil.

Place Calamari in the colander and cook in the simmering water for 2 minutes. Remove from the water and set aside. Place Scallops in the colander and cook until opaque, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and place in the bowl with the Calamari. Large Scallops may be cut in half after cooking, bay Scallops may be left whole. Place Shrimp in the colander and cook until pink, about 3 minutes. Remove from water, peel, devein and cut in half horizontally, adding to the other cooked seafood.

Remove the colander from the pan and place the Octopus directly in the saucepan, adding more water if necessary to completely cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer until tender, about 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer Octopus to a bowl and rinse under cold running water until completely cooled, about 5 minutes. Use your fingers and a small paring knife to remove the outer skin. Discard the hard mouth and head sac. Cut tentacles and octopus on the bias into 1 inch pieces and add to the cooked seafood.

Salad:

1 cup julienned tender Celery

1 cup julienned Carrots

½ cup julienned Red Bell Pepper

½ cup julienned Yellow Bell Pepper

1 Scallion julienned white part only

2 Tabelspoons Chopped Fresh Parsley

2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Basil

2 large Garlic Cloves minced

6 Tablespoons Freshly squeezed Lemon or Lime Juice

1 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar

½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ teaspoon Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Combine all with the cooked Seafood. Can be served on a bed of Field Greens. We also serve it in a Martini Glass.

 Variations: Steamed Mussels may be added. To extend the recipe and add a new texture dimension, ½ cup cubed, peeled, cookedIdahopotatoes and/or ½ cup cooked or canned cannelini beans (drained and rinsed).  Although it isn’t traditional, a hint of chopped cilantro (about 2 teaspoons) can also be added.

 

The CommuniCater is an informative resource and *MEMBERS-ONLY* benefit of your ICA membership.   Read yours today!

Success and Regards,
Jody Wimer, JPC Event Group
ICA Marketing and Communications Chairperson

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