The Chef is a Coeliac!
That got your attention didn’t it?! The announcement “The chef is a coeliac!” usually does, especially when someone is recommending a great,safe place to eat. It works a little bit like when someone says your name in a crowded room. Somehow, magically, you can hear it and it ‘gets in’. I expect that Coeliacs the world over all have a similar reaction.
Why is that? What is it that gets us all a-flutter? When you break it down, it’s a logical reaction and reasonably straight forward to answer.
It’s because there is someone who ‘gets it’ involved with the preparation of your meal. But it’s more than that. Knowing there is someone who has felt the pain, anxiety and the mistrust of eating out and getting glutened really does make a big difference to your anxiety levels.
It’s almost like being a coeliac chef is the highest qualification a chef can achieve (in the eyes of fellow coeliacs). The pinnacle. Yet I’m sure they are not paid in a way that reflects this and I’m darn sure that making it through their apprenticeship to achieve their trade qualification was way harder than for a regular chef.
They must be made of tough stuff.
What is it that is different?
At the start of the list of differences is the fact that they can’t taste what they cook if it contains gluten. They still have to master the dish, they can just never taste it.
They have to rely on cues from the smell and texture of foods to determine how fresh it might be or how cooked elements of a dish are.
Having other people to taste test is very handy, but a luxury. The best a chef in this situation can hope for is to work in an accomodating kitchen, where there are others able to help with tasting. It is helpful, but not essential.
Adapting to the different way of checking and monitoring the cooking process can be difficult at first, but not impossible.
It comes down to attention to detail. Noticing everything in more depth, really understanding all ingredients contributing to a meal and being fully aware of all ready made components like sauces, spices and other ingredients.
From this sort of adversity many trainee chefs begin to create their own sauces and condiments adding extra flavour and enjoyment to the dishes they prepare along the way.
By creating these ingredients themselves, they are actually taking more control over the final dish and at the same time reducing some of the less healthy additives and preservatives that may otherwise be in the dish. A healthier outcome.
The the creation of a master.
Through natural learning progression, trainee chefs often become extremely well educated about gluten and it’s alternatives. Whilst it is mandatory to learn to understand it and how it contributes to the success of recipies, they have to learn at a deeper level with regard to how it performs, how it binds a dish and how it behaves when it’s ready to serve. They need to do this to be able to prepare a successful dish.
Trainee Coeliac Chefs master the art of taste and satisfaction by extending their skills to a whole other level.
A consequence of this is better taste, a better dining experience and usually, safe food.
The Tough Stuff
It’s not as easy as it sounds. Becoming a coeliac chef really requires grit, attendtion to detail and determinaion. In a demanding trade such as that of a chef, this is something special.
The smells of gluten based food cooking can make you ravenously hungry. Being that hungry while preparing a gluten based dish can be torture.
It requires special skills to race out of the learning environment, wash your hands, unwrap a strategically stored GF snack and eat it without actually touching it with your hands. Oh, and doing it quickly (because you really are pretending to be on a bathroom break).
It requires special skills to wash your gluten covered work clothes at the end of every day all the while being careful not to spread the gluten like some sort of gluten bomb has gone off.
Working in a busy kitchen with flour floating in the air has in itself one of the biggest challenges. Coming up with solutions to minimise or eradicate the possibility of breathing it in can be very hard.
Here’s why it’s good
So if I’ve got this right, a coeliac chef has to be intune with the food and rely on more than just taste to deliver good food to the table.
They have to understand how gluten works in a dish and find equally performing alternatives to provide a similar experience.
They have to understand, no *really* understand, ingredients in a dish and substitute an alternative that is usually made from scratch by them. Doing this and not compromising the time to deliver to table is something else.
Sounds to me like seeking out a coeliac chef should be at the top of our to-do list. They cook better, they are more connected with the food they prepare and they can whip up a taste sensation from scratch. Sounds like an artisan culinary genius to me.
Beware the wait staff
So should your concerns just melt away if you find a restaurant run by a coeliac chef?
Having a coeliac chef is only one element of any dining experience. In reality,it takes care of the questions you should ask about ingredients with a ‘may contain’ statement on them.
It is still important that you ensure you are happy with other factors that can introduce cross contamination. For example, the way the wait staff deliver the food to your table. There is usually at least one other person between the chef and yourself. You would hope, however, that a coeliac chef would take the time to educate any staff serving a coeliac safe dish.
The classic ‘gottcha’ would be wiping a gluten free plate right before serving with a kitchen towel that had been used on other gluten containing foods. I’m pretty sure a coeliac chef would be all over it and stop it before it leaves the kitchen, but it always pays to check that the kitchen staff are also fully educated in the fine art of gluten free dining.
When you find a gem
If you come across a chef that is coeliac, it is important that you let people know. Hell, let everyone know!
It’s important for the chef themselves. Think of it as a thankyou for
the extra mile they had to go to to become a chef. It’s a nod of reconition for a job well done.
It’s a chance for other coeliacs in your area to also experience the work of a chef who has mastered their trade and to feel that little bit safer when dining.
Do you know any coeliac chefs? Have you told everyone about it? Why not post in your favourite Coeliac group all about it today.
Whenever Kiss My Gluten Free finds a coeliac chef or someone on staff that influences the safe provision of a meal we always mention this in the description of the services provided by that food outlet.