Look at that delicious dessert. Just look at it!!!
So. I have celiac disease. Which means that dining out gluten-free can be…tricky. I can’t order Chinese from just any place, because I have no idea about cross-contamination in the kitchens. So one night, the Wench-in-Law had taken all three WenchKids overnight, and I was craving some amazing Chinese.
Back in 2008, I’d begun training to be a server at P.F. Chang’s in Marlton, NJ, and I remembered that they were really awesome about food allergies, down to having a separate set of utensils for the gluten-free food, burning off the woks every night so there would be no cross-contamination, and having a separate fryer for the gluten-free food. KinderGirl was still an infant of less than two months old at the time, and it ended up being a little too much for me, so I did not finish training. But I remembered how amazing the food was and how careful they were with allergies.
So the Mister and I went to the P.F. Chang’s that I’d started training at oh so long ago. We went on August 2nd, 2013. Our server was Dave, and he was the best server we’d had in a long time at any restaurant, hands down. He’d brought out the Trio (the different sauces that the servers then make their own amazing little mixtures from), and I asked him about the gluten-free menu. Mister informed him that I have celiac disease, and he drew back the Trio, and said he’d be right back with the gluten-free Trio. He also told me not to drink the soy sauce on the table, which made me laugh and set me at ease.
See, since my diagnosis, I’m so nervous about telling a server that I need a gluten-free menu, because for many people, gluten-free is a choice and not a requirement. But for a lot of people, me among them, it’s not a choice, it’s a requirement. When I was a server, if someone told me they had a food allergy, I was always very careful with their food. I knew there was a difference between lactose intolerance and a milk allergy, I knew that if someone said they had a seafood allergy, and then ordered Caesar Salad, I’d better check to make sure that the Caesar dressing didn’t have anchovy paste. And while I knew that food allergies are no laughing matter, I knew of fellow servers who didn’t take it as seriously as I did, and as a newly diagnosed celiac, the thought of any server walking into the back and saying “This chick’s on that new gluten-free fad diet…hahahaha” filled me with dread and paranoid fears of renegade croutons and bread crumbs.
Dave completely set me at ease. He brought our drinks along with our appetizer (Chicken Lettuce Wraps, gluten-free), showed me the plate (see the line around my plate in the above picture? That means that the food on it is gluten-free), and told me that if I were to ever come in and my food came out on a plate without that circle, to send it back and not eat it. We ordered our food, and a manager came over to talk with us. I can’t remember his name, but he was just as nice as Dave, and between the two of them, I enjoyed a delicious meal of Singapore Street Noodles without worrying about my food. They both really made the effort to make me feel comfortable, and they definitely earned my trust. It was so good to just dig into a dish and not be worried about cross-contamination. I did forget that the Singapore Street Noodles came with shrimp (had a bad experience when I was 7 and haven’t eaten them since) and so forgot to order it without them, but the shrimp lent a nice flavor to the dish, and the Mister happily ate the shrimp on my plate. Afterwards, the Mister got a salted caramel cake, and I got that delicious Chocolate Dome (flourless!) that you see above.
I really can’t speak highly enough about Dave and the manager on duty that night. I know in time I will feel more at ease dining out, but they both really took the time and made the extra effort to ease my worries and make me feel comfortable eating there. They are both an asset to P.F. Chang’s and to the food service industry as a whole.
Thank you, Dave, and manager whose name I am so sorry I can’t remember. Thank you so much for all your help, effort, and consideration.