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#foodbeast Hit-Or-Miss Opinion

Should Chefs Decline Requests to Make Modifications to Their Food?

I’m a firm believer that food is art, and chefs are artists. The chef is the one with the vision and they bring it to life, so they have the right to control how their food is served – without modifications if they so choose – regardless of dietary preference or restrictions.

After all, if you were paying a painter to commission a piece of art for your home and you were colorblind, you wouldn’t ask them to omit red and green from their creation… or would you?

There of course can be a conflict between maintaining the integrity of a dish when trying to please a customer. But do all alterations, no matter the size or degree of effort, affect a dish in a drastic way?

I ran into this very issue on a recent trip to Animal, a pretty popular restaurant here in LA. I told the server I couldn’t eat gluten or dairy, which evoked a panicked look I have become pretty accustomed to by now.

I’ve worked at a restaurant. I totally get it. I know how difficult it is to make modifications during a busy dinner service. I also understand how a chef’s signature dish might be slightly different if they prepare it in a way that adheres to my restrictions. But, I didn’t choose to be cursed with a weak digestive system. If I could smite the God that made it this way, I would.

Trust me when I say we gluten-free folk don’t get our jollies from being difficult. We just want to go to the hotspots in town and still feel like a normal human rather than a pariah who probably would have been eliminated from society if natural selection was still a thing.

After 10-15 minutes of waiting, the manager came to my table after meeting with the chef to give me a copy of their menu with notes on what dishes I could eat. Every single item was crossed off except one, because everything contained either gluten or dairy, and they had a strict no modification policy.

Either that, or the $120 bone-in ribeye with half the ingredients (listed as MP) which mysteriously was the only dish they were okay with “modifying” by omission, and also the most expensive on the menu.

It should be mentioned that I would have been able to eat one of the dishes if they just didn’t put the fried shallots on top as a garnish.

Sure, there are people who choose a particular lifestyle like gluten-free because they think it’ll make them lose weight, yet all they eat are substitution products like crackers and cookies made from rice flour, which has a higher carb content than wheat thereby negating that whole weight loss plan. People like that ruin dining for those that actually have severe intolerances or allergies.

It’s these people that are instilling doubt in servers and chefs and tainting the restaurant experience for those who have been gluten-free since before it was popular because they have to be. I’d go into detail about what happens to me when I eat gluten, but I don’t want you to barf up your lunch.

But regardless of why someone doesn’t eat something, I would think the point of opening a restaurant is so people from all dietary walks of life can enjoy your food. Of course, I’m not saying every item on the menu should be up for grabs.

It would be a straight-up crime to make a dairy-free fettuccine alfredo or a gluten-free Beef Wellington because the items in question are debatably the most important ingredients of the dish. But in the grand scheme of things, it really would not kill you to cook that chicken piccata in olive oil rather than butter, and I’ve eaten many a steak tartare without bread and enjoyed it just the same.

Part of this is the customer’s responsibility, however. I rarely go to Italian restaurants because most of the things worth eating have gluten or dairy. There’s no way in hell I’d go to Babbo and ask Mario Batali if he can make his pappardelle bolognese gluten-free, because even if his restaurant did serve gluten-free pasta, it would most likely be outsourced instead of made in-house to avoid cross contamination. So in the end it wouldn’t even be a good representation of their food anyways.

All I’m asking for is some common sense:

From the customer – It is not a badge of honor to be a difficult patron. Being high maintenance doesn’t mean you are important or distinguished. Make your server and the chef’s life as easy as possible. If you’ve never worked in the food industry before, chances are you have absolutely no idea how many steps go into making your meal. If you’re pretty sure a dish is like 50% made of stuff you can’t eat, don’t order it.

From the chef – I really do think some rationality should be taken into account in your quest to find the best way to preserve your art and get your message across. If it’s as simple as just leaving one ingredient off the plate, I feel like that is not a ludicrous request. If like 4 of the 6 ingredients are off-limits, obviously tell the customer that dish isn’t going to work out.

The dining experience should be about showcasing your skills and creating a menu that has something accessible to all excited patrons rather than just those who are blessed enough to have a stomach of steel or those willing to endure a night of pure agony.

Because after all, art is meant to be shared… and in the culinary world, tasted.

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Hit-Or-Miss Opinion Tastemade/Snapchat

Hack Your Lactose Intolerant Body With These Tips To Enjoy Dairy

Maybe your struggle with lactose intolerance defined most of your eating habits for years or perhaps you finally realized your lattes don’t have your stomach’s best interests at heart (the delicious bastards). Whatever the case, as a long-time sufferer of unusual intestinal reactions, I know your pain.

Luckily for you, I’ve dealt with all the embarrassing gurgles and side-clutching spasms in order to save you from yourself. My five years of trial and error need not go in vain.

 

Are you even lactose-intolerant?

lactose intolerant

Before you heed any of my sage advice, you should check with your doctor to see if you actually have a milk allergy. I may be intolerant to guys who wear trilby hats, but I’ve never gone into an anaphylactic shock from them brushing against me.

 

Don’t cut out dairy

dairy-products

Going cold turkey will just make your inevitable moment of weakness incredibly uncomfortable. I went a month without any dairy only to be struck down by a creme brûlée cheesecake. Decadence never hurt so good.

Start out by having small doses of dairy on a daily basis and increase the amounts as you start to notice fading symptoms.  Progress will be long and slow, but now, as soon as I enter certain restaurants, servers start slicing up cheesecake.

 

Grab some chocolate milk

chocolate-milk

Flavored and whole milk contain more fat which softens the Ronda Rousey-force lactose blow to your stomach. Chocolate milk, in addition to being a time machine to your childhood, can also prevent your other muscles from cramping up after a workout.

You’d think the low-fat or low percentage milk would treat you right, but you’re just getting the same dose of lactose with half the flavor.

 

Change your cheese habits

cheese-assorted

Pick up some Brie (unicorn milk aged and curdled by a fairy godmother) and other aged cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan. Truth be told, most cheese contains very little lactose, but if this is a sensitive area in your diet, buy sharp/extra sharp Cheddar instead of mild because they age for much longer. The fresher the cheese, the more likely you’ll turn into a hot air balloon.

 

Quit the cow bias

sheep

Sheep and goat’s milk/cheese have comparable lactose levels to cow’s milk, but many people find them much easier to digest. Try them on their own before you add any to sauces or other recipes; they’re much creamier bases.

 

You can gain tolerance

dairy-products-milk-shake

Not of trilby hats, that’s unforgivable. Nowadays, I can have a gigantic milkshake and as much pizza as I want on a first date without feeling like the Alien is about tear through my abdomen. If you get your body to grow accustomed to lactose, every day doesn’t have to be soy/almond/tofu alternatives (not that there’s anything wrong with those).

Consuming entire bricks/wheels of night cheese a la Liz Lemon is still a forever alone activity, but honestly, it’s worth it.

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Hit-Or-Miss

Map of Milk Consumption & Lactose Intolerance Around the World


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Living in a country that not only fosters, but encourages mass consumption of ridiculously decadent food fare, I find it a little surprising that the United States is NOT the number one consumer of dairy products. I mean we live in a land that throws chocolate in and around basically any food imaginable along with copious amounts of bacon and we’re neither the lead consumer of milk nor pork per capita, believe it or not. I might even be a little disappointed at those facts if I weren’t suffering from three simultaneous heart attacks right now.

I’m kidding of course about the heart attacks. But seriously, it seems that most Americans just don’t have the same love and affection (and possibly lactose tolerance) as certain parts of Europe with countries like Sweden consuming between two and three hundred Kgs (that’s 440-660 lbs for us ‘Mericans) of milk per capita per year. Meanwhile, China’s consumption of milk is among the lowest with 37 Kgs (81 lbs) per capita per year. This next image illustrating the percentage of each country’s population allergic to lactose–a sugar found in milk and dairy products–might shed some light on these statistics.


[click through for hi-res]

It turns out that over 90% of China’s population is allergic to lactose, which might explain it’s low consumption. I’d probably be less inclined to eat something that gave me indigestion, but I am still a sucker for rest-stop sushi. C’est la vie.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s population of lactose intolerant individuals is right around 4%. Back over in the US, lactose intolerance varies by race with about 74% of African Americans, 87% of Indians and 14% of Caucasians with some kind of lactose allergy.

via Visual News