Have you become a better cook as a result of having food allergies?

If you are anything like me, having severe food allergies and sensitivities has made me healthier. Living with allergies has made me much more aware of what I eat. I must say, most of the credit can go to my soy allergy as it seems like there are preservatives in almost everything these days! The soy allergy has kept me far away from any processed foods and cold-cuts at the deli as well as the marinated meats and most sauces you would find at the local grocery store. As a result, I have  spent a fair bit of time looking up recipes, getting ideas from others and trying new ingredients that I had never heard of before, and hadn’t the slightest clue how to pronounce!

I absolutely LOVE to be in the kitchen and try new recipes and spice blends. The aroma in the kitchen when cooking curry, or when a tasty soup is on low and simmering is AMAZING! Preparing the vegetables is usually a little time consuming, however it is always worthwhile. There is nothing like a home cooked meal! And all of ours are just that. If you don’t cook much and the idea of cooking more from scratch seems like one that is not going to happen, I highly recommend sitting down, brainstorming a list of the meals you enjoy most and the “comfort food” meals. Then, have a look online, as there are so many variations and some a lot easier than others! Finding recipes from someone who lives with allergies, or even a gluten-free diet is an added bonus, as they will likely have suggestions for substitutions and such ( ie: milk, eggs ).

A few sites I really like for recipes are;

My Gluten-Free Goddess

All Recipes

Living Without

Allergic Living

I learned how to cook fairly young and am very thankful to my parents and grandparents for that. If there’s one thing I would recommend, it would be to teach your kids how to cook. 🙂

If you are eating out with food allergies, one of my best tips is to keep it simple! Remember, the more different ingredients in the meal you order, the more risk. This is just something I have learned through experience. I’ve would also rather eat out with friends and socialize over a simple dish so I am not fearing a reaction. In my mind, there’s no point in risking it. However some restaurants, you might feel confident that they have you covered and truly “get it” and in these situations you might be more confident trying something different. I have asked for fancier dishes in a few restaurants where I had a really good talk with the manager and chef and felt confident that they were being as careful as they could possibly be in the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination. More on this train of thought to come in another post!

And, if you are interested here is an article about just this topic; “How Food Allergies Have Made Me a Better Cook”

Zero8 Restaurant in Montreal – A real treat!

Tonight my brother, his girlfriend and I all headed to Zero8, a restaurant in Montreal known for there menu which is free of the top 8 major food allergies. I had been wanting to go to this restaurant ever since it opened and was extremely excited to go tonight! There menu is free from:

1. Fish and seafood
2. Peanuts
3. Nuts
4. Sesame seeds
5. Milk
6. Soya
7. Eggs
8. Wheat or any grain containing gluten (barley, oat, rye and triticale)
9. Sulfites (food supplement)

And further details can be found by going to: http://zero8.com/english/savoirplus.html#allergie_alimentaire

We were greeted by friendly staff, all with a welcoming smile and more attention than ever before to my food allergies!

The first thing our waiter asked after giving out the menus was ” do any of you have allergies?” . That and the delicious food, at a very reasonable price, made dinner one of my top 5 experiences eating out yet! I applaud Zero8 for their dedication. There restaurant is also entirely gluten free for those of you who do not tolerate wheat and/or gluten. 🙂 Now does it get any better than that?

My hope for the future is that we see more of these across the country! I would give them a 5 star out of 5 for the entire experience; friendly and understanding staff, great food, reasonable price and safe!

Thank you Zero8. My dinner out was everything and more than what I expected. Next time we are in Montreal we will DEFINITELY return for another meal.

If you live in the area, or will be visiting Montreal, I highly recommend this restaurant. Definitely a great place to take the kids.


Upon arriving at the Restaurant

When I first arrive at the restaurant, I always ask to speak with the manager and chef. If there is a host/hostess, and we are waiting to be seated, I always ask to see a menu, and will often ask them if they have any recommendations for me. Personally, I like to speak with more than 1 person at the restaurant. I find it makes me feel more comfortable to know that several staff are aware and looking into it.

Some restaurants I will even ask to speak with the chef in person. If there are many allergens on the menu I like to know that the chef and I are on the “same page” I always go by the saying “you can never be too careful”.

If there is any uneasyness with the kitchen staff or manager about the food situation, follow your gut. There is no harm in getting up and going to another restaurant. The LAST thing you want, is to be worrying throughout your entire meal! Not worth it.

Tomorrow I will mention some tips about talking with the staff. What to say, how to say it etc. And please keep in mind, this is what I do, and not the rule. Everyone has their routine, I am simply sharing mine 🙂


Before Arriving at the Restaurant

I am certain that everyone questions how eating out is possible with allergies (whether you have allergies or simply know someone with allergies). Not everyone with allergies eats out. There are many that do not feel safe and I support their decision 100%. I eat out on occasion, mostly when traveling if I don’t have my own kitchen etc. 

Below are some steps I take before eating in circumstances when I know where we will be going. Each time I eat out, I take strict action, even if I am eating out at the same restaurant, and again, this is purely my routine. Not everyone  feels it is required when eating at the same restaurant, and I say it is entirely at your discretion.

If I know which Restaurant we will be going to:

  • Call the restaurant a day or so beforehand to inquire what they have on the menu. I ask what they have as nuts in the kitchen, if they have a gluten free menu, if they are peanut free etc.
  • When I call, I ask to speak with a manager. I explain my allergies, provide suggestions of meals I CAN eat and ask to either speak with the chef directly or ask that the manager call me back after he has spoken with the kitchen.
  • I ask if it would be possible for me to meet with the manager when I arrive for lunch, dinner.

** I ALWAYS act and speak with confidence to show that “this is serious stuff”

Next post will be  “The steps I take when I arrive at the restaurant”