Today, more eateries have gluten free options available on their menu however not all establishments have the correct kitchen and food handling procedures in place to cater for people who need to adhere to a coeliac safe diet. For someone with coeliac disease (CD) accidental cross contamination from a few breadcrumbs or using the same fryer can have serious repercussions, which can range from moderate to severe. This may include symptoms such as cramping, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, acute weakness, lethargy, and dehydration. However, it is the long-term impact of non-adherence to a gluten free diet which is of greatest concern for people with CD. Ongoing intestinal damage increases the likelihood of conditions such as infertility and osteoporosis and can potentially lead to small bowel cancer.
That is why Coeliac NZ developed the Dining out Programme (DOP) a training and accreditation process that enables diners to quickly identify venues which follow strict procedures in food handling and where staff are knowledgeable about ingredients to ensure a coeliac safe gluten free dining experience. The latest restaurant to become DOP accredited is Auckland’s popular gastro pub, The Attic Bar and Restaurant in Mission Bay.
For the new owners Jared and wife Sara it was their passion for delivering customer service and satisfaction that made hospitality a natural fit. Both enjoyed getting to know their customers needs intimately, which for them was more than just recognising their name. Jared says, “It gives me an enormous sense of self-satisfaction seeing customers who might previously been tentative about eating away from home return time and time again, because it’s then that I realise we’re doing things right.” The previous owner Matt and Natalie Burton had three family members with coeliac disease, and so do a few of Jared and Sara’s friends and their children. One thing that they heard from talking with their coeliac customers was the struggle faced to find a place the whole family could eat out. As huge foodies themselves they found it heart breaking to hear that people with coeliac disease have such limited choices, and that their dietary needs are not taken seriously.
With that in mind it was an easy decision for Jared and Sara to continue the Attics reputation in the coeliac community that the previous owners had created, and to demonstrate that dedication by going a step further and get Dining out Programme accredited. They recognised that their customers, particularly those with coeliac children wanted to feel like “everyone else” and not be ostracised for having specific dietary requirements. They just wanted to feel inclusive, to not feel like a burden to our chefs, but needing the reassurance that The Attic would take their health condition seriously.
If you are going to offer gluten free dishes, you must stand by the words ‘gluten free’ and understand what it means for people with coeliac disease. So many places, say dishes are gluten free but do not, for example, use separate fryers. At the Attic all gluten prep’ is done first in their dedicated gluten prepping area with the striped chefs’ aprons. The bench is then washed thoroughly and sanitised to remove any chance of accidental cross contamination during service, new aprons are worn, and then gluten free prep is done afterwards. Gluten free buns are toasted on separate trays and all fried gluten free items are cooked in a separate fryer. They also check that gluten containing meals are prepared on a separate bench and that these meals are sent separately from gluten containing meals to ensure no cross contamination while in transit to the table.
Jared and Sara believe it is about ensuring that our staff are knowledgeable about the disease and can comfortably respond to the customers enquiries and are able to explain our gluten free food handling processes in a meaningful way. Having the Dining Out Programme certification gives our customers the additional assurance that they can relax and dine in comfort, knowing that they are in safe hands!