- What prompted you to decide The Figgery should become accredited with the Dining Out Programme? We’ve always used gluten-free ingredients in both our products and the recently opened Figgery café but wanted to be able to provide assurance to our customers that they can trust that we really are gluten free. The accreditation of the Dining Out Programme provides this assurance to those for whom this is essential. We’re really proud to be part of this program.
- What changes have you seen in customers requesting gluten-free options? We still enjoy the amazed look on customers' faces when they realise that they can choose absolutely anything at The Figgery and be confident that it is gluten free. We are getting lovely feedback from our customers who have passed this on to their friends and networks.
- What are some of the steps you take to ensure food served is safe for coeliacs? We do not have any gluten-containing ingredients anywhere on our manufacturing site (where we produce our café food and products) or in the café. We ensure that ingredients that we purchase are checked for the manufacturing allergen statement and require that suppliers to us of food, such as bagels, provide a gluten detection analysis.
- What are some of the areas you believe are frequently overlooked by hospitality offering ‘gluten-free’ menu choices? The choice of gluten-free options is often limited, and in some instances merely involves the removal of the gluten-containing item/s from the dish. I’m personally always nervous when a hospitality provider is offering gluten-free choices alongside gluten-containing choices. Even if the ingredients differ, there is always the risk of cross-contamination arising in the meal preparation by staff who are incredibly busy or lack awareness of the harm that cross-contamination causes.
- What advice would you give to other caterers who are thinking about offering gluten-free menu choices? If you are going to offer gluten free choices, you need to ensure that your team understands the importance of ensuring there is no cross-contamination with gluten-containing ingredients or in the preparation of the meal, for example, by using the same equipment (such as the same toaster!), to prepare gluten containing and gluten-free food. It is not sufficient just to provide a dish on the menu labelled as gluten free because the ingredients of that dish don’t contain gluten when the rest of the ingredients and environment do contain gluten.
- Tell us a bit about the ethos of the business and the dishes you serve. We are a small family owned business with an incredible team. Our business is based on our values of integrity and trust. We grow figs and manufacture fig products. We opened the café two years ago to demonstrate the use of figs in everyday food. I have Hashimotos Thyroiditis and as a result have issues with a number of proteins, including gluten. Being able to trust when dining out that food is safe for me to eat is incredibly important and the reason behind our decision for our entire operation to be gluten free. We now have two staff who also have issues with gluten, and we want to ensure that we don’t pose any risk to them in working with ingredients that contain gluten.
Equally important to us is that our customers are unable to detect that the food that we provide is gluten free. Gluten-free food, particularly products such as bread and baked goods, are often not as good in taste or texture as gluten-containing ones. We work hard to ensure that for those for whom it makes a difference the food is completely safe; for those for whom it makes no difference, the food simply tastes great!
All our dishes either incorporate figs or have figs associated with them. We make almost all of our food for the café, and use figs and our products in the dishes or to accompany meals. We provide a range of cabinet and menu food including vegan and vegetarian choices. Some of our customers’ favourites are our Hot Smoked Salmon open sandwich (salmon fillets cured with Fig Molasses and smoked over manuka) and our share platters.