Cooking with Your Guests in Mind | Food Allergies & Preferences

With more information available to us now, more and more we have learned about our food allergies and intolerances. Hence we make choices in what we eat and what we don’t.

I always ask my dinner guests this crucial question:  “Do YOU have any food allergies or preferences?”   Except the one time I did not!

A while ago, I had a sit down dinner with 12 distinguished guests and 11 gourmet course meal. Everything was done to perfection from my tablescaping, creating a garden as the centerpiece, to each place setting with art charges made by artist Simon Ouwerkerk. My black handmade Murano glass oversize dinner plates, which where a hit, particularly with one couple who collect glass art. And the lighting and music just brought everything together.

I slaved over the menu for days and developed every dish to be an experience, starting with the first Savory Bite to be Caviar and Champagne.

The first 3 savory bites are typically tray passed so I did not keep track of who ate what or did not. Then we sat down at the dinner table for the rest of the 8 courses.

Customary to dinners of this caliber, I printed out the menu for my guests so they know what they are going to experience.

My guests looked at the menu and some raved about the courses. Nobody said anything about food allergies or preferences.

As the first starter course was placed in front of the guests, one said “I am allergic to seafood” and one said: “ I don’t eat seafood” . I immediately had my staff remove those two dishes and went to the kitchen to consult with my sous chef as to what we can give them. I happened to have some ceviche. I asked them if they would eat ceviche and they said yes! The ceviche was a hit and one had two helpings.

Meanwhile, I did not go check everyone’s plate and see if everyone else ate their seafood starter.

The soup and salad went without drama.

The next dish was the fish entrée, Tarragon Roasted Chilean Sea Bass, Hazelnut Brown Butter Cream Sauce Basmati Rice Grilled Multi-Color Peppers Asparagus

By now I am all concerned about my guests eating what I am serving. Took a look around and one of my guests is not touching his dish. I asked, “Is everything ok? Do you like Sea Bass?” Which he answered, “I am allergic to fish.” He insisted not to worry. Of course I can’t have my guest sit at the table and watch everyone else eat. Another guest announces that his doctor has suggested he stays away from dairy. Well I had my staff immediately remove those plates and rushed to the kitchen asking my sous chef if we have any fish without the sauce. TG we did. Well, one down! Then luckily I had several of pieces of fillet in the refrigerator and my sous chef was able to have a dish with steak.

By now I was exhausted from running around and making miracles and wanted the evening to be over. While guests were busy eating their first entrée I said, “My next dish is going to be Rack of Lamb with Pomegranate Sauce.” “Is anybody allergic to Lamb or don’t like it?” Everybody laughed. And yes! Two guests said they would like steak instead. I rest my case!

FOODHomeira Goldstein