Real Dietary Requirements or Fussy Eater?

Real Dietary Requirements or Fussy Eater?

Real Dietary Requirements or Fussy Eater?

Real Dietary Requirements or Fussy Eater? How to cook for people with dietary requirements.

Being a chef in today’s industry isn’t at all the same as it was 10 years ago and for the average cook, hosting a dinner party is becoming increasingly difficult.

Throughout my career as a chef I have cooked for many people with dietary restrictions but the frequency of requests for “none of this and none of that” has escalated so much that today dietary needs are front and foremost when planning my menus.


So, are they dietary requirements or are they fussy eaters? 
Well it’s both!


Definitely, a medical condition when planning a menu, is not something to be avoided, as are religious and cultural ethics. 

Add in food allergies, food intolerances and sensitivities along side self-imposed restrictions and it’s a whole different ballgame.


There are a slew of dietary restrictions, and the list is endless; Lactose free, gluten free, sugar free, low fat, low sodium, no carb, macrobiotic, probiotic, no fish, no meat, it goes on and on, each with it’s own unique reason as to why it should be removed from your diet.

For those with dietary issues it's a lot to deal with, no one asks for an intollerance and I feel sorry for anyone who has them.
Many may say that it's part of the chef's job to accomodate it dietary requests and I agree, using the request as a challenge to create a new and exciting dish. But as a chef many requests are accompanied with a certain attitude that is bitter pill for many chefs to swallow.


Attitudes have changed about whose responsibility it is to meet their needs.
The focus of responsibility, as with so many other things, has moved from the eater to the provider.


I will never forget the time someone turned up at my house for a dinner party and informed me, as I was serving the starter, that they were detoxing, had very limited foods they could eat and did I have any of them around. 
Surely it was the responsibility of that guest to tell me in advance so that I could prepare something special. They hadn’t thought of bringing something that might work for them but the restrictions became my problem it’s that attitude that makes for a bit of consternation.



Dinner guests at my B&B have the opportunity to advise me in advance of their dietary needs and their origin more often than not dictates the level of restrictions I will receive. 
Most allergies and intolerances seem to come from North Americans, Asians won’t eat much dairy, pure dislikes come from the UK, Aussies and the rest of the Europeans eat anything. 


I think it fair to say that outside of the medical and cultural stuff, some restrictions originate from under-exposure to certain ingredients (never heard of it, don’t like it), 1st time abroad (they all eat weird shit!), history (mum and dad hate it, so do I), perception (Gross, I’m not eating that!) and lack of culinary exposure (never had it, won’t start now).


Although outside of what I call “real” allergies there have been many guests who have informed me of their dietary requirements only for me to find out (after preparing their special foods) that they have been eating all of the stuff they “couldn’t” eat and were having a terrific time doing so.


There’s the case of the “lactose intolerant” guest who was happily eating ham baguettes with butter, croissants au beurre, milk chocolate and pizza with cheese without incident. Then there was the feta and beetroot salad I made for guests to be told afterwards “I didn’t like beets until I had this, but it was awesome, I loved it”…but I digress!


Where I live, in South-western France, the dining experience doesn’t have a lot of the flair of other countries. Menu’s are restricted to local dishes which are great but most contain meat or cheese and choice is limited. Vegetarians get pizza or salad and the other “requirements” are met with a shrug of the shoulders and a “find something on the menu” look. 

In a way it’s kind of refreshing, the just-eat-it attitude, although I know a lot of my guests find it incredibly frustrating, which may be the reason they like to eat chez moi.


So, How do I cook for people with dietary requirements?

Well, it’s pretty simple.

While requests influence my menu planning they don’t control it. 

I plan one menu for all of my guests and try to work the request around it.

I plan for the average eater, make my dishes middle of the road and save the more “exotic” dishes for another night once I have figured out their habits (easily done at the table in conversation or simply asking do you eat this).

Avoid nuts unless you know everyone’s ok with them.

Don’t use offal because most people won’t eat it.

Keep main courses to beef, pork and chicken unless you know otherwise – keep the fish and duck for another night, not everyone eats it.

Know your market – think where they are coming from.

If there are many different requirements go back to basics, don’t try to re-invent the wheel. 

Keep it simple, plain but good – use fresh local ingredients that have great flavour, lots of vegetables, and keep it so that guests can see what they are eating.


I know a lot of you want to go the extra mile when cooking for guests so that you leave an impression but believe me when I say that there’s nothing worse than bringing full plates back to the kitchen after you have spent hours trying to make the best dish ever.


Simple, good and flavoursome has never failed and will never fail to please a palate. Simple is Good!


If you have questions or need help with to planning a menu around people with special dietary needs contact me. 
For a small fee I can make it easier for you.

Drink This: 

Try this....well it is gluten free!

Gluten Free Vodka

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