WestEx was a hot gluten-free mess of new products everywhere you turned.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the Annual State Restaurant Expo here in Colorado. In Denver it is considered by most, the largest restaurant show each year packing the double punch of the Colorado Restaurant Association and the weight of the local Sysco house.
Turns out that each show I have attended so far this year has more and more gluten-free products. From crab cakes, to breading for frying, to individual wrapped gluten-free hot dog buns - products are in every food category from appetizer to dessert now to meet the growing demand. Manufactures are going to super great lengths to make sure you, the restaurant owner, know that they have a solution for you to provide gluten-free foods.
Maybe because it is my training in food safety therfore my mind being trained to look for it, or because it is far less sexy than the bells and whistles of what’s new, but I see one huge gaping hole in this entire gluten-free world as it applies to restaurants: What about food safety training and cross contact/contamination? Anyone can start with a product that does not contain gluten but in a matter of seconds that product can change due to improper handling and that becomes a game for that diner.
I describe the show as a “hot mess” because of the facility and method of displaying the new products. Table top grills were being used near cutting boards for vegetables. Steam, smoke, and particles were flying everywhere in that enormous room. Ventilation? Not so much. If I had any food allergy or was a person with Celiac Disease, there would have been no ways for me to have been in that room to discover the items let alone taste most.
Training in restaurants will have to be professional, complete, and accurate as we move forward to provide not only the right type of foods for a client, but also the safe way to prep and serve those foods.
There will be more to come in two weeks time on this topic/trend after I attend the NRA show. I expect that what I saw in Denver will be a flash in the pan once I enter the enormity of what I affectionately refer to as “The Big Top” in Chicago.
Betsy Craig brings 20 years of food service industry experience to MenuTrinfo, LLC a menu nutritional labeling Company. Her commitment to the betterment of the food industry and her desire to affect the dining public are the driving forces behind her new company Kitchens with Confidence, LLC.