Picky eater? You could get someone killed
PICKY eaters, dieters and food snobs are claiming to suffer life-threatening allergies so they can demand customised meals at top restaurants.
It's driving chefs mad, but the allergy fakers are also accused of something far more serious. The major allergy support group fears genuine sufferers' pleas for carefully prepared food could be taken less seriously.
Chefs are being constantly told by customers they suffer life-threatening conditions like anaphylaxis and coeliac disease when, in fact, they are simply on a diet, head chef at award-winning Asian eatery Queen Chow Patrick Friesen said.
He reached boiling point recently, taking to Instagram to vent about the frustrating phenomenon - publishing a sample of the demands that flood his kitchen nightly.
The post shows almost every order includes an allergy specification, from shellfish to gluten, as well as several orders of meat-based dishes - minus the meat.
"Can people with dietary requirements start knowing what you can and can't eat?" he wrote, adding: "Shellfish allergy but loves oyster sauce. Gluten free but loves gluten as long as it's not a piece of bread. Vegetarians that love a chicken wing. pescetarians who eat chicken.
"Sort your s... out and let your waiter know. You make it really damn hard for people with actual allergies and dietaries (requirements) to go out to eat."
Friesen posted the rant out of frustration because his mother - a coeliac disease sufferer - has a genuine intolerance to wheat, rye, barley and oats.
Despite the fact most of the city's top restaurants offer gluten-free and allergy-aware dishes, Friesen said his kitchen is still inundated by diners demanding a growing list of customised dishes.
"You have these people who come in on a first date and they say 'I'm allergic to onions' because they just don't want to have onion breath," Friesen said.
"And we say 'well, it's an Asian restaurant, you know there are onions in pretty much everything' ... or eschalots or onion powder or whatever. And then they say 'oh OK it's fine. I'll just eat everything'. So clearly it's not an allergy at all.
"And for the kitchen it can be torture. Especially when we have real allergies to be concerned about."
Maria Said, of Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia, says the huge spike in customised cooking has led to a watered-down kitchen culture where cooks can become complacent to genuine, life-threatening allergies.
The worst-case scenario, she said, would be a slip-up that could kill an anaphylactic person.
"But finding answers is difficult. Short of chefs asking people if they are carrying an EpiPen to determine if they have a genuine allergy, there's nothing that can be done," she says.
"People need to know that an aversion to brussels sprouts is not an allergy to brussels sprouts. But these demands happen all the time and it's a big problem."
Francesco Mannelli, who heads The Four Seasons' new fine-diner Mode Kitchen and Bar, said the allergy phenomenon of the past 10 years led him to produce a menu that is 98 per cent gluten free.
Originally published as 'Allergy' diners' ridiculous demands