It’s estimated that around 20% of people in the UK are living with food allergies or intolerances. Reactions can range from a slight stomach upset to severe, life-threatening conditions, meaning sufferers need to adjust their diets accordingly.
For this reason, research by Allergy UK found that 92% of those living with a severe allergy are concerned about eating out as they have less control over what is going into their food. This means attending gatherings and events such as dinner parties where food is home cooked can be particularly worrying. However, guests should never feel uneasy or nervous before eating out.
In fact, statistics from Holland and Barrett have revealed there is concern on both sides of the kitchen – 49% of people struggle to cater for guests who have allergies, even if they’re friends and family.
George Rouse, owner and head chef of George’s Kitchen understands the importance of a successful event where all guests enjoy the occasion and leave satisfied. Here are his tips to help you cater for those with allergies, ensuring your guests remain safe.
Be creative with your menu choices
If you find that several of the guests attending an event are intolerant to certain foods, it’s a chance to be creative. Look at this opportunity as a challenge, by adding different ingredients to replace those that guests can’t have. Not only can this make the preparation more fun and stimulating, but it may give you ideas for future events.
Simply using your time to browse online to gather inspiration will not only add variety to the menu, but it will show your guests how much effort you have put into the evening.
Allow guests to bring their own food
As a host, one of the worst possible outcomes of your event, is to see your guests looking uncomfortable or uneasy. For those with allergies, it can create lots of anxiety prior to the event and during, especially if they feel on edge as to whether they will be able to eat anything. To minimise these feelings of anxiety, the perfect solution is to allow them to bring their own food. It will help them to feel relaxed and they will be able to enjoy the evening.
As an alternative, ask guests before the event what they would like to eat. By working together, you will feel as though you have been the perfect host, whilst they are guaranteed to enjoy their evening and the food they are given. It may also give you inspiration for future meals should you need to cater for guests with the same allergies.
Label your dishes
Labelling dishes is a great way to help navigate which recipe contains certain ingredients. For example, if there are three pasta dishes side by side, instead of having to tell guests the contents of each, create mini labels to guide them. For example, at George’s Kitchen we use allergen cards on every canapé tray so guests are aware of the contents.
If you’re planning a buffet style menu, provide your guests with some information about each recipe so they are fully informed as to the ingredients of the dishes. Colour coding labels is also a good way to make meals stand out that contain allergens. Another idea is to keep certain foods apart. For example, putting a meal that contains nuts far away from its alternatives will help with cross-contamination and also give guests a clear idea of what they can and can’t eat.
Hire a caterer
To keep things extremely simple, safe and stress free, one solution to catering for allergies is to hire a professional caterer. It’s their job to tailor certain meals to match the needs of your guests. They will have certain processes and procedures to make sure guests with special requirements are looked after. For example, at George’s Kitchen we ensure we can trace back to where all of our ingredients came from.
As well as supplying delicious food, a caterer will be on hand to answer any queries that people attending might have about certain meals, taking the weight off your shoulders and allowing you time to mingle with your chosen guests. Another benefit is the time you’ll save by hiring one. Any time spent in the kitchen can be removed from your schedule, allowing you to enjoy the lead up to the event and focus on other details that might have been missed otherwise.
Catering for guests with allergies can seem daunting at first, but by following these simple steps it doesn’t have to be. Your guests’ safety and comfort during any event you are hosting should always be at the forefront of your mind and by doing so it’s much more likely to be a success.
Preparation is key
When planning your dinner party, it’s crucial to thoroughly check your recipes and ensure you are catering for any intolerances or allergies. By creating your menu in advance, it will give you the opportunity to ask guests if they have allergies towards certain foods. Taking note of any intolerances they might have will aid you when it comes to creating the menu for each individual attending the event.
In the weeks running up to an event, changing the food you’re going to prepare is perfectly normal, but scanning the ingredients should be mandatory. Missing just one food ingredient could have huge repercussions, should a guest be intolerant to it.
However, even if you take all of these precautions, there is still a small chance a reaction could take place. For example, someone may have an allergy they didn’t know about, so you can never be too prepared. It may be a good idea to brush up on your first aid skills, or if appropriate, you can ask people with known allergies what medication needs to be administered if they have a reaction, for example an EpiPen for nut allergens.
For more information on George’s Kitchen please visit GeorgesKitchen.co.uk.