Boston-area restaurateurs seek to cater to diners with allergies

Nothing irks chefs more than being told how their creations should be cooked.

Perhaps this could explain why, in a time when food allergies and intolerances are more prevalent than ever, some in the food industry still believe that frying a food will take away its allergen, or its gluten.

“No, frying in 350-degree oil will not take away the allergen,” said Betsy Craig, chief executive of Kitchens With Confidence, a company that works with the hospitality industry to address special dining needs. “So many believe it in their gut.”

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Craig was among several food allergy specialists speaking to a group of about 45 independent restaurateurs, managers of regional food chains, and food service operators at the inaugural Food Allergy Conference for Restaurateurs on Tuesday at the Seaport Boston Hotel.

The event was organized by Paul L. Antico, founder of the online allergy-friendly restaurant guide AllergyEats!, to make food service industry leaders aware that catering to patrons who have food allergies is not only good for diners, but also for the bottom line.

“This it timely and important,” Antico said. “The most important thing to me is that people who want to dine out can have as safe an experience as possible. I want the restaurants to become more allergy-friendly and show them that they’re going to get a lot more business. It’s getting to the point where it’s almost a now-or-never time for the restaurateurs.”

About 4 to 5 percent of people nationwide have food allergies, while 1 percent have celiac disease, or are gluten intolerant, Antico said.

Panelists, including Steve Silverstein, chief executive of Middleborough-based Not Your Average Joe’s Inc., told attendees that despite the industry’s high turnover rate, all employees, from cooks to food runners, should be trained on how to handle food for customers who have allergies.

“It starts with the hiring process,” Silverstein said. “While it may seem overwhelming, it can be done. If you have a good understanding, you document, and you follow through in training, you can execute the plan.”

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