When I first worked with Nick Katris a good 15 or so years ago there weren’t a lot of specific dietary needs a restaurant would have needed to cater to.
The majority of requests were systematically from that of a “fussy” eater or someone who was on a diet to lose weight or keep fit. To be honest, even these requests were far and few between.
Nowadays; we see more and more extreme dietary requirements. Some of them fickle. Some of them life threatening.
People allergic to peanuts, egg, pork, particular preservatives or the colour yellow. Vegetarians, vegans, people who only eat white meat, people who only eat red meat. Then there’s pescatarians (what are these people up to anyway? Seafood is still an animal – it’s like they wanted to go vegan but didn’t want to miss out on prawns. ?) my cousin is a vegan – she has a rule: she won’t ever eat anything that used to have a face. Good rule. But wait – there are people allergic to shellfish!
People who avoid sugar, saturated fat and carbohydrates. Lactose intolerant people, onion haters and my new inconvenient and unexpected favourite: gluten intolerant or even more painful; celiacs.
Being gluten intolerant or a celiac is literally a pain in the arse.
I never really understood what it was all about – a hip new diet, a quick way to get skinny or something that other people had to worry about. Not me. I can eat what I want.
To be honest, I dislike even saying the word gluten, thinking about gluten or talking about gluten. (Not to mention what parts of me hurt if I shove something in my mouth containing it!)
I’m tired (legitimately physically and psychologically!) of hearing about it, asking about it, avoiding it and not eating it. I’m sure the kitchen staff (as accommodating, supportive and unbelievably helpful they have been during this life changing and confusing time) are keeping a tally of how many times this word comes out of my mouth and I’m sure captain nick is only a couple of shifts away from making the “I said gluten” jar a permanent fixture in the kitchen where half of my wage will end up. Guaranteed.
But now I have no choice. I’m actually too scared to put anything in my mouth.
I’ve become an avid, slightly obsessive reader of food labels and have had to quickly learn about what it is; where it hides; what it’s made from and things that can be made from it.
After a short spout of denial, I started thinking about all the foods that were no longer an option.
I’ll start with the obvious: bye bye cereals, pastries, pizza and garlic bread like I know it (although I hear cosmopolitan do a crazy good gluten free base!) see ya later anything that’s crumbed, anything containing wheat, barley or rye. Cheerio cherry ripes, crackers and coloured popcorn! Catch ya round cakes, muffins, donuts and anything that has flour in it. Oh, not to forget … what has become a favourite of mine for hangovers because of all the yummy vitamins hiding in it (for those playing along at home dip finger in jar and eat) but something that I grew up on. That’s right – Bye bye vegemite. My “level Australia” just dropped to minus 3715497.
The list is never ending … practically everything has gluten.
I however consider myself extremely lucky.
Besides the unbelievable fact that I can still have wine, cheese and meat…
I spend a lot of my time in an amazing restaurant where not only the head chef encourages us to taste his food but has crafted a delicious menu that has so many gluten free options on it you’ll never be stuck for choice or left wondering if you’ll feel like someone kicked you in the guts moments after you’ve eaten a starter.
The majority of main meals on the menu are gluten free. The gravy : gluten free. Seafood dishes, steaks, oven baked cheese, salads and vegetables: ALL GLUTEN FREE. The lunch menu has GLUTEN FREE options.
Sides and desserts: GLUTEN FREE. Fruchoc inspired pudding. Yes. This bad boy is GLUTEN FREE. If you don’t like fruchoc … are you even south Australian!? Raspberry and white chocolate sphere, mango splice pannacotta, affogato and house made truffles??! … you guessed it; GLUTEN FREE.
The thyme kitchen team select only the best quality ingredients they can get their hard working little hands on. A fair chunk of it: GLUTEN FREE.
So all is not lost … with the help of my thyme team mates, I’ve started the long road to understanding what I can and can’t put in my gob on a permanent basis. I can eat confidently knowing that they are all looking out for me and my new uninvited compulsive dietary needs. A firm “no” tends to do the trick if I even remotely look like I’m going to eat something with gluten in it but to be honest… in comparison to how many times I eat something at work: it’s not that often!
I have also through a necessity had to learn to better understand food and what gets added to what in the kitchen. I can confidentially recommend (as can the rest of the front of house staff after hearing a few weeks of my whinging) gluten free options and alternatives for people with other allergies. If you’re ever unsure – ask us.
Congratulations to the thyme kitchen team. I cannot put into words how excited I was to find that most of what comes out of the kitchen is gluten free.
Thank you for helping me.
You’ve once again out done yourselves.