Bluff View Art District managers and chefs are taking the next few weeks to train new staff members and strengthen the knowledge of current staff on their gluten free menus, specialty items and preparations at Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria, Rembrandt’s Coffee House and Back Inn Café in anticipation of Celiac Awareness Month which begins May 1. Bluff View’s restaurants have joined a national campaign known as “Chef to Plate,” a program from the Gluten Intolerance Group that helps spread information about gluten sensitivities by partnering with restaurants that offer gluten free menus.
According to the most recent clinical research, Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease caused by even the smallest amounts of gluten, affects one in 133 Americans and one in 250 worldwide. Common symptoms include IBS-like symptoms, fatigue, infertility, bone disease, anemia and other symptoms affecting all body systems. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is estimated to affect as much as six to seven percent of the population. Those with gluten sensitivity can also experience a myriad of symptoms that may be caused by gluten, such as migraines, digestive issues, fatigue, dizziness and Fibromyalgia, among others.
Bluff View’s Director of Operations, Michael Vasta, was diagnosed with Celiac disease over two years ago. While gluten safe options had always been available with menu modifications at the District’s restaurants and catering services, his diagnosis inspired Bluff View chefs to rethink the measures that should be taken to provide a truly safe food environment for each and every one of their guests.
“We started with purchasing separate equipment so we essentially had ‘gluten free’ work stations, and then reworked menu items so they were as close to our signature dishes as possible,” Mr. Vasta explains. “Making our own sauces and dressings gluten free required only minor tweaking, and since all our hand made pastas and breads are done next door at Bluff View Bakery, the possibility of cross contamination is virtually zero since those items come to us as finished products before they even enter the restaurant kitchens.”
Bluff View’s multiple kitchens are housed in separate buildings and provide for a unique opportunity to isolate gluten free baking. Smaller kitchens on site can be more easily “gluten sanitized” for gluten free creations that are used in all the restaurants. Pizza crusts, flat breads and several specialty desserts are made several times a week. Gluten free pastas are provided by an outside source, but prep stations in the restaurant kitchens have color coded and separated bowls, pans, utensils and prep surfaces to ensure gluten is not introduced into gluten free menu items.
“We like to emphasize to our staff the vital importance of their diligence when placing orders for a customer, prepping for service and finishing gluten free dishes,” Mr. Vasta points out. “Those who don’t suffer from gluten sensitivities find it difficult to understand sometimes, but I try to put it in the most simple terms: what if every time you went out to eat you got physically sick? That’s what introducing gluten to a gluten sensitive person’s meal does. And for those who suffer from Celiac the long term consequences can literally be deadly.”
Offering gluten free menus at the restaurants has had several unintended but entirely positive effects at Bluff View Art District. Staff members feel more confident understanding and discussing all kinds of dietary restrictions with guests, and that helps them meet their own visitors’ needs more efficiently. Chefs have found new ways to work with ingredients and actually use the project to expand their menus. “It’s great to see our chefs doing what they do best: creating amazing new products for all our guests to enjoy,” says Director of Food and Beverage Chris Anderson. “That’s always been the signature at Bluff View, and these new menu options create even more opportunities for the talent here to shine.”