If you have a child with food allergies, then you know what a big deal it is. Even if you don’t have a child who suffers, you most likely know a friend of your child’s who needs to be careful about what he/she eats. Sometimes, even being near foods with peanuts, for example, can be a lethal risk for some children.
So how do you plan a Mitzvah to keep your child and/or your guests safe? To find out, we recently caught up with Einat Mazor, a certified chef from the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City and the owner of Bliss Fine Foods, a catering company which specializes in alternative desserts and appetizers such as gluten, dairy, nut and eggs free. Here’s the scoop:
MM: Food allergies are a big concern for parents for obvious reasons. How can parents plan a Mitzvah that is allergy-aware?
EM: Meet ahead of time with your event planner and the chef and talk about menu options. Make sure that the cooks don’t use peanut oil for frying. (They like to use it because this oil does not burn so easily.) Instead, ask them to use vegetable oil like canola oil.
MM: What should parents consider when selecting a menu?
EM: Usually the main course is okay but if you choose an Asian-inspired menu (Chinese or Japanese) you need to make sure that no sesame seeds and oil are going to be used.
When it comes to desserts, you need to ask if they are making all their desserts from scratch. If not, the chef needs to make sure that the mixes do not contain and were not processed with nuts. Usually brownies can be a problem, but again if you go through the menu ahead of time and even put it in your contract you can feel safer. You can always ask for a Parve cheesecake or plain ice creams for desserts.
MM: How can parents let their guests know that the affair will be allergy-aware? Is it appropriate, for example, to put verbiage on the invitation?
EM: One way of letting concerned parents know that you are offering allergy-aware options is to add a simple request on the invitation. Ask parents to indicate that if their child has any food allergies, to please contact you by a certain date.
You can also try to accommodate these individuals by changing/adding items in the menu and informing them via phone.
Overall, going the extra mile will give your guests the feeling that they are welcome at your party and you will be the perfect host for all of your guests.