A chef card is a helpful tool for people to use when they are eating out with food allergies. Learn more about chef cards and get a printable one here.
Several versions of a chef card exist but they all serve the same purpose - to alert the chef and restaurant staff of food allergies and to provide instructions on preparing a "safe" meal. I had never used one and wondered what chefs really think when they receive them.
I posed this question to the chefs on two forums for culinary professionals and this is what I learned:
While chefs in the middle of a busy dinner service might roll their eyes at the sight of a chef's card, they are still mostly accepted as helpful tools of communication between customer, chef and restaurant staff.
Chefs seem to appreciate them the most when used after the patron calls the restaurant ahead of time. If you aren't able to call ahead, however, don't throw this helpful tool in the trash. It can still serve its purpose.
After discussing these cards on the forums, I decided to take the feedback that I received and create one of my own. It differs from others in that it includes a space for jotting down three dishes that are of interest to you. The chef can then consider three dishes, rather than the entire menu, and choose which one can be prepared safely. Here are a few tips to make using these even more effective:
- If possible, use it in combination with calling the restaurant ahead of time to alert them of your special needs.
- If you weren't able to call ahead, present your card promptly after being seated at the restaurant
- Print your card out on heavier paper like card stock and choose a bright color that will stand out in the kitchen
- Keep a few copies with you always so one is available whenever you are out and about. Consider keeping a few copies with your med kit (a bag with epinephrine and/or an antihistamine).