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How Safe Is Gluten-Free Dining?

Jonathan’s serves up food

with an eye on safety

Taking gluten-free dining to the next level, Jonathan’s Restaurant of Garden City Park has just launched an extensive gluten-free menu for those suffering from celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. The restaurant has rolled out two options: gluten-free friendly and medical necessity menus.

Chef Alain Ribiere had taken notice over the years that diners were making more and more special dietary requests. This trend is indicative of the rise in allergies in the U.S where researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies including one in every 13 children under 18 years of age.

Ribiere knew there was a need to better serve the gluten-free community, but he  wanted to ensure it was done safely. Established in 1992, Jonathan’s is a family-owned and operated restaurant featuring a menu that combines American and Mediterranean style cuisines.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder whereby the body attacks the villi in the small intestines when gluten is consumed causing malabsorption of vital nutrients. Given the rising incidence of celiac and gluten sensitivities, the restaurant industry has clamored to serve this community.

“Everyone has jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon,” said Ribiere. “I wanted to serve the gluten-free community, but I wanted to ensure safety for both the food and preparation. We’ve worked hard for our following, we’re known for our quality and service so this new menu had to meet our standards.”

Though transparent to diners, the new menus are the result of many hours of behind-the-scenes work. Ribiere commissioned JCB Consulting Services of Garden City (JCB) to implement a formal gluten-free program. JCB co-founders Joan Schmidt, a registered nurse, and Chef Barbara Callanan modified Jonathan’s existing menu with Ribiere’s input.

JCB’s program included implementing new policies, procedures and safety guidelines to avoid cross contamination. From chefs to busboys every Jonathan’s employee has been trained in the handling of the food. Options for the medical necessity menu are prepared in a separate gluten-free zone and all of the ingredients are verified gluten-free on an ongoing basis. The gluten-free friendly menu ensures all ingredients are gluten-free for those who follow the lifestyle as a choice.

Callanan, who has celiac disease, knows all too well the havoc cross contamination can reap when food is not prepared safely.

“If there is cross contamination, even a sixth of a teaspoon can make someone sick,” said Callanan. “I found going out to dinner stressful due to lack of gluten-free options and the question of safety.”

Ribiere, who coincidentally eliminated all peanuts from his menu due to the high incidence of peanut allergies, was committed to developing the best gluten-free dining experience.

The gluten-free menu includes appetizers such as lump crab cocktail or caprese salad. Diners can also choose from entrees such as veal marsala with gluten-free fettuccine or char-grilled shrimp served with grilled vegetables and lemon roasted red potatoes. Dessert options range from orange creme brulee to chocolate mousse with strawberries.

For one Searingtown family, Jonathan’s efforts have alleviated the anxiety of dining out. The family thought their days of eating out were numbered when three members of their family were diagnosed with celiac disease.

“I was shocked that my two daughters were diagnosed and more shocked when I found out I had the disease,” said the Searingtown mom. The family was advised to abstain from dining out for six to eight months.

“The thought of being relegated to the culinary equivalent of ‘naked food’ when dining was one of this family’s major concerns,” added Ribiere.

Once they were ready to dine out they turned to Jonathan’s for guidance regarding their diets. This family’s experience prompted Ribiere to take action. He knew JCB’s program  was a good fit - from creating a stand-alone gluten free zone to extensive staff training - Ribiere’s goal was to serving this community without compromising quality or taste. The family has hosted parties at the restaurant with an entire gluten-free menu and rave about the opportunity to dine out safely and still enjoy good tasting food.

Menus can be found at www.jonathansrestaurant.net. For further information regarding Jonathan’s gluten-free program and gluten free lifestyle tips visit www.consultjcb.com.