January 14, 2020

At the Reale Seguros Madrid Fusión Congress, Josep Roca explains how to adapt to enable diners to gain “emotion from a gastronomic experience in the knowledge that they have food protection”.

Food intolerance and allergies are gaining ever more ground in our society. The mechanisation of agriculture and dependence on fertilisers and pesticides do little to help, and this has introduced adaptations to eating and cooking habits which pose a challenge in the years ahead. Allergies and intolerances are a concern for diners in their enjoyment of gastronomy, but they also worry the restaurants. Chefs confess that one of their worst nightmares when drawing up a menu is intolerance and allergies, and how this process can be carried out so that, if one ingredient has to be removed, the essence of the menu will remain unchanged. A challenge which, as Josep Roca admitted at Reale Seguros Madrid Fusión, is a daily issue at Celler de Can Roca.
“When you think of day-to-day tasks, the most difficult part is to keep a diner with an allergy or an intolerance happy”, Roca pointed out. And to do this, restaurants have been forced to adapt “by studying and investigating the problematic handling of allergies and intolerances” from the original booking to when the customer leaves the restaurant. “It is an issue that affects reception, the dining room and the kitchen”, he adds. The thing is that the differences between intolerances and allergies call for a considerable amount of training at restaurants, and also among those composing the eatery’s team, whose “actions must be vehement, cordial, generous, hospitable and understanding with people”. “We must adapt and comprehend the challenges of each customer”, he points out.
If they are sure of one thing at Celler de Can Roca, it is that “we must take care of our customers, and take extra care of those of them with allergies”. “Everyone wants a gastronomic experience, and so do people with health problems, and we must do all we can to make the experience as satisfactory as possible”, said one of the Roca brothers. Restaurants are aware they cannot tell customers that they are unable to cater for their allergies or intolerances, and have the obligation to afford them the pleasure of “emotion from food, in the simultaneous knowledge that they have food protection”.
The two menus at Celler de Can Roca have 250 ingredients and 400 ingredients respectively. “An extensive universe for diners with allergies and intolerances, and also in relation to various aspects such as religion, philosophy of life (vegans, vegetarians etc.) or intoxication”, say Melchor Montero and María Suárez, maitres at the Roca brothers’ restaurant. Their case, with bookings up to eleven months in advance, gives them some scope to make preparations to allow diners to enjoy a risk-free experience, “a challenging task which affects both the dining room and the kitchen”.
In the last two weeks, 92 of those visiting the restaurants had notified an allergy or an intolerance. “As soon as they tell us this – eleven months beforehand – we arrange a meeting with the head chef before each session to adapt each and every dish”, adds Montero. The presence of allergies and intolerances has also compelled chefs to adapt menus to each situation without losing sight of the original menu, and to customise the service. A genuine challenge, to which restaurants are increasingly adapting.