A movement away from gluten is pushing club and resort chefs to create innovative menu options.
Every few years, cultural diet preferences swing in a new direction. Just as low-fat gave way to low-carb, a new
diet darling has stepped into the spotlight.
Welcome to the era of gluten-free everything.
A growing number of people are being diagnosed with a range of gluten allergies and intolerances. And for these individuals, going gluten-free isn’t a choice—it’s a necessity.
At the same time, more people are also avoiding gluten for non-medical reasons. For some it makes them feel better; for others, it helps them lose weight.
Whatever their reasons, more members and guests want gluten-free options—and club and resort chefs can’t ignore the need to satisfy these diners’ wishes.
Below is a sampling of gluten-free menu ideas from Charles Kehrli, Executive Chef, The Yale Club of New York City:
• Santa Fe Salad—made with black bean and corn relish, avocado, tomato, romaine lettuce, pumpkin seeds, and a sweet and smoky chipotle vinaigrette
• Roasted Beet and Root Vegetable Salad—made with golden beets, parsnip, carrot and butternut squash, beluga lentils, arugula, Old Chatham Sheep Herding Company goat cheese, and sherry vinegar dressing
• Seared Scallops —served with mashed sweet potato and butternut squash, creamy corn with applewood-smoked bacon, and sunflower sprouts.
“There are several factors impacting the gluten-free movement at our club,” says Charles Kehrli, Executive Chef at The Yale Club of New York City (see “The Yale Club of New York City’s Dynamic F&B Operation,” C&RB, September 2010). “There are two main groups of gluten-free diners at our club: those who seek gluten-free for medical reasons, and those who seek gluten-free as a personal choice for better health.”
As a result, he writes menus that incorporate a significant number of dishes that are (or can be easily modified to be) gluten-free.
“This takes tremendous pressure off the line, and makes it very easy to accommodate dietary restrictions in the middle of a busy service,” Kehrli says.
Glen Oaks Country Club, West Des Moines, Iowa, takes a similar approach, incorporating a number of naturally gluten-free items on its menu. The club also has a list posted in the kitchen of members with severe allergies (gluten or otherwise), and if one of those members makes a reservation, the kitchen and servers can prepare accordingly.
“We try to structure our menus so we always have a handful of dishes that don’t have any allergenic ingredients in them,” says Executive Chef Monte Davis, who previously worked at a banquet facility that was 100% gluten- and nut-free. “We also find workarounds for components that typically would have gluten.”
In Glen Oaks’ sauces and gravies, Davis uses agar agar as a thickening agent, instead of flour. He also uses rice flour or corn meal for breading, as well as gluten-free pizza crusts and soy sauce.
“Gluten can find its way into a lot of prepared products,” warns Davis, who emphasizes scratch cooking and label reading, to ensure that items are truly gluten-free.
“Cross-contamination is one of the most challenging parts of providing gluten-free options,” says Andy Antico, Executive Chef of The Mayfield Sand Ridge Club, South Euclid, Ohio.
“For our gluten-free members, we use a dedicated fryer, plates and utensils. We also change gloves, towels and boards.”
Glen Oaks and The Yale Club follow similar approaches. And all three clubs label their menus, so diners know what has gluten and what doesn’t. “We even extend our labeling to our buffets,” says Antico.
At The Yale Club, Kehrli reports, “More and more of our social events and buffets request the entire function to be gluten-, nut-, or dairy-free—and sometimes even a combination of all three.
“Usually this happens if a critical person in the event, like the bride or groom, has an allergy,” he explains. “The goal is to create an environment where guests can enjoy the event without being concerned about what they can and cannot eat.”
Kehrli, Davis and Antico agree that gluten-free doesn’t mean flavor-free.
“Like any dish, you want to ensure that it incorporates the same textures, flavors and balance as all of your menu items,” Kehrli says. “There is nothing worse than getting served a meal that looks like an afterthought.”
At Glen Oaks, Davis believes that less is more with gluten-free. “We keep it simple and refined, and let the quality of our raw ingredients speak for themselves,” he says.