Chef Cards

Posted 6.17.14 | Rob McCandlish, RDN

How do you handle eating meals out at restaurants with food allergies? We were at a food allergy conference recently when we heard one of the speakers mention a great idea – a chef’s card. When you aren’t able to call the restaurant ahead of time, a chef’s card may be the best idea yet.

What is it?

The idea behind a chef’s card is simple: it’s a piece of paper you take with you when you eat out, and hand it to a restaurant’s wait staff or kitchen staff to explain your food allergy(ies). Some families have been doing this for years, but we really like the name “chef’s card,” and the idea of something other than a full piece of paper. A credit card-sized piece of paper is small and easy to have with you at all times, just in case.

A chef’s card allows you to explain in detail what foods you need to avoid. Rather than asking the wait staff to communicate your allergy to the kitchen, the wait staff can deliver the card to the chef or kitchen staff who will be preparing your food. It can be especially helpful in communicating a list of “trouble” ingredients that they may not realize contain your food allergen(s).

How can I make my own?

You can print your own chef’s cards on thick paper like card stock. Find a great template such as this interactive one from FARE. If you’re looking for a peanut allergy chef’s card, Allergy Free Table offers one here. Or to print your own, try a printable blank template, such as a packet of printable business cards or postcards that are already perforated. You’ll want to include your main food allergens and ingredients that are likely to include them. It’s also a good idea to leave space for the wait staff to write down your table number.

Have you found a chef’s card to be helpful?

- Rob

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Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.