The Nima Sensor gluten food tests have saved me from getting glutened this week… twice! I feel incredibly indebted to the company for offering me a tool that helps to keep me healthy and gluten-free.
Let me share my two latest restaurant experiences with you – I conducted gluten food tests at both restaurants and had similar experiences at each.
My Gluten-Free Experience at Beau Jo’s
My first of two gluten food tests came at Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs. We had friends visiting us from Ohio and we took them to tour the Argo Gold Mine and lunch at Colorado-style pizza restaurant, Beau Jo’s. Beau Jo’s is known for serving up delicious gluten-free pizza that is safe for celiacs; in fact, Beau Jo’s is one of the sponsors of the Gluten Free Food Fair in Denver and they source their crust from Sweet Escape (here is the ingredient list).
When my pizza came, the Nima Sensor showed me “gluten found.” Bummer. But before you make judgements on Beau Jo’s, keep reading.
The manager, Alex, came right over and was just as surprised as us. In fact, she was upset because she talked about wanting to serve safe pizza for the celiac community. She also mentioned that Beau Jo’s even contracted a consulting firm to help them ensure safe, gluten-free practices in the kitchen.
She offered to make me another pizza and told us she planned to dump all the ingredients on the line and start fresh. Fair enough.
When she brought the new pizza, I was hesitant, but hopeful. I tested the new pizza with my Nima Sensor and guess what, it was gluten-free!
No one was more excited to see the smiley face than our friends from Ohio. They were rooting for me to be able to eat the pizza. I also secretly think they didn’t like me causing a scene. When you tell the waiter your gluten-free pizza isn’t really gluten-free, it becomes quite an ordeal. At some places it can be a frustrating experience, but at other places, like Beau Jo’s it can become a learning experience with a happy ending.
My guess is the first pizza became contaminated somewhere on the line – perhaps the cheese or sauce or something was touched by gluten. It’s not great to know this happens, but it was nice that Beau Jo’s quickly resolved it. Even better is the manager said she wanted to get a Nima Sensor of her own to prevent this from happening again. I believe restaurants should absolutely invest in a Nima Sensor and do spot checks of their food and ingredients throughout the day. You can read about how I think the Nima Sensor is a game-changer for the restaurant industry in this article.
While I didn’t like seeing “gluten found” on my first pizza, I do feel we were able to use this experience as an educational opportunity for the restaurant. Beau Jo’s prides itself on serving the gluten-free community a safe pizza, and in the end, they did. They know they can do better – and hopefully they will grow from this experience.
My Gluten-Free Experience at the Urban Egg
My next experience came at the Urban Egg in Denver, Colorado. I had dined at the Urban Egg once before and felt great (my belly offers the gold standard of gluten food tests). The gluten-free pancakes at the Urban Egg are out of this world delicious (they use Deby’s gluten-free flour, BTW). The restaurant has a separate prep area and dedicated pan to cook its gluten-free pancakes, and the chef sticks a toothpick in the gluten-free pancakes to communicate to the server that the pancakes are indeed gluten-free. Nice job!
I tested the pancakes with my friend Shayna on Facebook Live. Unfortunately, my Nima Sensor found gluten during the live test, which you can watch below.
However, just like Beau Jo’s, the manager at the Urban Egg, Amber, was shocked and upset. She said the staff at the Urban Egg takes a lot of precautions to ensure its food is gluten-free.
She immediately pulled the batter now that she knew it wasn’t GF (nice move!) and she had the chef make a brand new batch. She even showed me the ingredient list to ensure I was satisfied (it was a clean ingredient list that looked GF to me).
The chef personally brought the new gluten-free pancake to me and Shayna and watched us do the test. Guess what, Nima smiled at us. Yep, the new batch of pancakes were indeed gluten-free!
On top of that, Amber told us that she is going to use this as a learning experience for her and her staff. She is going to color code her measuring cups and make sure no gluteny batter gets into the gluten-free batter. She could not have handled this situation any better. She, too, said she wanted to get a Nima Sensor so she could test batches of the restaurant’s pancakes for gluten so this never happens again. Nice!
A Learning Lesson for Restaurants
Both of these restaurants handled these gluten food tests and experiences beautifully. Unlike the manager at Snooze, who refused to pull the pancake batter even though I told her it was unethical for her to continue to serve it now that she knows it’s not GF, both of these managers were calm, concerned and responded to me in a thoughtful way in hopes of making things right.
As I mentioned prior, both restaurant managers told me they wanted to invest in a Nima Sensor of their own so they could spot test their ingredients to ensure everything is truly gluten-free. I think this is SUCH A WISE MOVE and WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT for a restaurant to make. I hope both restaurants invest in one. (And if Beau Jo’s or the Urban Egg is reading this, please invite me back in for a Facebook Live test.) Knowing a restaurant has taken the time to use a Nima Sensor to do gluten food tests on its raw ingredients and spot checks on its everyday ingredients is an amazing way to instill trust in the gluten-free community!
Overall, I learned that these restaurants really do know how to create gluten-free foods – but somewhere along the line the gluten-free prep station or ingredients became contaminated. To ensure safe gluten-free protocols, I highly recommend restaurants train their staff to handle foods for those with food allergies. Ideas include:
- Color coding (or putting clear labels on) pots, pans, colanders, pizza cutters, measuring cups, spatulas, etc. so that the gluten-free foods are not prepared or touched by utensils and pans used to cook regular food. Anything that touches gluten cannot then touch gluten-free items. Period. This includes waffle irons, toaster ovens, griddles and cooking oils.
- Keep all gluten-free foods in covered containers at all time to prevent bits of gluten in the air from floating in the batter. You cannot display gluten-free cakes in the same display cases as the gluten stuff. Keep the GF stuff wrapped and give it to your gluten-free patrons wrapped too. (Starbucks keeps its gluten-free breakfast sandwich wrapped from the manufacturer and it’s served wrapped to the customer.)
- Have the chef use a different plate or something as simple as a toothpick to signal to the server that a dish has been prepared gluten-free. The Urban Egg had a toothpick in the pancake for me.
- Bring the gluten-free items out separately from the regular items. Sometimes servers will place a gluten dish on top of my gluten-free dish when they’re carrying it. Ug. Ug. Ug. Hate when this happens for obvious reasons.
- Change gloves before handling anything gluten-free. It really helps.
Of course, the more gluten-free folks like me who test their foods and have discussions with the servers, managers and chefs, the better off we’ll all be. In the meantime, I will most definitely go back to Beau Jo’s and the Urban Egg, but I do plan on using my Nima Sensor on each and every visit.