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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gluten-Free French Toast?

Following yesterday's post on a chef who apparently didn't know the meaning of dairy-free, I find another chef who apparently doesn't know the meaning of gluten-free. UPDATE: I should have pointed the finger of blame at the reporter, not the chef. See the comments.

Becky Coffey of the Harbor News, wrote about Russell Marcello, chef at and co-owner of the Paperback Cafe in Connecticut.

"Introducing the gluten-free menu is helping to support the restaurant by selling more meals than I otherwise would have," said Marcello. "My customers are enthusiastic, too. Some customers that would just pick up a cup of coffee at the counter before now have been converted to dining room customers; others are completely new customers."

And what are among his gluten-free choices? French toast for breakfast–soy milk can be substituted for cow's milk for those who are also lactose-intolerant. Or for lunch, it's Chicken Parmesan. And for dessert, customers can choose from either brownies or crème brûlée.

Gluten-free French toast? It's not impossible, of course, but you have to start with a gluten-free bread, something that's not mentioned anywhere in the article. The kind of bread used for French toast would be a fairly important specific for those seeking to avoid gluten. Gluten-free brownies are also possible, but again need special attention.

And despite the possibility of getting soy milk in your French toast, the rest of the items mentioned are hardly friendly to the lactose intolerant. Chicken parmesan? Crème brûlée? Crème brûlée is heavy cream with egg yolks and sugar.

Look, creating a gluten-free menu is a fine gesture, and not an easy one for a chef to manage at a busy restaurant. The details are crucial, however. Maybe it's just in the way that Coffey wrote the article, but I would want far more reassurance than I'm given that the meals are safe. She may have done Marcello a disservice. Or she may have inadvertently alerted people to a problem.

As always, check for yourselves, and don't take claims for granted.

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Anonymous said...

Hello, my name is Russell Marcello the Chef(who apparently doesn't know the meaning of gluten-free) As stated by the writer above, please next time you throw a negative comment at somemone make sure Your facts are correct. (The bread is Gluten Free)... The Harbor news writer assumed that Gluten FREE French Toast would be ok. Everything on my Gluten Free Menu is Gluten Free. Because there is not any gluten in egg/milk mix the writer probally thought it was safe to write that the Gluten Free French Toast would let most people know that the Bread was gluten free. Thanks.

Steve Carper said...

Thanks for writing so that we can clear up any misunderstandings.

If you read my blog regularly, you'd know that I regularly find both bad reporting and bad experts who should know better.

I thought I made it clear that this case was more likely to be bad reporting.

It would have been better for the readers to be told specifically and directly what type of gluten-free bread was being used to make the French toast. That's exactly the kind of information they need.

I'm sorry I left the inference that you were the culprit and I'll fix that. As I said, it's great that you're making these foods available.

I still see too many bad examples to take it all on trust. If you're making the extra effort, reporters need to do the same.