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From: [an eater]
Date: Monday, January 2
To: Eater Complaints Dept.
Subject: Fwd: Gjelina complaint...
Last Thursday friends and I sat down for a group dinner at Gjelina, in honor of our friends' visiting from New York. With a brutal no-eat list of foods (doctor's orders bc of a medical condition), I'm always weary of group dinners, but figured that announcing at the start that I would be ordering solo would take care of any issues. I had forgotten that unlike other restaurants that are more than happy to omit ingredients for food allergies, Gjelina has a strict "no modifications" policy, making almost the entire menu off-limits to me. Needless to say, the reminder of my food stigma was upsetting - food restrictions are bad enough without the resulting social awkwardness they create. My wonderfully gracious friends offered to go somewhere else - any of a number of delicious restaurants nearby that would be happy to leave certain ingredients off of my food - but our waiter insisted that the chef would be happy to look at my no-eat list and check off menu items that were okay for me to eat.
When he returned with two clearly unacceptable items checked off, I was weary, but decided to give the barramundi and broccoli rabe a shot - they seemed pretty safe. After a few bites of the broccoli rabe I realized that it had pepper flakes (a no-no) and the barramundi's farro accompaniment contained oranges, another no-no.
Refusing to accommodate guests with food allergies is bad enough, but to then carelessly tell someone that a dish is safe when it is not is unconscionable. Gjelina is lucky that my allergies aren't deadly (eating certain foods makes it difficult for me to walk). To make matters worse (though at that point I didn't think it was possible to do so), as an "apology" the chef (or maybe the waiter) sent out three desserts "for my friends," (seriously, you apologize to me by sending out something for my friends?) none of which I could eat, and placed them right in front of me, as if having not eaten the pizza at Gjelina wasn't torture enough.
I've spoken to a number of chefs, all of which have told me that when they're handed a list of food allergies, it gets top priority - no chef (except the one at Gjelina) wants a guest to die on their watch. Isn't cooking supposed to be about making people happy? But the chef at Gjelina apparently has such a God complex that he couldn't care less. There are far too many phenomenal restaurants in LA to put up with an ego like that. With people becoming increasingly aware of the nutritional component of health problems, restaurants like Gjelina (or their ego-driven chef) should become obsolete. And at the very least (and this is really the bare minimum) either take allergy lists seriously, or meticulously list on the menu every ingredient in each dish, so that guests can make safe choices for themselves.