What Is a Chef Card for Food Allergies?
Last updated: July 2022
Have you ever heard of a chef card? I learned about the chef card from a friend who has grown up with multiple food allergies. She has learned to take precautions but lives a full life. She travels around the world and writes about her life with allergies.
She was planning a summit and asked for my chef card. I didn't know what that was, and not wanting to sound dumb, I searched "What is a chef card?" on Google. I didn't realize how important they can be. And I have been carrying chef cards ever since that day!
What are chef cards?
Chef cards are small cards, about the size of a business card or notecard, that contains a list of your food allergies and instructions for the chef preparing your meal. These can be easily stored in a wallet, purse, or backpack - whatever you use to carry all your stuff!
My chef card says:
I have a severe life-threatening allergy to shellfish and finned fish. Please make sure my food doesn't contain any seafood and that any utensils, prep surfaces, and equipment used have not had any contact with seafood. Thank you for your help!
How do you use a chef card?
I have had positive and negative experiences using chef cards. Chef cards can be used whenever you are eating out at a restaurant. Whenever I eat out at a restaurant, I tell my server immediately that I have food allergies. It's essential to tell your server before making any food orders.
I then hand my chef card to the server and ask them to please give it to the chef so that it travels with my order. I want everyone who is preparing my food to see it. Having multiple copies of the chef cards is helpful so that the restaurant can keep them.
Mixed reactions from servers
When I arrive at the restaurant, I tell the wait staff or fast food worker that I have food allergies. And then I wait for their reaction.
Unfortunately, I've experienced servers rolling their eyes and sighing at me when I tell them I have food allergies. I know the kitchen staff will have to take extra steps to prepare my meal safely. They may need to get new utensils, clean off the cutting board, etc. But I really appreciate people who will be careful with my food, so I don't end up having a severe allergic reaction.
I have had other servers nod and tell me it was no problem. Phew!
I'm not being a picky eater
Others will stare at me blankly after I inform them of my allergies. I wonder if they think I'm just a "picky eater." Surely, they have served other people with food allergies, right?
When people just stand there and stare at me, I will show them my epinephrine auto-injectors and tell them that I always carry 2 auto-injectors with me, but I would rather not use them! Then I smile to show them I can handle this with their help. That usually loosens them up!
Seeking input from restaurant staff
I would love input from anyone who works in restaurants. What are your concerns if someone with food allergies comes to your restaurant? Do you have advice on what people with food allergies should or shouldn't do? How can we work together to keep others safe?
How often do you connect with others who have food allergies?