For any of us with food allergies/intolerance the thought of traveling away from our trusted food sources can fill us with anxiety and dread. This is particularly relevant to me when I think about family vacations. Typically I would choose to go self-catering and need to do a lot of research on the food sources that will be available to us. Doesn’t sound like a vacation does it?
The same applies if I have to go on business trips, though of course I can’t stipulate when, where and how long I am away for, which as single mum brings other challenges such as finding overnight care, coordinating pick up / drop offs for extracurricular activities and food menus for my daughter! So last week, when I had to travel to Orlando for work, I was rushing around last minute, packing up individual portions of frozen Liver Pate (it travels so well), ensuring that I had a fridge in my hotel room and finding a local grocery store that would deliver food to my hotel! A business trip is stressful enough, without this!
We had visited Disney as a family in December 2013 and I was delighted with the personalized care that a gluten free/dairy free family was provided with but this was before I had started the AIP Protocol. For my business trip, the Conference Host, as part of the registration, had asked to be informed about food allergies but quickly responded to me that due to the extent of my food restrictions they couldn’t guarantee provision of food. Upon check in at Disney World Coronado Springs Resort I was asked to complete a Dietary Information Sheet that I could hand to the Disney Chefs if I was choosing to dine on property! If I hadn’t experienced the Gluten/Dairy free experience in December I can assure you I would be dubious to do this, but I knew how much importance Disney placed on supporting those with food allergies, that I decided to give it a try!
Upon registration at the hotel, I was given the name of the chef who was responsible for the conference menu and was told to contact him at lunch time the next day to discuss my dietary needs. I will be honest, I didn’t, because I had already brought some Epic Bars and other snacks to sustain me, but when I entered the lunch room, a server directed me to the buffet table and I declined saying “I have food allergies and I know there is nothing I could even attempt to eat”. “Oh let me get the Chef for you” was the immediate response. Chef Bill came over to me and asked how he could help.
“I can’t have ANY Grains, ANY Dairy, ANY Seeds, Legumes, Nightshades or Eggs” said I, with an awkward smile.
“OK…, so now list for me what you can have, what would you typically eat if you were at home” came the response from Chef Bill.
“Well I could have Grilled Chicken Breast (please don’t pan fry it in oil, I only use Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil or Olive Oil)”
“That’s ok I have all three of those but Grilled Chicken Breast it is, what about seasonings?”
“I can have Salt, Black Pepper, Garlic, Ginger, Turmeric, Cilantro, Parsley, Sage, Tarragon, Balsamic Vinegar”
“OK that’s great, OK what about vegetables”
“I can have Spinach, Kale, Cucumber, Carrots, Squash, Zucchini, Onions, erm… a whole lot more than that but is that enough” I laugh
“Perfect, I will be back in about fifteen minutes” says Chef Bill
And true to his word, fifteen minutes later, Chef Bill returned with the most delicious looking dish – personally cooked for me. Not only did he deliver the meal to me personally but he came back ten minutes later to check that I was enjoying it! Was I ever!!!
This experience continued as I dined at restaurants on Disney Properties. The President of the company I work for, was also at the conference, so there were strategy meetings, and client entertainment that had to take place, while he fully supports my dietary needs and would have understood if I chose to eat before entertaining clients, I think he was as relieved as me that this took a huge pressure off of us all!
As a result of this experience I will admit that I am tempted to take my daughter again to visit Disney, (shh don’t tell her) and have already discussed this with her Dad, as he too needs to find locations which support her dietary needs.
So Disney, I thank you, applaud you, and salute you for making even a business trip a Magical Experience