Ever wonder how gluten-free came to be a thing, before it became the thing? It is for people who have celiac disease, which- in short- is an autoimmune response to gluten. Now for the real question, what in the hell even is gluten? It is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. For celiac’s, gluten ransacks their small intestine and damages microvilli. In the short term, the consequences of consuming gluten are both vicious and debilitating. Think somewhere along the lines of a nasty stomach bug or food poisoning… now imagine trying to go about your normal, daily routine. In the long term, celiacs can suffer from a host of other medical conditions. Celiacs follow a chronic gluten-free diet, no exceptions (without severe consequences). For a better overall understanding of celiac disease, check out the following website here.
I, Intern Luke, am one of those “lucky” celiacs who gets to follow a chronic gluten-free diet. It was my sophomore year of high school when it was finally determined, after month after month of doctors and testing and doctors and testing. The whole process took about two years, and it involved some very graphic details that I’ll circumvent for everyone’s sake.
Learning to eat gluten free is challenging downright damn difficult. In truth, however, a few mistakes- and their consequences- tremendously expedite the learning process. Thankfully, both my parents were willing to dive in headfirst with me. The transition certainly would have been much rougher had they not been so supportive. All this progress and stability got completely upheaved upon going to college, however.
Both the food service staff at my University's dining halls, and my fraternity house, could not wrap their head around what I was asking for. And all this, despite being told I could not opt out of my meal plan, because they said I could be accommodated. Nevertheless, in reality, many of the workers couldn’t even spell gluten (glue-tan), much less prepare it. Indeed, irony at its finest.
Thankfully, everything changed my sophomore year. My fraternity contracted College Chefs, and wow did things change overnight. Instead of having food service workers who gave an earnest effort, but ultimately just weren’t up for the task (see “glue-tan” above); now, I was working with chefs who not only knew, but also understood my condition. They bring me back into the kitchen and have me approve every ingredient if they are uncertain; they prepare me specific meals when the scheduled meal cannot be altered to fit me; they specifically order gluten free foods for me; and they do all of this for me, and only me. Yes, I feel like a pain in the ass, and always make sure to thank the chef extra. Ultimately, however, they assure me that they love going out of their way to make sure I am taken care of. After spending the past sixish years feeling like a perpetual pain in the ass, the value of being understood cannot be undervalued.
In short, it was my encouraging experience with College Chefs’ capability to accommodate me that motivated me to want to work for them in the first place. College Chefs didn’t ask me to write this. I asked College Chefs to write this. Hopefully, hopefully, someone out there who is going through the same struggles reads this, and realizes that there is a far better way in college….just find the right people! If anyone reading this has celiacs or any other special dietary consideration, take it from me: you are not a pain in the ass, but your picky eating friends may be 😉.
By College Chefs' Intern Luke Dolan