When I first saw Chef David Sandusky’s video, I knew I had to get in touch with him. Anyone who is that open about accommodating food allergies needs to be recognized in our community. Since BEAST Craft BBQ is located outside St. Louis, an in-person interview wasn’t realistic at this time, however I did ask about what I would be able to eat when I do plan a visit!
After you read this interview, you are probably going to wish that he was every chef, everywhere! His answers are so on point. I love when chefs recognize the importance of communication, attitude, and chef cards. Read below on about this super star chef!
AB: How long have you been a chef? Has BBQ always been your focus?
DS: I’ve worked kitchens my whole working life, mostly in “fine-dining” before I fell in love with BBQ. And why not? “Fine-dining” has become so irrelevant and pretentious that it struggles to meet people where they live. I just wanted to do something that “hit people in the chest” in a genre that’s so competitive and close to home. BBQ IS America’s heart and culture – it’s almost religious.
AB: How did you learn about best practices for accommodating those with food allergies?
DS: Basic food and industry knowledge aside, I’ve mostly learned from those that enter my establishment hoping not to leave in an ambulance. Over time, I’ve compiled policies and procedures to maximize our efforts.
AB: Was there a catalyst for making BEAST Craft BBQ so allergy conscientious and inclusive?
DS: I have a close friend who’s allergic to seemingly everything. After meeting families who were so impacted by our desire to work with them (especially children), I couldn’t help but keep trying to get it right for as many as we could.
AB: How frequently do you customize menus?
DS: I’ve had a handful take me up on it. We’ve only recently begun taking requests for the “MDR Custom Menus”.
AB: As a chef, what do you find is the most helpful thing a guest can do so that you can safely accommodate them? (ex. call ahead, fill out the custom form, do you ever see anyone use a chef card?)
DS: There are several great answers. I’ll give a few….
The most helpful things they can do are:
- Don’t be rude – ever. Take into consideration that the chef and restaurant are slowing all monetary processes to ensure your safety. We want to help.
- Always assume we don’t know everything you know about your allergies. Help us ensure we’ve done it properly, especially as the plates arrive.
- Use a chef card as much as possible.
AB: How have you trained your staff to understand the significance of food allergies and to take them seriously?
DS: We’ve trained heavily on cross-contamination, used menu tests, and keep a chef present at the pass to oversee allergy operations. We are also starting to certify all staff members.
AB: If you were to customize a menu for me, what would it look like? (I am attaching my chef card with my allergies on it)
AB: Any dining words of inspiration for someone who is fearful of taking their food allergic child out to eat?
DS: Relationship is everything, and the industry is changing to sustain your needs. There’s light at the end of the tunnel!
To learn more about this incredible chef, check out his site at http://www.davidsandusky.com/
Photo Credit: Jennifer Silverberg
This is so awesome. Something as simple as eating can be so stressful when handling food allergies. Chef David’s outlook and practices are a breath of fresh air!