A certified event planner with food allergies is helping change the hospitality industry—and the health of our nation—one event at a time.
Around age 30, I began experiencing lethargy, severe mood swings, depression, and sinus and breathing problems—symptoms that impacted my quality of life. After four years of visiting doctors who could find nothing wrong with me, I finally found an ENT who located the source of my illness: a food allergy to yeast.
I went on a yeast-free diet (yeast, sugar, vinegar, diary, white flour, peanuts, mushrooms), lost 25 pounds and felt better than I had in years. But I soon found that managing my diet was nearly impossible when traveling for the events I planned. A typical day at a meeting or event usually included three extravagant meals, but most of the time, I couldn’t eat anything that was being served. I didn’t realize right away that I could make off-the-menu requests, but when I did, I discovered that sometimes, I got meals that were far superior—in health and flavor—to what everyone else was getting; other times, I got a plate of hard-boiled eggs and bland chicken.
I began to see that very few planning and F&B professionals knew how to address the needs of people with dietary restrictions, whether it is a personal choice, a medical condition or a food allergy. That’s why, in January 2009, I decided to do something about it—not only for myself, but for my profession. I entered the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to learn more about my allergy and how to eat—and feel—better with food.
Soon afterward, I decided to build upon my 20 years of event planning experience and shift my practice to F&B consulting and speaking for the hospitality industry.
Whether I’m consulting on a specific event or creating a workshop for catering staff, I make sure people understand that:
- Their duty of care includes understanding allergies and making reasonable accommodation for them
- Accommodating food allergies doesn’t have to reduce the menu to bland chicken and hard boiled eggs
- Sharing ingredients with event attendees empowers them to choose food wisely and well
- Acknowledging food allergies doesn’t mean two separate menus – it means one well-planned menu with an extensive ingredient list