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Las Vegas chef happily cooks up special dishes for diners with food allergies

Las Vegas chef happily cooks up special dishes for diners with food allergies
Chef Keith Norman has specialized in preparing tasty food dishes for guests who suffer from food allergies for nearly a decade in the kitchens at South Point Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas. (South Point Hotel-Casino)

Where do you graze in Las Vegas if you have food allergies? An executive chef at one hotel-casino has developed dishes that work for visitors with special dietary needs — and has written a book to encourage others in the hospitality industry to do likewise.

“A customer with allergens should have the same opportunities as customers without,” said Keith Norman, assistant executive chef and food safety manager at the South Point Hotel-Casino at 9777 S. Las Vegas Blvd. “… For us here, it doesn’t matter what the allergen is. ...Once you’ve safely served an allergen family, you have friends for life.”

South-Point restaurants have signs at the entrances that encourage guests to tell the staff about any food allergies. They then order from the main menu, and their dishes are prepared separately and brought to the table before other diners' meals.

South Point Hotel-Casino
Chef Keith Norman proves that vegetable soup, left, and roasted chicken in a creamy sauce can be adapted for diners who have food allergies., South Point Hotel-Casino

For the last nine years, with encouragement from people who have food allergies, including some in hotel management, Norman has been working to ensure that guests’ needs are never overlooked or taken lightly.

He wrote “Allergen Awareness: A Chef’s Perspective,” released in October, to share what he has learned and help other chefs become more sensitive to dietary needs.

“I wanted to bring to the conversation road maps for chefs and hospitality professionals to be able to embrace allergens. They’re not going away,” he said.

What advice does he have for allergy-prone diners? Avoid the Garden Buffet at dinnertime, which involves spending your time vetting 250 different choices. Those who insist on the buffet experience will be accompanied by a staff member who will “walk the line with the customer and point out the dishes that are safe.”

If the dishes are off limits, Norman said his chefs will cook to order. In the end, he said it’s not that hard to accommodate food allergy sufferers.

“It’s doable. You just need the chefs with the right attitude, the right commitment and the knowledge that’s needed to safely prepare,” he said.

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