25 Nov 2015 SheKnows Expert: I’m not PICKY, I am Particular with a PURPOSE!

she knows article PICKY Nov 15 2015Thank you to SheKnows for inviting me to write for them as an Expert. My first article is now live:  I’m not a picky diner, I have serious food allergies. I hope you will chose to share one of your stories in my Gratitude Travel Writing Contest. You are the rainbow in someone else’s cloud–they need to hear your story! Enter by THANKSGIVING!

During St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, I was served a piece of chocolate cake. I had specifically alerted the restaurant team that I am allergic to strawberries when I ordered. Suddenly, I knew they had simply brushed off the offending fruit from piece and served it to me. I was rushed to my hotel to take medication and was able to participate in the parade the following day, but I was very shaken by the whole experience. When I returned home, I told my sister emphatically,

“I am never eating pastry again.”

She said, “You are not allergic to pastry.”
I said, “Yes, but I am allergic to stupidity.”

My experience lately in California has been that chefs are happy to accommodate customers’ needs. I was invited to a private dinner at Dave Koz’s home to celebrate the start of his new restaurant venture, Spaghettini & the Dave Koz Lounge, in Beverly Hills. When I realized the efforts the culinary team had gone through to accommodate my food issues, I was embarrassed. I apologized to Chef Scott Howard and he said, “I have a food allergy, also. I am happy to make this meal work for you.”

I still feel concerned about being perceived as picky and a troublesome guest. The impact of my special requests depends on how attached the other person is to the outcome. Chef Scott understands certain foods don’t work for everyone, even if the fresh berries from the local farm are a centerpiece of his meal.

At Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel, Chef Olivier knows all about my food issues, requests and preferences. After we cooked souffle together in his kitchen, he asked if he could send out items for me and my dinner companion. I thought about if I could trust his choices for me. It turned out to be one of the best meals I have had. I could eat everything! It felt great to be understood and not be concerned about the dishes that arrived or what my dining companions would think.

I realized that while chefs are willing to work with me, my dining companions have a larger range of opinions. One friend who also has food allergies was disappointed when I would not share the dishes she could eat. I was shocked when she called me picky, as my expectation was that she would be understanding. She wanted me to eat what she wanted. It was not about sharing something or finding common ground, it was about getting her way. That was revealing to me.

At the Outpost restaurant in Goleta, our dishes arrived carefully selected by Chef Derek to match my food requirements. Everything was fantastic. My dining companion was surprised certain dishes he felt would be highlighted were missing. Chef looked at him and said, “But Lisa won’t eat that!”

Like all relationships, sharing at restaurants works better with fewer surprises. By managing expectations with dining companions and telling chefs preferences in advance, I have had less dramatic experiences. I am still wary of pastry. However, I now classify myself as “particular,” not “picky” — and it is with a purpose.

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Lisa Niver

After exploring 99 countries and sailing for seven years on the high seas, Lisa Niver is ready for more active adventures! Find her We Said Go Travel videos with over 1.25 million views on Roku, Amazon Fire TV and YouTube. Her stories include Dutch designer villas for Luxury Magazine, interviewing Fabien Cousteau for Delta Sky, skiing with the blind for Sierra and WWII for Saturday Evening Post and Smithsonian. She is verified on both Twitter and Facebook and is the Adventure Correspondent for The Jet Set TV. Her latest projects are 50 new things before she is 50 and Facebook Live for USA Today 10best. She has run 13 Travel Writing Awards publishing nearly 2000 writers from 75 countries and this summer is the first We Said Go Travel Photo Competition. She was a winner in the 59th annual 2016 Southern California Journalism Awards for her print column in The Jewish Journal. She was invited to the United Nations as a Champions of Humanity ambassador, to the red carpet at the Oscars with United Airlines and to New Orleans with American Express and Starwood Hotels. She also contributes to USA Today, Wharton Business Magazine, the Jewish Journal and was a 2012 nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, a 2014 nominee for the Charles Bronfman Prize and a finalist in two categories for the 59th annual Southern California Journalism Awards.

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