Carrol’s Creek Café of Annapolis, MD this year declared its independence from nuts, becoming the first fine-dining establishment to officially declare itself entirely “nut free.”
The 35-year-old seafood restaurant, which takes its name from Charles Carroll, the famous Maryland signer of the Declaration of Independence, spent an entire year sourcing everything from craft ice cream to cheddar cheese, ridding itself of products that had been cross contaminated during manufacture, and ensuring that even diners with the most sensitive nut allergy could breathe easily knowing that the entire menu was theirs to choose from.
“The decision to go nut-free was deeply personal,” says owner Jeff Jacobs. “As the parent of a child with a severe nut allergy, I am acutely aware of the challenges that must be addressed when dining out. Those suffering from nut allergies understand a safe environment is critical to their health.”
Jacobs adds, “We believe we are the first fine-dining restaurant in the region that can claim this distinction.”
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand’s blog Recipe for Success, Jacobs talks about the surprises and pay off a nut-free restaurant.
Q: What was the hardest part about going nut free?
It was the things that we didn’t know, that scared us. It was easy to tell the chef to stop ordering nuts. Or to stop preparing food with nuts. What we didn’t realize when we started down this path was all the places that nut allergens can hide. They were in places we never thought of, like shredded cheddar cheese! Nut dust is used in shredded cheddar to prevent sticking.
We also discovered that our craft ice cream was manufactured near nuts, and ran the risk of cross contamination. It was important to us to maintain our high-end standard of craft ice cream, and we finally sourced A La Mode ice cream of New York.
Another hard part was telling our customers that we could no longer serve the birthday cakes they brought into the restaurant. We had to find a new chocolate source ourselves, because ours was being processed in a facility that processed nuts. So, as much as we didn’t want to disappoint our customers who wanted to bring in their own cakes, we had to do this to maintain the nut-free zone.
Q: Why was going nut-free this important?
I was inspired by my son Braden, who’s 16. He has a severe nut allergy and I understand how hard it is for people like my son to enjoy a dinner out. We only just started this at the beginning of the year, but I’m already hearing overwhelmingly positive feedback. I’m always hearing about a child who hasn’t been able to eat a piece of bread or a dessert in a restaurant, and how great it is to have that worry gone.
Q: Was it hard to adapt your menu to be nut-free?
The menu, which is mostly seafood, was actually easy to adapt.
Obviously, we can’t account accommodate for all allergies, since we’re a seafood restaurant that serves shellfish. But, once we sourced different ingredients, made in nut-free manufacturing, it wasn’t that difficult to ensure the chefs didn’t use nuts.
All restaurant chefs attained certification from the AllerTrain by MenuTrinfo training program, which was recommended by a consultant we retained that specializes in creating nut-free zones. In addition, all staff receives allergy-specific training, and we’ve adopted strict guidelines prohibiting workers from bringing in any items containing nuts. We also established guidelines to mitigate potential cross-contamination from food products brought in by guests.
Q: Has it all been worth it?
Yes! Word has been getting out and I’m receiving calls and emails from people who are excited to finally have a fine-dining option they never had. Even more gratifying is that my son can now pick anything on the Carrol’s Creek menu! — Carrol’s Creek Café uses Boxerbrand menu covers Classics Line in its table presentation. Thank you!