pouring milk on the grill ... and other chefs' hacks that could be a problem for food allergic diners
I just googled "pouring milk on grill flames" and found nothing. Yet the chef I work with is confident it is the best way to address grill flare ups. Last week we had a big bbq where I work. With our well respected chef at the grill, we all looked forward to a gourmet feast. We even had a choice between her homemade veggie burgers and cheeseburgers. But why was milk poured over the grill from time to time?
Using milk on the grill might be a great kitchen hack. But for someone with an allergy to milk, this is the kind of unregulated and unreported food allergen use that might not get conveyed from chef to kitchen to waitstaff to customer. My food allergy red flag went way up. A dairy allergic diner wanting a burger with no cheese is expecting exactly that. But this off the radar cooking technique adds milk to a cooking surface that is supposed to promise a dairy free burger to someone who wants one.
This is why I stress continually that communication is essential. When you or your FA child goes out to eat, think of this as a team effort. You are trusting your server with your life - ask questions. Have them ask questions in the back of the house if they don't know the answer. Ask if they use milk on the grill. If the kitchen staff doesn't know you have a dairy allergy they won't think twice about serving you that burger. But if you stress your daily allergy to your server, or make a note in your Open Table reservation, it will be more likely to be communicated fully to the kitchen and more likely that dousing the grill with milk will be flagged and a burger will be prepared at a separate station.
Speak up and don't be embarrassed to ask questions. Trust me, your server, chef and restaurant owner want you have have a safe and enjoyable experience at their restaurant!