While some chefs may bemoan what they believe to be an epidemic of fake allergies, intolerances and dietary requirements, others are doing their best to accommodate everyone.
At the Azurmendi restaurant just outside Bilbao, which currently holds three Michelin stars and sits at number 38 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, chef Eneko Atxa and his team have developed 18 different menus to cover any dietary requirements their guests might have.
Gluten, dairy, alcohol, meat-free … they’re all there, annotated menus with pointed substitutions, delivered by a well-drilled kitchen that’s ready for anything, though of course, they would prefer if you let them know about your preferences beforehand. Will we see more restaurants follow suit?
“Each restaurant is one world with its own resources and sometimes is not so easy without the support of health specialists or without information from guests,” says Atxa. “It’s a big responsibility. It’s the result of direct contact with guests. This led me to research the issue with different health specialists. [But the development process] is laborious and we need more resources.”
So far, so good for Azurmendi and Atxa's nearby, one-Michelin-star Eneko restaurant though – the chef says he’s not aware of any dietary requirements they can’t cater for. Atxa says they are plans to introduce alternative menus in his other restaurants, in London and Tokyo, too.
The initiative is part of the Azurmendi group’s larger Jakin(n) project, aimed at helping build a “healthy and fair society through gastronomy,” incorporating working with local hospitals, charities and NGOs, and sustainability and anthropological work.