HAVE YOU NOTICED A CHANGE?
Yes, definitely. When I started working in chalets 16 years ago it was rare for people to have allergies and other dietary requirements. You’d have a few vegetarians and maybe a couple of serious allergies per season. Nowadays if you have a week without any dietary requirements it’s a rarity. I think what has also changed in recent years is that people will label whatever foods they are avoiding (for whatever reason) as “allergies”, which can be somewhat misleading!
HOW HAS THAT IMPACTED THE CREATION OF FINE DINING EXPERIENCES?
It has definitely made it more challenging, but I think for the benefit of everyone. 15 years you could produce the same menu week after week and only have to make alterations for dietary requirements every once in a while. The danger there is that it is quite easy to become bored with that scenario. Now it is much harder to follow the same menu plan when you often have 3 or 4 dietaries in any given week, so there is a pressure there to be much more creative. I think guests can definitely tell when their chef is being stimulated creatively and that makes the experience for them all the more enjoyable.
For many chefs working in a chalet gives them the opportunity to be more creative and imaginative than working in a restaurant might do, and so having a multitude of dietary requirements actually provides a catalyst for that creativity which can be quite exciting. On top of that you have to consider that the range of produce and ingredients that can be sourced in the mountains is fairly limited compared to the UK, and so it can be quite hard to get the ingredients required for, say, a paleo diet. On the other hand it does provide a great opportunity for us as chefs not only to learn about different allergies and diets, but also how to cater for them in new and exciting ways with the resources that we have.