Recently I was reading a thread on a Vegan Facebook page, it was a rage about the food at a wedding, accompanied by a photo of someone eating a bowl of greens, doing the fingers at the camera. The complaint was the two vegan guests could only eat the bowl of greens available from the buffet. This post is in defence of the chefs she was raging about.
I am also “special needs” when it comes to my food, and a chef who works in event catering aswell as having worked in cafes. I have experience with both sides of the catering world.
The chefs do not decide the menu. The hosts do, in conjunction with an event manager who plans the menu to suit the occasion. They will ask the host(s) about “Dietaries”. No one wants an unhappy hungry guests. At a catered event “Dietaries” are the people with special meals designed for them, individuals whose food needs would not be satisfied by the “normal” meal. During an event the “normal” meal refers to whichever meal was intended for the majority of guests. It is not meant to be an offensive tag, but meat eaters are generally the norm. If the event was catered for mostly non-meat eaters, then the “normal” would be the non-meat dish; however, in reality, at such events it’s rare to find that the host will accommodate meat-eaters (hypocrisy?).
While catering in the UK I tend to see less than 5% Dietaries at events; for instance today I will be working at a catered at an event for 150 guests. We were told to accommodate seven “dieteries”, made up of three vegetarians, one nut-free, one GF (though not strict), one wheat-free and one “vegetarian” who wants to eat the fish(?).
The companies I have worked for all do their best to accommodate any dietary requirements if given suitable warning. At times I have put together last minute meals, because someone didn’t like what was on offer.
If there is no food suited to your specific needs, your hosts probably didn’t order any. When accepting an invitation to a catered event, it is your responsibility to let you host know, just like ordering your meal on an airplane, if it’s not pre-ordered you may not be accommodated. Dietary requirements may be due to allergy or illness or they may be personal choice. Whether for mortality or morality, it is up to you to take care of yourself.