As I walked into Pearson’s Café, I passed the cereal dispensers, the salad bar, and the pasta bar. In the far corner of the room, I approached the station beneath a large “Gluten Free” sign. Executive Chef Richard Fields stood behind the counter, clad in chef’s whites. As he served a beef stir fry to the incoming dinner rush, the skillet sizzled and the savory aroma filled the air. For a moment, I wished I had come to eat a meal rather than interview Richard.
Gluten-free food offerings can be necessary for those with serious diseases such as celiac, which affects approximately 1% of the United States population and can cause major gastrointestinal issues. For those affected by the condition, gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, can damage the lining of their small intestine and lead to other symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, ulcers, and anemia. Over the last 50 years, the disease has become five times more common. Eating out can often increase the danger of coming across an allergy-triggering food for those with more severe allergies, so the staff in Pearson’s take extra care to be sure that all entrées are as safe as possible.
“I would end up in the hospital if I didn’t eat gluten free. It’s very rare to be able to have the opportunity to eat in a dining area like this and have access to all of these different foods, as well as a refrigerator with specialty bread items and ice cream,” said Manuela Arundel, a staff member.
Richard expressed a vision for the gluten-free station beyond the simple purpose it serves currently. If things continue according to plan, additions such as a noodle or sushi bar could be coming in the near future. “I can see a lot of different things that could happen right there that’s gluten-free,” he said.
Those with allergies are not the only ones who can benefit from the gluten-free station. Everyone is encouraged to take food from it, simply because the meal that day looks tasty or as part of a larger dietary change. With menu items like flatbread pizza, sandwiches, smoothies, and noodles, the gluten-free station offers something for everyone. Since the café serves members of the greater Sebago Lake community as well, the gluten-free station can be a great resource for those wanting to eat a healthier diet or manage their allergies.
-By Matthew Gregoire ’18, Communications Intern