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Charity “CJ” Ohlund

CharityCJ is a weekly contributor of a restaurant musings column called “In the Weeds” on Tuesdays. She left her grown-up job for server work after having two kids with her chef husband. She is also a pretty good shot with a glock.

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8 Responses to “ Charity “CJ” Ohlund ”

  1. Lobster Boy on February 15, 2010 at 1:53 am

    Thanks for dropping by the blog, and thanks for the link as well. I’ve been linking to y’all for a while now too. Keep stirring it up.

    Lobster Boy

  2. TK Kenyon on May 24, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    CJ,

    I tried to email this to you privately, but your contact email is broken. So I’ve had to resort to public messages.

    I read your list of “funny restaurant customers” on rd.com, and I’m just horrified that you included food allergy guests in there along with other annoying people.

    I have celiac disease, which is an allergy to the gluten protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, and those ingredients are also in soy sauce, bread crumbs, flour, roux, etc. Going out for a meal feels like playing Russian Roulette. If I get “glutenized,” I’m going have the same symptoms as really bad food poisoning for days afterward. Eventually, the immune reaction to gluten, if I get contaminated often enough, will cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a particularly not-treatable form of cancer, and I will die.

    I have a six-year-old son. Every time I eat out, I wonder if this is the restaurant that’s going to give me cancer.

    Yeah, I tell the waiter about my food allergy. I ask again and again. I talk to the chef. And I can’t tell you how many times, after all that, some idiot waitstaff slaps a salad with croutons all over it in front of me and then rolls his eyes and tells me to pick them out. Or, worse, he takes the salad back and returns with a suspiciously similar salad two minutes later, like he just flicked them off, which means I will get sick if I eat that contaminated salad.

    And so many times, I get sick when I get home, and then I wonder if that was it, if I have a couple months before a painful death that will leave my kindergartner alone with his father/DH. They don’t get along.

    Just for the record, I get sick about 10% of the time when I eat out, even in chain restaurants with GF menus like Chevy’s, Outback, Chili’s, or Pizzaria Uno. I don’t eat out often.

    So your stupid little article pissed me off. I hate going out to eat. It’s embarrassing to discuss health problems, and it pisses me off that idiot waitstaff like you don’t know what’s in your food and find *me* annoying for asking. It’s *my health*, and it’s *my life.* It’s your job to get me what I ask for and not whine about how annoying I am. Literally. That is *your job.* If you don’t like it, go back to your “grown-up” job instead of being a bad waitress.

  3. teleburst on May 29, 2010 at 9:54 am

    To TK, with all due respect to your condition, a condition that I’ve addressed on my own blog, “So You Want To Be A Waiter”, saying things like “Eventually, the immune reaction to gluten, if I get contaminated often enough, will cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a particularly not-treatable form of cancer, and I will die” is misleading because it’s just not true. There is a greater risk, but using the word “will” is just not true and is highly inflammatory and misleading. and saying “And so many times, I get sick when I get home, and then I wonder if that was it, if I have a couple months before a painful death that will leave my kindergartner alone with his father/DH. They don’t get along” makes it sound like your celiac disease is so far advanced that you could die just from smelling soy sauce.

    I can understand your reticence to eat out if your intestinal sprue is so intense that even a crumb or two from a removed crouton is enough to make you sick. If you are so advanced that you are hypersensitive to the most minute presense of gluten, then I’d suggest that you don’t EVER need to eat out at Chevy’s, Chili’s or Pizzaria Uno. I know it sucks, but those places use processed bases and products that could have gluten and it’s almost impossible to know for sure whether certain things haven’t been made with some level of possible gluten or cross-contaminated with gluten through cooking oil or a cutting board. A product such as Hunt’s Ketchup isn’t “guaranteed” to be gluten free although the chances of getting sick from it is almost nil. (Heinz is apparently OK). Just having a GF menu isn’t enough.

    For your own safety, you need to stick with a place like PF Chang’s that has a really solid gluten free menu (I speak from personal experience – they have a food product and an ordering system that makes it easy to identify certain “virtually guaranteed” gluten free menu items). Yes, Chili’s has a gluten free guide but they don’t even guarantee that you’re not going to get sick, and I’m not sure if they have special GF designations that the waiter can ring in, as PF Chang’s does. Maybe they do but it sounds like you’re more at the mercy of them having to ring in “no croutons” instead of a GF designation that the kitchen follows when making a product. Yes, the server should get it right. Yes, the food runner should pick up the correct salad. And no, there’s nothing wrong with emphasizing how important it is for you to get a *fresh* replacement because of your health issues. But you need to curb your anger a bit. It can’t be doing your immune system any good.

    You know, if it’s “embarassing to discuss health issues”, then part of the problem is YOURS. I’m not excusing a rude server who rolls their eyes at you. But your attitude is also annoying because you’re doing the same thing that you accusing servers of doing – whining. And you’ve been disengenuous in doing so by overstating your disease. Yes, servers and food runners can make mistakes. But you can help them out by only ordering from the GF menu. You might do that already, but make sure that you ask for a gluten free menu upfront, even if you know what you want. This will reinforce the importance of your health issue.

    I’m doing MY best to change server attitudes about food health issues. But there are also guests who don’t have legitimate concerns or have misconceptions about allergies. I work with such a server, who claims that she’s *highly* allergic to shrimp but has happily eaten Thai red curry for years. Thai red curry paste has shrimp paste in it although you’d never know it. She *is* allergic to shrimp itself, but not to the miniscule amount of shrimp product in a typical Thai curry dish. And yet, she insisted that there couldn’t be any shrimp in it because she never had a reaction – that even the smallest amount of shrimp would make her break out in hives. I went back and forth with her on this for a week (I actually make curry paste at home) and finally, I got our Chef to show her the contents of the commercial red curry paste that he had just bought for a special project. She was shocked.

    So, this is the sort of thing that we have to deal with, and you’ll have to excuse us for taking a more cynical view. You’d be surprised how many people claim to be allergic to garlic simply because they don’t like garlic (yes, there is a VERY tiny monority of people who are allergic to garlic). Or people who are “vegetarians” and then go on to order a crabcake.

    Or even people who claim that their disorder is something more than it is.

    Here’s my post from Sept. of last year that shows that I’m serious about it:

    http://teleburst.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1639&action=edit&message=1

    And two more posts on allergies in general:

    http://teleburst.wordpress.com/2010/01/17/on-allergies-pt-1/

    http://teleburst.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/on-allergies-part-2/

  4. Josh on June 15, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    I was really digging your input on the waiter secrets article on yahoo. The stereotype list was hilarious.

    Keep on keeping on!

  5. tired of it on January 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    So TK, let me understand this. You have a disease, or an allergy, or an affliction of some sort, and YOU willingly go out to eat at a place where you have NO CONTROL over the food, the preparation of it, or it’s service. Then you complain about your perceived improprieties by that restaurant?

    Get a clue dude… and DON’T tell me some b.s. about how you have the RIGHT to go out and eat like everyone else. No, you don’t. YOUR body, YOUR system, is unable to tolerate food that other people can.

    All we’ve heard for years is how second hand smoke causes lung cancer so SMOKERS have to give in and give up THEIR rights! Not to mention the business owners who want to cater to them. Hmm, funny thing, the number of smokers is declining, yet the incidents of lung cancer are rising… who are ‘they’ going to blame now??

    If you don’t want emphysema, don’t smoke. If you don’t want liver problems, don’t drink. If you don’t want to get sick, then don’t go and eat at places that might not be good for you!!

  6. Frances on January 10, 2012 at 8:31 am

    TK’s rant is exactly why said she thinks people with allergies are the “annoying” customers. Once again like the poster above me, why put your health in someone else’s hands? If its that bad DO NOT GO OUT.

    As for you Charity, I really enjoyed the RD article and the tips. Now I know how to be an even better customer. :)

  7. Randy Fromm on March 3, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I am shocked (and actually a bit angry) at your revelation that you have served decaffeinated coffee to someone that had ordered regular coffee. The only time I would order regular coffee at night would be in order to stay awake (perhaps at the wheel of a speeding motor vehicle?). How could you live with yourself if you knew that you had caused a fatal crash because a driver, requesting regular coffee, was intentionally served DeCaf instead and had fallen asleep at the wheel? DO you not see how bad this is (regardless that you have cheated your customer at the very least)?

  8. Dude on June 15, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Randy realy your shocked. This is not brain surgery, the is dinning out. Your there for an expericence. If you need a drug, caffine, to stay awake while driving you should not be driving. Your waiter is not cheating you of anything particularly if you can’t taste the differnce. In fact they are doing you a favor by giving you fresh coffee. Late in a shift one pot of coffe will turn over much more quickly than two pots of coffee hence fresher coffee.

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