Dos and Don'ts for Preparing and Serving

Gluten Free Meals in Hawaii's Restaurants.



Make sure menu items that are marked as Gluten Free (GF) are Gluten Free.

(If not, your guest will be sick and in pain an average of 3 days)


Have dedicated GF utensils, tongs and cookware that are ONLY used for GF preparation.


Clean grill or pans thoroughly before cooking a GF protein.

(A dedicated grill, cook top or gluten free area is recommended.)


Make sure any sauce used in a GF meal does not include shoyu (Soy Sauce), flour or thickener made from vegetable protein. Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein can come from wheat. If cornstarch, potato starch or tapioca starch is used, make sure it is 100% pure and not mixed.


If polenta is served make sure it is 100% polenta. Often polenta and food service corn bread mixes contain wheat or barley.


Soba in Hawaii contains wheat unless it is marked clearly as juwari soba or made from 100% soba or buckwheat. Buckwheat or kasha is not wheat but must be 100% pure.


Consider using quinoa grain.


Do wash thoroughly and/or change gloves before prepping a GF meal.


Make sure there is no cross contamination with utensils, plates or foodstuffs that contain food with gluten.


GF meals should not be plated near baking areas or near breads.

(One tiny crumb can cause a celiac to have major problems)


Keep glasses and beverages away from any bread.


Servers should ask at the table if there are other food allergies the chef needs to be aware of.


Read labels. If in doubt about an ingredient, research or ask the executive chef. Do not include it in GF meal until you are absolutely sure there is no gluten protein derivative.




Don't make a GF salad then put croutons on it.


Servers should carry plates with GF meals separately. Do not carry a GF meal on a tray with other meals. Beverages for celiac patrons should be carried separately, not together with beer or other drinks.


Bread should be kept away from patrons who ordered GF meals.


Do not serve anything with barley malt extract, malt or beer.


Don't use anything in a sauce or reduction that you are not sure of. That includes mixed spices, alcohol with caramel coloring or pre-made mixes, especially food service chicken and beef stock.






Celiacs cannot eat anything with wheat, Rye, barley or oats.

They can have corn, rice quinoa and potatoes provided there is no cross contamination and that they are 100% pure.


Chemicals in prepared foods can often contain wheat.  Make sure what you use is safe.


Shoyu or Soy Sauce is wheat. (Keep wheat free shoyu (like San-J brand) on hand

Soba in Hawaii is either 40% or 60% wheat but a wide selection of gluten free pastas are available from distributors or at local health food stores. Keep some on hand and you'll make unexpected guests very happy.


Panko is breadcrumbs therefore wheat.


Noodles like pasta and saimin are made from wheat and potentially deadly.


Furikake and nori is not consistently gluten free. Some types are processed with soy sauce and therefore dangerous.


Ponzu, teriyaki and other sauces contain wheat. You can easily create your own with wheat free soy sauce and Fresh Island citrus.



Notes from Members


Watch out for syrups and sweet sauces, as well as unexpected ingredients (usually malts) in ice creams. And watch the beverages (hot and cold) for hidden additives (artificial creamers, for example-- and then there is root beer and some lemonade!) and salad dressings.


Cheese is another problem-- you really have to watch the blues. Most of them are started with bread mold! You have to call the manufacturer and ask. Don't put blue cheese on the same plate as other cheeses that people with allergens can enjoy.


Also watch out for dextrin's, "spices," "flavoring," (malto) dextrin and starches in foreign products from countries that do not have the same label laws as in the US. Some foreign "gourmet" items may seem safe but are not.  Oyster sauces, fish sauces, etc. are all tricky and often dangerous for celiacs and others.


Some commercial charcoal contains gluten, which can affect what's being cooked or processed. Dry roasted nuts can often be affected this way.


NEVER remove croutons from a salad and call it "gluten-free"--it ISN'T, because tiny crumbs from those croutons will remain and cause a serious reaction in a person with celiac. You will have to make a fresh salad with no croutons.


"Make sure any sauce used in a gluten-free meal does not include shoyu..."

"Shoyu or Soy Sauce is mostly wheat. "

"Keep wheat free shoyu (like San-J brand) on hand "



As a diner, I would add:


When bringing any complimentary item to the table, clarify for each restricted diner whether it is 'safe' or not for them (for example, amuse bouche items, chocolates with the bill, etc.)


Tell any restricted diners whether other diners' dishes are 'safe' for them to sample - the whole table doesn't need to be gluten-free, but it's great if you are the gluten-free diner to know what else you can taste!


Confirm as you set down the restricted diner's plate that the restriction has been honored - for example, "here is the grilled salmon with quinoa substituted for the pasta".

If more than one server is bringing items to the table, have each server acknowledge the food restriction the first time they visit the table


If the restaurant takes reservations, ideally the food restriction can be noted on the reservation & the server will confirm when arriving at the table (really makes restricted diners feel the restaurant pays attention and 'gets' the situation)


DO NOT ask a gluten-free diner if they would like bread with their meal (unless it's gluten-free bread). This is so disconcerting to me and my husband when eating at a supposedly "gluten-free" restaurant. It really makes us wonder if they're going to fix the rest of the meal safely, and it makes the establishment look bad.



Ken Love

with comments from members of