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How food allergies affect me

Fish, nuts, and seeds gone. Never are you to eat, touch, or smell them. If you do possible death. Worrying about cross contamination is awful. Did the clam chowder have fish bones? Did the pad Thai have fish sauce? Are there pistachios in the terrine? These are the questions I must ask every time I go out to eat. Allergies irk the restaurant and the diner that has them. I know from experience working in restaurants that when customers say they have allergies the kitchen staff gets very annoyed because of some people's crazy allergies that pu the restaurant in a tight situation. I do actually have the allergies and I feel bad when I have to tell the restaurant about my allergies. If I eat something I am allergic to I would go into anaphylactic shock. My throat would close and I would have to stab myself with an epipen and get rushed to the nearest hospital.
I would do anything to get rid of my allergies. I am absolutely obsessed with food yet I have never tasted a morsel of sushi, tuna, salmon, Dover sole, bass, etc. The list goes on an on. I always ask people what these foods taste like. They try to explain, but it is not even close to actually tasting the food.
A drug came out recently that enabled lactose intolerant people to eat dairy products. If a drug came out that enabled me to eat fish, nuts, and seeds I would be ecstatic. I would go to Masa, Sushi Yasuda, Le bernadin, L20, Esca, Marea, etc. and have the best seafood possible.
I do not know if it is possible for me to work professionally in a kitchen with these allergies. Pretty much every station works with these ingredients in some way. I would not be able to saute a piece of fish, or work with nuts or seeds. I guess I would be able to work the meat station, but then how would I evolve as a cook? To become a chef you must work every station and master every station so when you become the leader of the kitchen you instruct every one what to do. If I was to be an executive chef I would not be able to taste the fish dishes, so I would not know if they were up to my standards. Maybe it would be possible to have a restaurant that had nothing I was allergic to. Would it be possible to have a restaurant without seeds and nuts? Yes. Without fish? Probably not.
What do you (the readers) think of my situation?


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  1. I know what you're talking about. I know people with whatj I would call hypochondriac allergies, then I know people with the real thing.

    Back in the bistro-days, my roomie, who was a waitress where we worked, for the first time, ate a piece of shellfish in the kitchen. Within a few minutes, her face was red like a terrible sunburn, and her nose and lips swoll up. The restaurant ownder recognized what was going on, and drove her to the hospital immediately. The sad thing was that she loved the fish she had previously eaten and was sad she could no longer eat shellfish.

    No, to be a foodie, looking to make his living cooking, that's a bad position to be in. However, not all dishes need nuts, NOR would you be expected, by sampling a said dish with nuts, to be able to pass/fail a dish because of nuts. There are lots of fabulous nut-free dishes out there.

    The fish allergy, however, is harder to dismiss. My take would be that it would be a good idea to live/move in a place where fish isn't so popular on menus.

    There's a big difference in demand with fish dishes in say Portland, vs., Rapid City, South Dakota. Then again, in a big city, there are many sufferers of allergies, and maybe you could find a restaurant that specializes in having lots of dishes without fish, maybe a Vegan restaurant?

    2 Replies
    1. re: natewrites

      Yea it sucks not being able to eat so many types of food.

      1. re: natewrites

        unfortunately the nut & seed allergy would be a big problem in a vegan restaurant. methinks our young friend is going to have a very difficult time pursuing his passion :(

      2. Did you actually get tested for allergies ? If yes, than good luck, if not, go get tested and get a real diagnostic on what you are actually allergic to.

        1 Reply
        1. Teddy, I won't ask a dumb question like "Have you seen an allergist?" Of course you have! But there are allergists and there are allergists, which is something to be considered and second opinions never hurt. My reason for going into this is that I have food (and every other kind of) allergies too. I gained the vast majority of mine through blood transfusions thirty one years ago, and afterward I was allergic to ALL foods EXCEPT white rice! How's them apples? '-) But few of mine resulted in anaphylactic shock, they were almost exclusively "systemic allergies," which meant after eating the wrong thing I would be in extreme pain through most of my body for hours to days. But I lucked out! I found a truly brilliant allergist who worked with me, showed me how to do challenges, and for three months white rice was all I ate! Then we began scratch testing and challenging and reintroducing the things I was least allergic to and if I didn't react, I could have it once a month for a year, then increase to once a week. And today I can eat almost everything. I just can't eat any animal or animal product that has had antibiotics or growth hormone soon enough before slaughter that it's still (even traces) in their body if I want to be able to walk the next day! Haven't been able to find out whether flu vaccine is made with organic eggs, therefore my doctor advises against a flu shot. Little things like that can be very tricky, as I'm sure you know! Oh, and just to keep things on a fun level, I'm allergic to epinephrine (Adrenaline). NO epepens for me!

          So my very best advice to you is to find a truly knowledgeable allergist. If I recall correctly, don't you live in the San Francisco bay area? IF so, I would seek out an allergy clinic at UCSF or Stanford Medical Center.

          There is some chance that as you age, you may outgrow many of your present allergies. There is also some chance that a truly good allergist can make custom vaccines for you to block some or even maybe many of your food allergies.

          I feel your pain, kiddo! The frustrating thing is you're at a career path age, making incredible inroads on learning the art and craft of food, you're already doing some amazing networking, but having to contend with your allergies is daunting. No doubt about it. Here's hoping you eventually outgrow ALL of your allergies! And I wouldn't start loosing hope on a career as a celebrity chef until you've had at least four medical opinions from top of their game allergists! Good luck!

          Oh, and for the record, I have heard Thomas Keller state that he created his signature Oysters and Pearls without ever tasting it. At the time of the televised interview, he said he still had not tasted it. Beguiling bit of trivia that might interest you...

          5 Replies
          1. re: Caroline1

            Whoa Nelly, I mean Caroline. Blood transfusions can cause food sensitivity? I've had a systemic allergy to several things for the first time ever in my entire life since I had a blood transfusion not-that-many years ago. Nobody EVER told me this. I am FASCINATED. And I feel a little vindicated.
            It must've been Hell on a plate to eat white rice for three months. I am glad you found a good allergist and able to participate more fully in the Wonderful World of Good Food. I am going to take this under very serious advisement.

            1. re: mamachef

              Yup. Sounds like it might be useful for you to find a "GOOD" allergist. And there's the rub. They're hard to find. But well worth the effort to keep trying. Systemic allergies are the worst. Good luck with yours!

              1. re: mamachef

                Blood transfusions can cause food sensitivity?
                sure can, unfortunately it's not common knowledge. and considering the marked increase in the prevalence/reporting of food-related allergies in recent years, i personally think all donated blood should be screened for IgE antibodies.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Very interesting idea about screening for IgEs. I've never thought about this before--curious how financially feasible that extra testing would be.

                  Developing the allergies Caroline described plus an allergy to epinephrine is completely insane. God bless you!

              2. re: Caroline1

                Thanks for all of the great information. I live in central New Jersey, so I might try to go to a new allergist in NYC to see if they could do anything else.

              3. I sympathize. I gave up aspirations to become a chef, and considered becoming a pastry chef, then gave that up, too. I realized rather young that I just couldn't be in the same kitchen where allergenic foods were cooked without having symptoms ranging from migraines to having my throat close up. I am not sensitive to the same things you are, so my challenges are a bit different, but nonetheless, I sympathize. It stinks to have one's body set such limitations.

                3 Replies
                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Ha! I've actually considered a respirator so that family can cook dried beans in my presence. Thus far, they just have to use a HEPA filter (winter) or attic fan (summer) and cook them while I'm out of the house. But, even that is tricky. If I come back too soon, or they don't run the fan long enough, bam, migraine!

                  2. I personally think a different career path would be a good one. Maybe there's another place you can fit into the food world and satisfy your passion for food in some other way.

                    1. Teddy, I wrote a fairly long post to you night before last in response to yours about the "chef tree" (I'm not sure that's what you called it and my computer is too wonky today to check out your blog), but my response and your post were deleted, probably for both of our lengthiness, but who knows? I *THINK* it was this thread. Whichever, it's gone... So I'll try a briefer version.

                      With your food allergies, the probability of you ever being able to become a line cook in a normal restaurant and work your way up to "top chef" are probably slim. It would be very difficult (probably) for you to get through culinary school with those allergies. Being a food critic is just as hazardous.

                      It would be a shame for the world to lose your great interest and joy in food, so... Have you thought of becoming a food historian? There are a few, not a lot. But it's something you could do without having to taste the food, and tracing the history of food, cooking styles, food fads, fusion, and all that jazz can be fascinating. And you're obviously a pretty good writer. Something for you to think about. For example, my own food allergies don't bother me one bit when I read about 15th century baronial feasts featuring roast peacock with the tail preserved during roasting, then fanned and carried into the dining hall by servants. I can almost taste them! Could be fun.

                      1. I travel a lot for work and for the last couple of years I thought I was running into hotels with bed bugs because of the extremely itchy red bumps I was coming home with sometimes. When it happened at home I thought it was bug bites. I also had developed intermittent bouts of terrible insomnia--doc even prescribed sleeping meds for me it got so bad. Fast forward to a wonderful trip to PEI where I gorged on the oysters that I love. Itchy bumps. Mussels--intestinal discomfort for the first time in my life. Light bulb goes off finally. And I wasn't sleeping--which I now know is a sign of a food allergy. Yes. got tested by a good allergist--both skin and blood--and even though not much showed up I apparently have developed an allergy to bivalves. It sucks. I had some fresh off the boat scallops last week --no hives but itchy skin and insomnia. And since I cut out shellfish I am sleeping fine. Haven't tried lobster yet. Hoping it may be just the bivalves. Fish has been fine. But don't fool around with it. Allergist says if you develop it at middle age it usually only gets worse. I now carry an EPI pen. I don't eat meat/poultry and cook mostly vegetarian, so is it possible to have a restaurant without fish? Yes. I make a point of seeking out vegetarian restaurants. Good luck!

                        1. Son has tree nut and sesame allergy. There is a restaurant in Montreal that is major allergen free. No nuts, seeds, fish , gluten etc. Of course can't remember what it's called. Open one in NYC and you will get a following. He would love to for once go out to eat and not have to explain what he can't have. He does carry chef cards and that helps the waiter bring something to the kitchen staff to look at. Bet you are a good cook since you have to make everything yourself. I know I can knock off pretty much anything with substitutions.

                          1. teddy, i'm sorry you're in such a tough spot. i can sympathize - i had to abandon my culinary school plans when i got my Celiac diagnosis, and i was heartbroken over it at first...until i realized that though i *wanted* to get my culinary arts degree, i didn't NEED it to realize my dreams. you don't have to go to culinary school or work in a restaurant to cook for a living. there's PLENTY you can learn by reading, watching videos/tv/webcasts, and - probably most importantly - *practicing* and experimenting at home. and once you've gotten your knowledge and skills to a level that feels right to you, how about reaching out to local allergy support networks and offering your services as a private chef to people who struggle with the same issues?

                            and i think you should absolutely take the advice of our very wise fellow Chowhound Caroline1, and see a *good* allergy & immunology specialist. if you're willing to head up to Manhattan, NY Presbyterian has an excellent department.

                            chin up, kiddo. you'll find a way ;)

                            1. There is a growing need for personal chefs and caterers specializing in allergy-free cuisine. I live in the SF area, and I know I would love to see an allergy-free restaurant on the level of what Ubuntu (Napa) did for vegetarian -- food so delicious you don't think about what you're missing. The tough part is the training. I would talk to your preferred culinary schools about how they can accommodate you, and if they will be adding new allergy aware courses. The market seems too large for them to ignore. I would learn to cook avoiding all common allergens, not just your own. If you really want to pursue cooking, you will find a way. Addressing an underserved market may be the way to go.

                              1. teddy, instead of seeking out a nut-free vegan restaurant with shifts available in your own area, you could always specialize in breakfast/brunch foods. not a lot of nut and fish-heavy dishes, just sayin. eggs are an interesting, and underrated, culinary specialty.