View Full Version : Shellfish allergies in the sushi bar

07-24-2014, 02:44 PM
I just wanted a few other opinions on a situation I ran into the other night.
I've been a sushi chef in the same restaurant for around 5 years now. Just like any restaurant we deal with all kinds of allergies on a nightly basis. Earlier this week we had a group of ladies order a few rolls but advise the server one of the ladies has a SEVERE shellfish allergy. She explained even the smallest trace of anything that's ever been in contact with any shellfish would be enough to send her immediately to the hospital. She wanted us to change out our aprons/boards/knives/anything else that would be near her food.

I've never had an issue accommodating an allergy in the past. I've also never had anyone stress exactly how allergic they are to trace amounts as this women. She came to the bar to explain how serious and "deathly" allergic she was to my head chef and I. I was peeling 2lbs of shrimp as she was talking to us.

We told her the level of sterilization she was asking from us was impossible. We told her we normally do everything in our power to accommodate but this situation was too risky. We told her even if we cleaned every tool and plate her food would touch we still couldn't guarantee there was no cross contamination somewhere along the line and we wouldn't want her to risk that.
She lost it. She couldn't believe we "were too lazy" to sanitize the entire kitchen for her rolls. She threatened us with bad yelp reviews and stormed off.

Sorry for the long story but it's been bugging me the past few days. What I want to know is would y'all have done the same thing? Would you have still served her? I love making people food but the last thing I want to do is send someone to the ER. She made us feel like idiots for actually taking her requests seriously. I'm sure we could have made her something and she would have been fine but once she brought up the potential for loss of life I had to back down. Thanks again for reading my long rant.

Chef Andy
07-24-2014, 02:55 PM
Some of the restaurants I worked for had a no guarantee policy in place for allergies. It's up to the customer to decide if they want to eat or not, but obviously we take every precaution for people with allergies.

Sometimes you just get stupid people in restaurants. Why someone would risk their life by going to a sushi bar with a shellfish allergy is beyond me.

Pensacola Tiger
07-24-2014, 02:59 PM
Good call. In this increasingly litigious society, and given her attitude, she'd be apt to hire a hungry lawyer and you'd might well have been on the wrong side of a lawsuit.

07-24-2014, 03:01 PM
You made an executive decision to protect yourself, the restaurant, and her. As a consumer I don't think you did anything wrong, and even though she didn't see it at the time, you were looking out for her wellbeing.

From the consumer side of things I see it as at the end of the day it was her decision to put herself in a potentially harmful situation. She should have known better. While it's one thing to be accommodating, she could have called ahead to see if this level of sterilization was even possible before she made the decision to join her friends for sushi.

If you're allergic to something you tend to avoid those things, especially if it could send you into anaphylactic shock so I don't know what she was thinking... Hopefully she carries an EpiPen in case of emergencies if the allergy is that severe.

Just my :2cents:


07-24-2014, 04:37 PM
As a precaution, if you happen to have a photo of the woman, I would recommend that you put her photo in the restaurant and tell your staff to never serve the woman in case she returns, and to avoid someone else on your staff from erroneously providing a less thorough response and agreeing to serve her.

07-24-2014, 05:01 PM
My wife has a shellfish allergy ,even if she has some fries that have been cooked in the same fryer as shellfish she will have a reaction.I know others whose reaction is so sensitive that they cant be near someone who is peeling prawns as the airborne particles is enough to set her off.I think this ladies response is poor and she should be gratefull that you took her request seriously as some dont.With a very severe case as she claimed to have,if you are dining out it is going to be impossible to guarantee no contamination.My wife will check with the chefs and order something that has a limited chance of contamination and most of the time she is fine.At the end of the day you may have pissed her off but that is better than potentially having to go to hospital or the grave.

07-24-2014, 07:32 PM
Absolutely right, Steve. Too bad her EpiPen isn't loaded with squid ink though. It's a shame that places like Yelp exist to give voice to self centered a-holes like her. In the old days, she would have just gone home and taken it out on her husband.

07-24-2014, 07:55 PM
A savvy diner would know that shellfish is a major part of sushi, if I was that allergic to something I would choose not to go to restaurants where I know shellfish presence is abundant . That would be the first method of eliminating contamination . Secondly did she bother to call you in advance to say anything about her allergies and her reservation? "I am here this is what I want do it know otherwise I will make you regret it" although this sounds like a temper tantrum of 3 year old it is a common method of diners expressing themselves nowadays. The good intention of "I will serve customer whatever they want even if I don't have it I will try to make it happen " doesn't heel this either . I would refuse to serve her too.

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07-24-2014, 08:17 PM
I am a diner and I agree with the above. I think if she put in any sort of details in yelp people will ignore. I normally go for places with many reviews and see what the pattern is. No single review is accurate so I would ignore it.

07-25-2014, 12:50 AM
Par for the course in South Carolina................
........I can say that because I was born there.

07-25-2014, 03:07 AM
you should have told her to get lost and never come back, why be polite to such impudent f*cks.

07-25-2014, 04:08 AM
Consumer perspective here:

Going to a sushi bar with shellfish allergy is stupid. Demanding the kitchen to be put on hold for one hour just for you - and put all other customers at a disadvantage - too.

The customer is always right mentality has gone too far.

07-25-2014, 04:54 AM
Is it just me or do others have the same problem with the title of this thread? I keep reading "Selfish allergies in the sushi bar".

07-25-2014, 04:59 AM
Anyone who has a life-threatening shellfish allergy who goes out to eat at a sushi bar is an idiot, or has a mild or "fashionable" allergy.

07-25-2014, 05:57 AM
Funny my co-worker was deathly allergic to shellfish but he managed to help prepare it all day long.

07-25-2014, 11:14 AM
So... Adding shrimp shells to the dashi, a crab (with a c) appetizer and lobster rolls is not the right answer?

A lady I date has a shellfish allergy. We don't go to seafood restaurants. Done.

07-25-2014, 07:06 PM
This reminds me of the group of Chinese students eating at Jiro's sushi place and demand the fish to be cooked as they don't eat raw fish....


07-25-2014, 07:42 PM
This reminds me of the group of Chinese students eating at Jiro's sushi place and demand the fish to be cooked as they don't eat raw fish....


This is the response they would have gotten

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07-25-2014, 08:02 PM
P.S. They subsequently apologized. (But pretty surprising, even outrageous, nevertheless.)

08-20-2014, 02:04 PM
if people state "deathly" allergic, typically respond with wont serve you. Then they reply "not deathly allergic". We cater to some VIPs that have dietary limitations .and if time permits we will swap out gear to accomidate. but there are plenty of times we wont do it.