Ask the Chef: Corbett Monica of Bella Monica Tackles Your Gluten-Free Questions

We've searched long and hard for a chef to take on our reader recipe questions and we've finally found our man! Meet Chef Corbett Monica, Executive Chef of Bella Monica Restaurant and owner of the Bella Monica Gluten-Free Flatbread Company.

Here's his first round of tips for our dedicated Delight readers! If you have a question, please send them to and check back soon for answers!

Q. What is the best strategy for explaining to a chef that I need a gluten-free diet? How do I make sure they "get it?"

A. The allergy cards that list allergies work really well because the card clearly lists which items are not to come in contact with your food & your plates. You can simply pass the server a pre-filled out card to send to the kitchen. This prevents miscommunication between the service staff and yourself. The kitchen can be a loud place and chaotic place, so sometimes important messages like these are better written down instead of spoken to ensure the message is heard.

To make sure the staff gets “it” – directly ask the server if they understand what gluten and celiac are and which items on their menu must be avoided due to gluten. Speaking with the manager is another good offense to make sure the chef and kitchen team are aware of you in the dining room.

At our restaurant, we change the B&B plates (bread & butter) from white to orange to clearly identify those guests who are eating gluten free. It's subtle to the other diners but get the attention of all our staff from manager to busser. Speaking up and making your voice heard and presence know is smart for you to do and great for us as restaurateurs. We want to serve you well. We want you to feel safe and leave happy. If you don’t tell us what you need, we can't help you out.

Q. Why are chefs confused by rice gluten? It's naturally gluten-free but chefs often seem to think I can't eat rice because it contains rice gluten. Is there a good way to explain that this ingredient is safe?

A. Chefs can get confused by rice gluten because it's bonding properties function in a similar was as wheat gluten. When you encounter a confused chef (believe it or not some of us are!), be sure to immediately speak slowly & clearly to get your message across. Go into a bit of an educational mode and clearly state that rice-based food are ok for your diet. It’s wheat, barley and rye that you need to avoid. You don’t have to make sure the chef fully understands the specific scientific differences between the two types of gluten, you just need make sure your food comes out of his kitchen clean and safe for you to eat!

Q. Does your restaurant carry gluten-free beers? If so, how do I convince my local pizzeria to bring in a beer? Also, which do you think goes best with pizza?

A. Persistence wins this game. Begin with asking the owner or manager. Make sure to try to have your chat with them during off peak hours so you can get their attention and make your very valid point- that is -ALL pizzerias need beer and yours needs gluten-free beer in addition to wheat-based beer. The best time to visit is between lunch and dinner - 2:30 to 4:30. During your conversation remind them of your loyalty, your appreciation that they serve gluten-free pizza and how it would be perfectly complete if they would offer a gluten-free beer to compliment their wonderful creations - (you can get a long way buttering up chef!).

Be specific about the brand you like (bard’s is best!). This logic should be accepted fairly readily. If not, don’t accept the no, continue to ask for gluten-free beer as your request is completely reasonable and even necessary!

5 comments (Add your own)

1. Lyn wrote:
I love reading these articles bceuase they're short but informative.

Thu, June 21, 2012 @ 10:07 AM

2. waxygponqoj wrote:
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Sat, June 23, 2012 @ 8:22 AM

3. Ruth wrote:
Aren't enriched rices questionable as well and sprayed with gluten?

Mon, June 25, 2012 @ 10:44 AM

4. Dougie wrote:
Awesome and informative! I tackle similar questions via my blog: & twitter account:!/GFDougie.

The Chef "nails it" when he states celiac should "(g)o into a bit of an educational mode" when describing celiac disease and the need for gluten-free in the restaurant you are patronizing.

Likewise, positive comments on how well you were served, treated can go a long way in continuing a potentially great relationship with a restaurant, gluten-free!

Thanks again for a great blog! :)



Sun, July 1, 2012 @ 3:53 PM

5. Li wrote:
Great Q&A session! Has anyone used the "gluten-free restaurant cards" before? Just found these the other day and they look to be really handy for international travel. Particularly if you don't speak a language well or at all.

Mon, July 2, 2012 @ 6:10 AM

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