Celeb chef Phil Vickery: "ignorant and arrogant" chefs "pay lip service" to coeliac customers

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Vickery: "Chefs think they know it all and see [coeliac disease] as a fad"
Vickery: "Chefs think they know it all and see [coeliac disease] as a fad"

Related tags: Gluten-free diet

Chefs’ “ignorant” attitudes towards coeliac customers can lead to missing out on valuable business opportunities, according to celebrity chef Phil Vickery.

Vickery, who previously worked at the Michelin-starred Castle Hotel in Somerset and has written two gluten-free cookbooks, said: “The biggest problem is that chefs think they know it all and just see [coeliac disease] as a fad.  It’s not a fad, it’s a disease.

“People pay lip service to it but they don’t take it seriously and I think now the ignorance and arrogance of chefs is the biggest problem.”

Vickery said that whilst margins were higher with some gluten-free ingredients such as xanthan gum (a thickener commonly used in gluten-free cooking) and tapioca starch, putting on a solid gluten-free offer​ could be of considerable benefit to businesses.

He added: “My view is this – if you’re a coeliac, you’ll bring ten of your mates to a pub because you know you can eat there. And it’s looking beyond that – you can serve gluten-free beer? That’s fantastic because all they can drink is cider.

 “It’s just understanding that market, promoting that market and promoting trust​. If you can capture that market and become known for it, it’s fantastic for your bottom line.”

If you're a coeliac, you'll bring ten of your mates to a pub because you know you can eat there

The chef, who regularly appears on This Morning ​and is charity Coeliac UK​’s food ambassador, became interested in gluten-free cooking when his Christmas pudding company switched from regular flour to rice flour and saw a considerable increase in sales due to the products’ gluten-free credentials.

He said: “Just look at the market – with most caterers and chefs, if you say “you’re going to make X” they’ll do it. If it improves their bottom line, that’s the way you have to approach it.”

The chef also urged operators who wanted to improve their gluten-free food offer to be careful with cross-contamination​.

He said: "Make sure you clean. I used to have a little £35 bench fryer which I used to do gluten-free fish and chips and no other oil or food went into it. Once you've got on top of that, it's fantastic."

Talking business

UK sales of gluten-free products reached £184m in 2014, with further growth of roughly 15% year-on-year predicted by the Food Standards Agency.

But according to recent research commissioned by Knorr, 28% of operators are yet to introduce gluten-free options to their menus

Related topics: Chefs

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