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S5E9 Ask Jack – Dining Out at Restaurants

Listen to S5E9: Ask Jack - Dining Out at Restaurants

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Welcome to Season 5 of Living Well with MS, the Overcoming MS podcast where we explore all topics relating to living well with multiple sclerosis (MS). In this episode we are pleased to welcome professional cook and writer, Jack McNulty as our guest!

You can submit your questions for Jack anytime by emailing [email protected]. Keep reading for the key episode takeaways and Jack’s bio.

Make sure you sign up to our newsletter to hear our latest tips and news about living a full and happy life with multiple sclerosis. And if you’re new to Overcoming MS, visit our introductory page to find out more about how we support people with MS.

Bio:

Jack’s career

Jack McNulty has been involved in food and cooking most of his life. He’s walked many paths during his culinary journey, including transforming himself from an interested home cook to a professional chef with classical training. He has worked for talented and knowledgeable chefs in high-end restaurants in Switzerland, Italy, and France. Jack operated his own catering business and cooking school for 15 years, while also finding time to write about cooking.

Jack’s current activities include operating myfreshattitude.com – a website dedicated to providing healthy vegan recipes and useful vegan cooking instruction and techniques. He also writes and distributes a weekly international newsletter – VeganWeekly – to inspire people to cook healthy vegan food.

Jack and Overcoming MS

Jack has followed the Overcoming MS lifestyle since 2009. He has actively worked on providing recipes and information to the Overcoming MS website, was the contributing editor to the Overcoming MS Cookbook, and authored the ‘Eat Well’ chapter in the latest Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis Handbook.  

Key Takeaways

The Overcoming MS diet will help manage inflammation

“If you look at it just purely on the dietary portion of the Overcoming MS program, if you follow the guidelines, it gives you a good chance of – over time – getting back to some sort of base level. And that may take somewhere between five and seven years for a lot of people. I know it did for me, it was around seven years before all my symptoms just vanished. The goal is to promote health in your body. So, [if] you want to decrease inflammation, you want to ingest foods that are going to play a role in decreasing inflammation.”

It’s helpful to research restaurant menus ahead of dining out

“If I’m going to a place I’ve not been, I turn to the internet first to see if there is a menu online. Maybe by looking online, you’re just already going to say, ‘well there’s only one thing I can have on this menu’ and that might not be good enough. But it’s also possible that there are some possibilities here and you have some questions already in mind before you even get to the restaurant that you could ask the server.”

Don’t stress if you eat something by accident/not by choice when eating out

“Over the years, having an experience like that [eating something by accident/not by choice when eating out] is not going to have a huge impact. Now, having said that, I think it’s probably not a good idea to just say, well, it’s accepted because Jack just said so. I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying that sometimes those things come up and it’s better to just not stress about them and then just go ahead and enjoy it and move on. And next day, be twice as healthy.”

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Transcript

Read the episode transcript

Geoff Allix 

Welcome to the latest edition of Ask Jack, where we ask professional chef Jack McNulty some food and diet and cooking related questions for our podcast audience. So welcome back, Jack.

Jack McNulty 

Great. Thanks a lot, Geoff, good to see you again. And looking forward to another year

Geoff Allix 

So, on this episode, we wanted to talk a little bit about the general side of the diet stuff with, but then also a bit about restaurants. And from your side of, you know, we’re sort of talking as customers, but then also, there’s the people who are behind the kitchen door, and how that you know, how we can best deal with going out to eat and still following the OMS diet. But to start off with just one general point, because a lot of new listeners, what is the Overcoming MS diet? Could you summarize it?

Jack McNulty 

Sure, it’s a it’s one element of the whole OMS lifestyle program. And I think it’s, it’s best defined as a diet that’s mainly plant based, fiber rich as supplementing with Omega 3, either through flax seeds or fish, which is allowed on the diet. And overall, I think, you know, when that whenever I’m asked that particular question, or if I’m trying to describe it, I think that the thing I like to do is just take a stand back, because anytime you’re talking about diet, there’s a lot of complications. And so a lot of detail a lot of things that can come up. And so I take a stand, just stand back a minute, and I just asked myself a simple question. And that’s simply what is the objective? So what is the objective to anybody coming to the program, and I suspect that most people want to achieve some degree of health get something back that they feel like maybe they’ve lost through the diagnosis of having MS. I know, that was the case with me, I just wanted to have some sense of normality. So if you look at it just purely on the dietary portion, of which, if you follow the guidelines, it gives you a good chance, there’s no promises involved, but it gives you a good chance of over time getting back to some sort of base level. And that may take somewhere between five and seven years for a lot of people I know it did for me, it was around seven year mark or something like that, before all my symptoms just vanished. And basically what the goal is, is to promote, promote health in your body. So you want to decrease inflammation, you want to ingest foods that are going to play a role in decreasing inflammation, you want to what I called a blood profile, you want to do what you can to improve the blood profile. That means doing things like reducing free radicals flowing around in your body, that may cause cell degeneration. And of course, you want to improve gut health. And there’s a lot of new information that continues to come out on that. And so if you’re, if you’re looking at the food that you you put in your body, every time you eat something every time whether it’s a small snack or a larger meal during the day, it’s an opportunity to improve your health. Now, it’s not going to happen instantly. But over time, it will. And it’s the same thing in reverse. So every time you put something in your mouth is also an opportunity to sort of decrease your healthy situation. So I like to look at that balance that way and just think of, okay, I want to I want to feed my body with a lot of high fiber foods, beans, and whole grains and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Those are the things I want to primarily eat. Is it going to kill me if I have a stray bit of coconut coming into my diet unbeknownst to me? No, probably not, especially over time, but it’s not something I want to do on a on a continuous basis. Because obviously coconut has a high degree of saturated fat which is very inflammatory. And so that’s basically what I’m trying to look at in terms of the OMS How do you define it to people when they asked you that question, Geoff?

Geoff Allix 

So I mean, I I’d start out with that I did not eating meat. It’s quite straightforward. And I do eat fish and seafood. So I say okay, I don’t eat meat, just fish, and seafood. Um Dairy is probably the it’s one of the harder ones because it’s so hidden. There’s so many things but you don’t suspect have any dairy. They seem to just put some milk powder in randomly. There are things you just think why on earth as this got dairy. I mean, fortunately, I think it’s pretty much worldwide that they they in the ingredients will highlight any any potential allergens, which includes dairy so, so you can see quite quickly you think well, okay, that one that I look out for. And if I’m going to friends just say you know, could you just check that it’s dairy free? And then whether it’s fried or not. But those are quite easy to know it doesn’t have meat in it. Is it fried? And then it’s and then the trickiest one is the dairy because it’s so hidden in so many things. And the other than that, I mean, I know. So we’ve, you mentioned coconut, we went on a family holiday to Thailand. And as a treat, we had a chef come one night, and there was sort of three families and we were in, like connecting villas, and they came out and they cooked. The chef was cooked for us. And we we did let them know ahead of time. That because it’s not just me following the diet, my daughter does well my son partially does. And so there are a few of us. But they turned up basically with the only means of cooking was a pan which they filled with gallons and gallons of oil. And that was their means of cooking.  And they she said oh no, we have vegetarian. I was like, No. And yeah, that’s quite difficult because I really didn’t want to eat anything that they were producing. And to be honest, I’ve been to Thailand a number of times that’s not typical Thai food anyway. That sort of deep frying everything. But I think yeah, if I go with that meat free, but I fish and seafood, not fried and no dairy, then that’s most of the way there pretty much.

Jack McNulty 

Yeah, and that gets at at the at the problem when you’re starting to define or put definition on the OMS program. As an example, I’m primarily vegan. And when I was in Tuscany over the last summer staying at a specific vegan inn. A lovely place in Tuscany. The person that was hosting was actually a chef and she made us dinner one night, it was lovely dinner, excellent food. And then came dessert, nice little piece of chocolate cake. Went oh, interesting. First bite. Oh, that’s pretty coconutty. It was pretty obvious at that point. But you know, these things are just things that are going to come up all the time. And really, it’s a matter of Okay, now it’s our choice, am I going to go ahead and eat that? Or am I going to just leave it off to the side, you know, until we all have to face those decisions on on a daily basis on a meal by meal basis on a snack by snack basis. And so it goes when you’re talking about the diet.

Geoff Allix 

Yeah, I think yeah, that’s I mean, that Thailand trip was I certainly had some coconut because they use coconut and so much for cooking. How much I had I was willing to go with that. Equally I had there was a fantastic raw bar we found in place in Costa Rica and that a raw bar was basically just it was just perfect. Whole food. And it tastes fantastic as well. I couldn’t make the rest of my family eat there the whole time. But you just sort of think okay, I’m eating most healthy I was very mindful trip. It was very there was a lot of exercise happening all the other thing so it ticking a lot of boxes and occasional bits of coconut. So yeah, I thought okay. I think yeah, Coconut is bad because saturated fat if the rest of my food is very low saturated fat that day, then I’m probably still No,

Jack McNulty 

that’s right. And I think that that’s the case and a lot of it also has to do with how long you’ve been following the program for me, you know, I’ve been on it. 14 years nearly now. I knew that you know, it basically amounted to what a spoon or maybe to have some kind of coconut product in that chocolate cake. Chocolate is probably not the best anyway. So that dessert, yeah, okay. The next day I eat a lot of plants and just kind of make up for it. But over the years, having an experience like that is not going to have a huge impact. Now, having said that, I think it’s probably not a good idea to just say, well, it’s accepted because Jack just said so. I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying that sometimes those things come up and it’s better to just not stress about them and then just go ahead and enjoy it and move on. And next day, you know, be twice as healthy.

Geoff Allix 

Yeah, I mean, I’ve been given things with cheese. And before I knew it, I had a bite and I knew it. But I had swallowed that bite, and it was like, but then I just thought, well, there’s nothing I can do. It’s not. But yeah, I don’t have dairy at all. But I have inadvertently had dairy I think twice since I’ve been fooling OMS. But yeah,

Jack McNulty 

those things are gonna come up, you know, it’s If anytime that you’re not actually preparing the food for yourself, you’re giving up some degree of control. And so when you give up some degree of control, things are going to happen. They say, and you have to just be willing to just live with it and accept that that is that is reality. The trick is, how can you minimize it going forward?

Geoff Allix 

Yeah. So if you’re going to a restaurant, your friend booked a restaurant, celebratory meal or something? Would you? Would it be beneficial to ring ahead in terms of from the chef’s perspective? Is it worth us calling ahead and explaining the diet? Or would you just have a look at the menu and go? Well, that’s pretty close?

Jack McNulty 

Yeah, that’s one that comes up fairly often? It’s a good question. Let me just start by by framing it this way, if if it’s situation is where you’re going to a particular restaurant, because there’s a large group, you’re involved in a large group, maybe it’s a wedding reception, or some kind of holiday party or something like this, then I think it’s beneficial to call ahead because those meals will be pre prepared. So when you get there, there’s going to be little flexibility in the part of the kitchen. And you’ll probably anger someone, if you go in and try to go off piste at that point. So if it’s a larger group situation, yeah, I think it’s a good idea to call ahead and make sure you understand what it is that you’re going to have and explain as best you can. You know, what your limitations are, when you’re just going out to eat. Some people view it, like, you know, I would prefer calling head that’s fine. Calling ahead always is good. Just know that when you’re calling ahead, it’s rare that you’re actually going to talk to the chef, chances are you’re talking to someone at the front of the house, and you’re relying on them relaying the message to the back of the house adequately. And so there’s always that game of you know, that communication game, as it gets passed down the line, the more people that are involved in that the more diluted the message will become. So that’s possible that could happen. I think, from my own perspective, I very rarely call ahead. So I will do some personal research. If I’m growing to a place I’ve not been, or if I’m traveling or something. I turned to the internet first, you know, and just try to see, is there a menu online? Can I take a good look at that menu, before I even get to the restaurant, have a general idea of what’s there. Maybe by looking online, you’re just already going to say, Well, there’s only maybe one thing I can have on this menu. And that might not be good enough. And you might decide at that point just to choose something else. That certainly happened from my perspective. But it’s also possible that okay, there’s some possibilities here. And you have some questions already in mind before you even get to the restaurant, that you could ask the server.

Geoff Allix 

So what questions would you ask the server then?

Jack McNulty 

Well, it kind of depends on what the situation is. So if you get into a situation where you’re just not sure, is there butter involved? For instance, it’s best just to ask and so I like to just go in and just say, Look, I’m vegan, you know, is there any any dairy in here or whatsoever people understand vegan worldwide now. It’s not like it was maybe 10 years ago, where even that was a little bit of a guessing game. But now most people understand, oh, when you say vegan, that cuts out a lot. And so when you go there on the OMS portion, and you say, Oh, is it vegan? Yeah, the only thing that you’re really not including in the overall diet is the fish aspect, and how it’s prepared. Now, in terms of how it’s prepared, that’s always a question you could ask. It’s rarely something you’re going to be able to control. And generally I almost never from my own perspective, go in saying could could the people in the kitchen please not you know, cooked out inoil over high heat, you know, low heat is fine, but you’re not going to be able to get to that level of detail in most places. You know, they may be very courteous and say, yeah, yeah, fine, fine. And in the back, they’re going to do whatever they feel like they’re going to do anyway. Because they understand what what is this? You know, they don’t understand what the impact is of cooking, you know, something high heat or low heat or something of that nature. So I generally don’t even go there without just accept, okay, it’s probably an oil I’m not happy with, and it’s probably at a temperature I’m not happy with, is it going to harm me? Probably not, is it going to create long term damage? Most definitely, it won’t. And so I just go ahead and just live with it at that moment, and just say, that’s the way it is sort of like our coconut example from earlier, those things happen when you go to a restaurant. Now, you can look at certain things. Like, I know from experience in working in Central Europe, so I live in Switzerland, and they like to coat everything in butter in Switzerland. When I was working in restaurants, I knew one of the things that was done often in a restaurant is cooking pasta ahead of time, so that when a pasta order, like spaghetti order comes up, you’re just dropping it in hot water for maybe two, three minutes, heating it up, and off you go. So when you pre cook the pasta, in order to prevent it from sticking, you have to coat it with some kind of fat that in Switzerland was almost all he’s done with butter. No olive oil is too expensive. So I know that in Switzerland, if I’m having a pasta dish, that might be a question I would ask, you know, is it does it have butter in it, you know, or in the sauce, they like putting butter in tomato sauce here too, as I discovered they did in Australia as well. So those are the kinds of questions maybe that can come up. But again, you cover a lot of ground when you just say, is it vegan? You know, then you’re going to get over all of those things. Now, it’s much easier when you’re in a restaurant to just say, is it vegan? And you start there. And just and then just say, but I do include fish at times. You know, and then that opens up another little possibility if fish is something that you decide that you want to eat? So that’s how I sort of approached that particular situation.

Geoff Allix 

Would you say that you have, how would you phrase it as an allergy and intolerance or dislike or?

Jack McNulty 

Ya an allergy to me in the kitchen, an allergy is a red light. You know, that’s, hey, you don’t cross that barrier. When someone says I have an intolerance. That’s a flashing yellow light. You know, I’ll give you an example. And I’m not saying every restaurant does this. But if someone comes in and says, I’m gluten intolerant, and it’s like an Asian restaurant or something, soy sauce may find its way in your in your dish instead of tamari. Right. So a sauce is gluten based tamari is not. So that could happen when you say you have an intolerance. But if you go in and just say, Look, I’m celiac, I cannot have gluten, then they they understand in the kitchen right away. We can’t cross over there. Because that could lead to some sort of medical or legal issue out front. And that’s that’s a red line. You don’t want to cross.

Geoff Allix 

Yeah. So you do see that a lot of things say may contain peanuts because they’re in a factory that also does that and whether they’ve cleaned down all the surfaces and everything like that. So there’s Yeah, I don’t say allergy. Because it because you just think I don’t want to be stabbed with an epi pen when they find them accidentally been given something. But equally, it’s a difficult one, because then they do take it much more seriously. But yeah, yeah, I think I think mostly nowadays intolerance seems to work.

Jack McNulty 

It seems to. It depends. You know, again, I mean, if it’s something like gluten, most people are going to understand that and they’re not going to feed you something that may have some gluten in it. But that gets to another problem. And it’s the modern day restaurant, especially in chains. You know, most of them don’t have large kitchens. Most of that food is being prepared off site in a centralized kitchen. That means the people that are operating that chain or that restaurant, they’re not really going to know what goes into the food that they’re serving you they may have an ingredients list, but that ingredient list is not going to have all the details of the ingredients that were used. So, and this is commonplace, like in a bakery, for instance, most bread anymore uses the starters right? So to get the whole thing going as quickly as possible time is money kind of kind of mentality. And so in the starters, a lot of times are going to be small amounts of milk. And almost every case, that’s going to be the situation, but but a bakery, that’s getting that bread made off site is not going to necessarily have all of those details and know that now what we’re talking about is a very small amount, anyway. But it makes a difference. If you are, say vegan, and you don’t want to have any part of dairy. If it’s just from an OMS perspective, that small amount is not going to have an impact on your health. But it’s it’s the principle really, you know, and I think that restaurants need to do a much better job in disclosing what ingredients are actually being used.

Geoff Allix 

You do see some increasingly that they use a numbering system, which I think is universal. I think it’s international. Because I certainly look out for number seven is tends to be dairy. Yeah. And if you see that, where they have a listing and a number, they should have a key somewhere because there must be like a dozen different categories

Jack McNulty 

I came across that for the first time just a few weeks ago in Austria of all places. And they were very good. Every restaurant that I went into, over the course of four or five days had that that numbering system, I think there were like 12 different numbers in so you get to know which ones you know are no goes for me. And you just look for those numbers and everything else was fine.

Geoff Allix 

It’s good. I mean, hopefully that will continue more. And then you can very quickly see. Because, yeah, there’s vegan, but there’s vegan, and they’ve put a load of coconut and chocolate and that stuff in there. And so there’s those sort of things to work out. So and you’ve used on another recordings of swimming, driving lanes analogy. So those sort of levels of risk of different things. And this is obviously a personal choice. I know there’s people who are very, very strict and they are eating purely whole food vegan, even like raw food vegan diet. But if you’re eating out, is there I mean, would you consider that there’s levels that sort of like lanes in our highway analogy of, is it vegan? Is it fried? Has it got peanuts? Has it got chocolate, coconut traces of possibility of containing sort of things, you know, is there? Is there sort of red lines that you would not cross?

Jack McNulty 

Yeah, and I think that I think what you’re getting to so I wrote the food chapter in the OMS handbook, the latest book that was that was written in in that particular chapter, I use the sort of metaphor of of a highway, the road to recovery, if you will. And so what I did is I started out and just said, here, here are the here’s the objective, much as I said earlier, of the program in OMS. And within that, here are the guardrails, here are the restrictions. So no meat, fish is okay, there’s no dairy involved, you know, minimize the saturated fat that’s going to exclude coconut oil, that’s going to exclude palm oil, those sorts of tropical fats that may be problematic. And those are the guardrails. So those are my red lines. I don’t want to veer off that particular road. But within that road, there are personal choices that can be made. And so do I eat gluten? That might be one lane that you decide I’m not going to have gluten so I’m going to drive in that particular lane. Do I want to use oils in my food? Some people elect not to use any oil whatsoever. That’s fine. That’s within the within the road, that’s another lane that you can drive down. And there are other particular examples that we can go into. But having said that, the red lines, the veering off the road would be things like meat, I would not order a steak off the menu, something that’s like a hamburger with real meat or something of that nature. For me, I elect not to eat fish. So that’s sort of my lane there. But fish is allowed within the OMS diet. Dairy products are not. So that’s a, that’s a red line that’s off the road. But other things like traces of I don’t get too stressed about that sort of thing. There’s a difference, in my opinion, between coconut milk and coconut oil. Sometimes you get yourself in situations like, you know, you’re traveling, as you alluded to earlier, in Thailand, maybe you’re in Sri Lanka, where everything uses coconut, you know, just to eat, you’re going to have to ingest some kind of coconut milk or cream, which is better than coconut oil, it’s just far less in terms of the fat that’s going to be there. So if that situation crops up, then I would say, well, that’s a that’s, you know, you’re driving on the shoulder, you know, be careful there, there might be some potholes you have to be worried about, and then just get back onto the road as quickly as possible. If that happens, that you know, don’t worry about it, the stress is going to be far worse and the panic of the situation then actually eating it. And so that’s sort of how I look at it and what I’m trying to do and what I was trying to talk about in that particular book. What about yourself? Where are your points?

Geoff Allix 

So absolut red lines would be I think similar to meat, dairy, fried food.  I think would I have peanuts would be one if there’s peanut sprinkled over so I wouldn’t send it back. I wouldn’t put loads of peanuts on myself.

Jack McNulty 

Exactly. You know, peanuts, and we can discuss peanuts are not as bad as other things. And yeah, and certainly it’s not going to hurt you to have a handful of peanuts. If they’re on the on the plate

Geoff Allix 

It’s one of those things if it’s pushing up my saturated fat level that I’m just mindful of what else I need to get done. And this is similar to coconut oil. You say I wouldn’t if something’s fried in coconut oil. It’s not really oil is it? When you see this stuff? It’s coconut fat, like big blocks and stuff. So yeah, I wouldn’t have that. Peanuts, I would have a bit of coconut milk. I’d have a bit of chocolates a difficult one because it could be that there’s just a bit of flavor in there. Or sometimes you think okay, that’s just basically a chocolate bar that’s been melted. That’s a difficult one I try and avoid I would say biggest problem actually is is the desserts put it Yes.

Jack McNulty 

How to avoid them altogether when I’m going out?

Geoff Allix 

I think you’re looking at sorbets.

Jack McNulty 

Yeah, if you’re in Italy, you can look at vegan ice cream, which is prevalent now throughout all Italy. And those are usually pretty decent.

Geoff Allix 

Yeah. And  then that’s one way if you ring ahead, actually so there’s some some restaurants are fantastic though there’s a local is sadly actually not there anymore. But there was a local restaurant to us where he would actually send me through another menu. And you know, we were going for Christmas meal which is basically standard food for everyone because it was Christmas time. And he was a French chef as well which doesn’t normally given me huge amounts of because I’ve been to France and found that the hardest place to go anywhere to follow the diet. But he came up with with with a choice of three different desserts as well which are which are all fantastic. All following the guidelines completely.

Jack McNulty 

And I think that that’s a good point, Jeff, you know, if you do go attend to go out in your in your area that you live in, you know, it’s nice to find a restaurant or two that you can feel comfortable in and you know, you get to know the people there and they know you a little bit. That can be a very good situation to find yourself in and very helpful on both ends. And I think that that’s great. But that takes a while to build up that sort of relationship.

Geoff Allix 

Yeah, but I think if I’m having a couple two courses, I’d always aim for a start a main course rather than main cost desert. I think it’s quite often things in startups that are okay. But yeah, deserts is sorbet

Jack McNulty 

Yeah, I tend to agree with you and There’s no rule that says you can’t have for starters as your meal instead of a starter and a main.

Geoff Allix 

You get sushi restaurants where that’s kind of a thing where you have multiple different things. And one of the things that I had a long time ago was chef cards. And it used to be these were like gold dust, because if you went onto on a retreat, then or a sort of in person event, then you’d get these these chef cards. Now, they’re actually downloadable from the website, which is fantastic. Because it was like, if you had I think you got give me like five chef cards for each in person event, you kept hold of them and I was like, they get slowly worn away and less legible. And then you’d lose one. And now they’re also multilingual as well, which is not perfectly not in every language, but there’s a number of different languages. And I personally, if I’m going somewhere will actually ask, in sort of OMS forums, for someone who is a native speaker, so you know, Denmark, I went to an event that was actually very good, they, they have a very big raw food movement and a lot of vegans there. So it was fine. But I wanted to find out could someone you know, I did it on Google, other search engine search, and these are available. But use Google Translate and said, Okay, what happens if Google Translate, and then just put it out on the forum at the OMS forums and said, Okay, anyone from Denmark? How does this work in Danish? Is that right? And they said, Actually, it’s not quite right, actually. And they did a couple of corrections. And then I just basically printed that out to give to a chef and say, this is what I’m doing. So would you find that beneficial from the chef’s point of view that someone’s giving you this card that says these are the dietary recommendations?

Jack McNulty 

It kind of depends, and and I think what we’re really asking here is, how flexible is a kitchen? You know, and I think that that’s what you need to get to. So you need to determine as best you can ahead of time, whether a kitchen is going to be generally flexible or not. And the best way to do that is looking at the menu. So if the menu is large, you know that that’s not necessarily going to speak volumes about the flexibility in the kitchen, because that’s indicating that a lot of stuff is pre made. And there’s not going to be a huge amount of flexibility there. Smaller menus, tend to favor kitchens that are going to be able to go off piste a little bit. I found that the more expensive restaurants. And then of course, it’s not for everybody, but I found that they’re the most flexible, they’re generally going to have a staff of cooks that are going to sort of almost worship that change, if you will. Not always, but sometimes they like a little bit of a challenge. They like it when someone comes in and says, Hey, can you prepare that a little bit differently? Can you make that risotto without butter instead? And make it taste good? Yeah, I think that, you know, if you’re in a good quality restaurant in Italy, they’re going to look at that as something that they can do. But if you’re in a chain restaurant and wanting risotto that’s made with oil instead of butter. Yeah, good luck with that, that’s not going to happen necessarily. And so I think that that’s probably a better way to look at it is whether a restaurant maybe is going to be flexible. Tourists kinds of restaurants are generally not going to be flexible. So if you’re if you’re traveling and you have a card, and you want to go into a restaurant, you can give it a go. The problem, of course, is if you don’t really speak the language is trying to deal with the questions, they’re gonna come back to you.

Geoff Allix 

And I think there’s also an element of if you’re going traveling where you go. I mean, I’ve mentioned France couple of times, because that was harder. And but also, I’ve been to Italy a few times, I found that very straightforward.

Jack McNulty 

Italy generally is yeah, you can almost always find something in Italy. Yeah.

Geoff Allix 

And they and they have I mean, pizza without cheese is a normal thing in Italy.

Jack McNulty 

And you can always get a plate of pasta with tomato sauce. I mean, that’s just something that ubiquitous you know, is how much of that can you take while you’re on vacation? Maybe another question. There are other countries that are quite good. Israel, I think is the most vegan friendly country and on the planet. And there’s some reasons for that. Primarily, because it has primarily to do with the Jewish laws. Because you know, the this whole separation of meat and dairy, you have to have basically almost a separate kitchen and these sorts of things. And so one way around the Jewish laws is just simply be vegan. And then that eliminates that that whole issue of having separate dishes and pans for cooking meat versus dairy and all of these sorts of things. And that’s why a lot of times you you see it in Israel more than other places where it’s very, very simple to have something that’s vegan.

Geoff Allix 

I found the US such as quite straightforward as well as I think a lot of people who are I mentioned, yeah, the further south you go might be harder.

Jack McNulty 

I think our friends in the south might have a difficult time with fried foods.

Geoff Allix 

But there’s, there’s certainly a lot of people with, who have a requirement who they’re used to it, they don’t they don’t find.

Jack McNulty 

if you’re in the larger cities, you’re gonna have no problem. If you’re along the coastal portions of the states, except for probably the South, you’re still not going to have a huge problem, you’re going to have a wide variety. Unfortunately, in the south, there are a lot of things that are deep fried, as I’m sure many of our listeners who find themselves there, can attest to.

Geoff Allix 

Okay, I think that’s been useful, I think. So it, we can still go out and eat. I think that’s the key thing, isn’t it?

Jack McNulty 

If things happen along the way, you just have to learn to be a little bit flexible without giving example I was in, insistently, and I organized ahead of time, a small tour on Mount at night, and we were wandering around Mount Aetna. And part of that tour include, you know, a stop halfway down and having lunch and it was more of a picnic. And I told the organizer ahead of time, I think it was like six or seven people on the tour. I told the person ahead of time now I’m vegan, as we’re a couple other people that were with me, were vegan, and we would, you know, prefer vegan stuff. So what they brought down, of course, was arancini. And arancini is famously, first a fried food. There’s generally filled with meat and cheese, but you know, okay, I said, Well, I’m hungry. I’m on holiday, I’ll go ahead and enjoy the arancini, which looked delightful, took a bite of it and just hold on a minute. Now this has got cheese in it, for sure. It was just creamy, delicious tasting, you know, mouth coding, I said, Can you go double check that? That’s how I dealt with it. Just ask can you go double check that. And sure enough, the organizer went and called the actual person that made that particular meal for us, who happened to be vegan himself and assured us that it was all 100% vegan, and to boot it wasn’t even fried. It was baked. It was the most delicious arancini I’ve ever had. So

Geoff Allix 

If you do get something questionable, you will always question.

Jack McNulty 

Yeah, of course, that’s happened more than once in Italy is interesting because it is an easy place, but they do have certain things that they like to do. Such as using you know, chopped mortadella or cheese is as a seasoning. And it may not even be obvious on the menu and Another incident I had in Italy. Years ago when I was eating a lot more fish. I think it was a clam dish. I can’t remember it was clams or mussels or something that I ordered. And I made sure they understood I didn’t want any dairy or meat and you know all of this but the fish was okay. And somehow in the translation things got a little bit wonky. It looked delightful. It looked great. took a bite. It was delicious. My wife who was with me took a bite of it and goes Oh, hold on that’s got meat and cheese in which I didn’t even recognize. And sure enough, we call the chef out and she goes, Oh, yeah, a little bit? Yeah, that’s okay. You know, and we finally had to just swap dishes I think with my my wife and I wish she had something that was a little bit better for me than that.

Geoff Allix 

My daughter once had a pizza that we asked for. We said Oh, can you do this pizza but without that and that no cheese and no meat on that? And they said yes. So this was in Spain actually. And, and it came out. She ate it without and she was very young at the time, but she ate it without any complaint. But then I tried a bit at the end. Wow, that’s hot. And of course we entered no chili. And so what they did, they had a pizza, which actually met our requirements. Come on, we hadn’t ordered from the menu because this piece was called El Diablo was the hottest thing they sold. I have a young daughter at without complaining that she quite enjoyed it. But we said, oh, no, she obviously likes spicy food.

Jack McNulty 

We were talking about this earlier, just just just something that occurred to me salad. So one of the things that you have to be really extra careful with when you’re asking about ingredients

Geoff Allix 

You would think is not wouldn’t you?

Jack McNulty 

A salad as presented on the menu, oftentimes will surprise you, they may put cheese in it. So you have to be extra careful with that. There may be an egg floating around in there. So you have to be careful with that, in the dressing, which is the biggest of all problems often has some kind of milk or egg in it, or a mayonnaise base or something like this. So you do definitely have to ask questions about the dressing used in salads. And the best way, of course, is the salad dressing vegan, you know, that gets around everything. So that would be the best way to deal with that.

Geoff Allix 

Okay, well, I think I think we’ve covered most of the points there. So I mean, I think just sort of wrap it up. There’s sort of, certainly sort of red lines. I think there’s certainly, it’s worth getting the OMS chef cards for reference, if nothing else. They’re available in four or five languages. Maybe not every language but a few different languages on the website. And but carry on, go out, enjoy yourself and eat healthy food.

Jack McNulty 

Yeah. And just think of it in terms of everything that you put in your mouth is under your control, and it’s an opportunity to promote health.

Geoff Allix 

Brilliant. Okay, and thanks very much for that Jack.

Jack McNulty 

Great. Good to see you, Geoff. Thanks.