Food for ThoughtApril/May 2008 Issue

Cooking For Children With Food Allergies

Meet a chef who welcomes special requests.

One of the greatest challenges of chef Dominique Tougne’s career didn’t begin at work. It began several years ago at home when he discovered that his now 7-year-old son, Theo, had food allergies. As executive chef at Bistro 110, a popular Chicago eatery, Tougne had long been aware of food allergies—but the serious nature of his son’s condition provided a heightened perspective.  

Children With Food Allergies

Theo is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame seeds. Tougne’s daughter Elodie, 5, also has allergies to these foods and to eggs. Learning how to manage his children’s conditions is a priority for Tougne. The experience has also made him more vigilant about handling diners’ special requests.

“We can't guarantee 100 percent safety, of course, but we make every effort to accomodate,” he says.
Tougne creates delicious, mouth-watering fare at Bistro 110 while striving to assure that the restaurant is as safe as possible for food-allergic diners.

“People need to know that we understand their condition, that they can come here, relax and have fun,” he says. “Because at the end of the day, that is what it’s all about.”

Active in food allergy support groups and charities, Tougne is becoming well known in the food-allergic community. So is Bistro 110.

“Five years ago, we might have had one special request a month. With more people hearing about what Bistro 110 does, we now receive at least one special request a day,” he says. “The goal is to give that person a great dining experience,” Tougne says.

A French native, Tougne graduated from Ecole Culinaire de Blois, one of the top culinary schools in the world, and spent years at celebrated restaurants in France before moving to Chicago. He enjoys his work and strives to make food fun, particularly when creating meals for children.

“I recently had a very special request. A little girl, about six, with multiple food allergies. When I arrived at the table, I saw she was completely bald. She had cancer. I went back to the kitchen and made her the best meal I could. When I headed toward her table with her food, she got up and gave me the biggest hug. It was touching, beautiful. A wonderful moment,” says Tougne. “I really hope I can cook for her again.” LW

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