More than just a fad diet…..

{By Ashley Lidgard, owner of the Ashbourne and Brackenborough Hotels}

As a hotel owner I like to keep abreast of the newest trends in the industry; the latest craft beers, best new world wines, technologies that can benefit both us and our customers, the latest “hot” new food ingredient.

Dining out has always been a big passion of mine, despite the fact I work long hours at the two Lincolnshire hotels I own under the Oak Ridge Hotels umbrella. There is nothing quite so relaxing and enjoyable as unwinding with some good food and good company in nice surroundings, and Lincolnshire has a lot to offer the discerning diner. Going out for dinner is a bus man’s holiday that I relish.

However, as we all tend to live in a “taking things for granted” bubble until something happens to burst it, my dining experiences narrowed drastically 11 years ago when I was diagnosed with wheat and dairy intolerances.

Suddenly the dishes I’d previously loved tucking into – pasta, pizza, chocolate fondant – all disappeared into the ether – and dining out changed from being an impromptu “let’s walk down the street and eat wherever takes our fancy” to calling ahead days in advance, and finding out how many dishes were suitable for my specific dietary needs. And if I didn’t like the options, the whole process would be repeated again with another restaurant. Having the run of an entire menu and walking into somewhere without a second thought became a thing of the past.

In recent years though, as we have all become more educated on how different foods interact with our bodies, and more people have either become diagnosed with intolerances, or simply feel better excluding certain foods from their diet, the demand for “free from” foods has been one of the biggest changes to hit the hospitality industry. We’ve had to adapt to this relatively new and increasingly common need, and certainly at both the Ashbourne and Brackenborough hotels, a large proportion of our menus is already gluten free; we don’t add flour to sauces or soups, we always have gluten free bread and soya milk available, and certainly anything that isn’t gluten or dairy free can also be modified to suit using alternative ingredients if we are given a day or so notice. In fact, even with no notice, the chefs at each hotel have on many occasions whipped something up for the coeliac on table 5 without batting an eyelid.  The front of house staff are also very knowledgeable on dietary needs, and are always on hand to show the (relieved!) customer just how many dishes they have to select from.

What I wanted to achieve at the hotels in essence, is to know that people like myself are still able to enjoy that impromptu meal out with friends and family, without worrying that they are going to be served a salad as the only option available to them.

The “customer is king” mantra is an important one for me; hospitality and catering is my bread and butter. Gluten and dairy free, obviously…..

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