ATLANTA - Valentine's Day is big for Robert Gerstenecker, Executive Chef at Park 75 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown Atlanta. This is his 26th holiday as a chef, and he knows they'll be swamped.
“You get a lot of customers or clients that wouldn't typically come to a place (like this),” Gerstenecker says. “A lot of first timers, a lot of people who want to make a big impression."
But going from a fancy restaurant to the ER is probably not the Valentine's Day adventure you have in mind. That's why Gerstenecker says they take food allergies very seriously.
"Allergies are not just preferences, or minor injuries,” he says. “They're life-threatening. So we take it to the next level and are very serious about it."
If your relationship is new, find out if your Valentine has a food allergy or sensitivity. The most common food allergies are to milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts, soy and wheat.
Atlanta Allergy and Asthma's Dr. Stanley Fineman says chocolate, a Valentine’s staple, can be risky for some people. Not just eating it but kissing someone who has.
"Let's say you eat a peanut,” Dr. Fineman says. “You may still have it in your mouth. You kiss someone who has a peanut allergy and they could have a reaction."
What about booze? True alcohol allergies rare, but people may be sensitive to ingredients like barley, hops and yeast in alcohol... or to the histamines in red wine.
Dr. Fineman says people with severe food allergies should always be ready.
“They need to have their Epipen,” Fineman says. “They need to make sure they carry it with them all the time.”
So, on the 14th, love the one you're with. Enjoy your dinner. Tip the waiter. Compliment the chef. But, ask questions before you eat up.
“Or better yet, if people call ahead, that's an absolutely fantastic scenario for them to do that,” says Gerstenecker. “Then we can get them right when they come in.”
Dr. Fineman also points out people with asthma and other respiratory difficulties need to mindful of another popular gift.
"Be very careful about giving them flowers that have a very strong smell because it could trigger a reaction. We've see that."