The moment I booked my “all-inclusive” vacation to Breezes Bahamas (March 20-24, 2011), the panic began to set in. What was I thinking… what could someone with gluten allergies possibly eat at a resort buffet?! Hadn’t I learned my lesson after my last ‘hot spot’ attempt in the Dominican Republic two years ago?! I knew I would be in trouble unless I was super well-prepared this time. Since I booked very last minute (literally the week before!), I didn’t think there was a point in contacting the hotel in advance to let them know I was coming (half expecting a “what’s gluten?”). It was only 4.5 days, so I decided my best option was to load up on GF snacks! Enjoy Life cocoloco bars and cookies, Oskri sesame bars, Glutino pretzels, etc. (you know, the regulars). I even bought one of those As Seen On TV ‘magic’ pasta cookers; the ones where you add boiling water to a plastic-looking tube! Hey, I wasn’t taking any chances on starving (or getting sick) this time!
My travel companion and I arrived at the Breezes Bahamas late on the Sunday night, so there was no need to worry about food as I had my trusty pretzels with me in the room. The next morning at breakfast, I opted for fresh fruit, which I carefully selected from the back of the pile figuring this area was more ‘untouched’ than the front part (I hear ya Mom: “better to be safe than sorry…”). The omelette station looked mighty tempting, but who knew what else the cook had been mixing with the eggs. Darn, I guess fruit would be my go-to for breakfast the rest of the trip (could be worse I suppose). At lunch, we thought we’d ask around for someone who could direct us to the gluten-free options on the buffet line. This is the moment the whole trip turned around…
A smiling Head Chef Owen came out from the kitchen to greet us. He was very familiar with gluten intolerance and led me through the line to explain what I could and couldn’t eat that day. He said “if you do not see anything that you want on the line, we can prepare something special for you in the back…” I was quick to inquire about cross-contamination, but he assured me that only himself or one of his sous chefs, A.M. Sous Chef Ingrid or P.M. Sous Chef Ashton, would prepare the gluten-free dishes in dedicated pots and pans with separate utensils. He then took us into the kitchen to reveal the stash of gluten-free mixes and pastas they had on hand. I put in a special request for grilled chicken, veggies and pasta for that evening’s dinner. They had asked that I let them know a specific time for each meal so that they could have the meal prepared for me by the time I arrived (though when I arrived I would sometimes need to wait a little bit longer… no big deal at all considering what they were doing for me). At each meal, we would let them know the next meal’s time (i.e. – at dinner we would tell them what time we would come for breakfast the next day, at breakfast we would let them know about lunch, etc.), always opting for ‘off-peak’ times.
My chef-prepared meals for the rest of the trip went something like this…
Can you believe that these dishes were prepared at an all-inclusive resort?! Neither could I… so I took some photos to prove it! Not only were they gluten-free, but they were some of the most delicious meals I had ever enjoyed outside of my home (plus, check out the presentation of the food to boot)! Most importantly, I was confident that each meal was properly-prepared, with the chefs not risking cross-contamination at any cost. I am still in awe at the way this trip turned out. Ahh, nothing like peace of mind when eating gluten-free on-the-go… especially with 3 personal chefs!
I am happy to announce that I did not have severe reactions to the food even once! The only time my stomach was slightly uncomfortable was after eating the pizza on Day 3, which was probably because I tested my luck with a few shreds of mozzarella cheese (in retrospect, not a good idea for someone with a sensitivity to cow dairy… but how could I resist the mouth-watering pizza that Chef Ingrid prepared).
Before my departure on Thursday afternoon, I left a thank you note and small monetary gift for Chef Owen, Chef Ingrid and Chef Ashton to let them know that I truly appreciated their kindness and consideration. After all, it was because of them that I had the great experience that I did. I told them that I would go back home and spread the word about their resort to the gluten-free community and that is what I vow to do!
If you have been wary about traveling to a ‘hot spot’ in the past because of your dietary restrictions, Breezes Bahamas will not disappoint (Sidebar: I asked Head Chef Owen about accommodating other allergies, and he said they are happy to do so, with advance notice suggested). I highly recommend this resort for those with gluten (or other) allergies or sensitivities. But please contact the hotel in advance of your stay so that the kitchen is able to order enough gluten-free mixes and pastas for you. In fact, the chefs were actually disappointed that we did not let them know we were coming because they said they could have done ’so much more’ for me (can you believe it?)! The rice pasta I brought along for my ‘magic’ pasta-cooker-tube sure came in handy after I cleaned out their stash of corn pasta (still don’t know if the ‘magic’ tube works or not)!
If you or anyone you know (allergies or not) is looking for an awesome vacay spot… Breezes Bahamas is an absolute MUST! If the other Breezes Destinations around the world are half as accommodating, then I am in for some fantastic future vacations!