Elena Duggan, winner of MasterChef Australia 2017, has called on restaurants to embrace a more inclusive approach to dining that doesn’t prevent people with certain disabilities or allergies from eating in their venues.
Speaking exclusively to Caterer Middle East, Duggan said: “For too long people have had to say I’m really sorry I don’t eat that, I’m really sorry I’m allergic to that. I’m like why do you have to be sorry? Let’s give you an experience that you don’t have to be ashamed about, that you don’t have to avoid.”
Duggan considers ‘inclusive dining’ to mean making items gluten-free and using natural sugars in fruit rather than adding refined sugars. On her winning run on MasterChef Australia, Duggan used gluten in only two dishes out of 60.
She said: “It wasn’t a big deal. I don’t think the judges minded – it turned out okay for me! And I don’t think anyone I cooked for said ‘oh I could really have used some more gluten in this.”
Citing statistics from her native Australia that up to 20% of people have a disability of some sort, Duggan said that the benefits of inclusive dining would speak for themselves.
“If you’re missing out on 20% of the market, I’m pretty sure it’s going to pay for itself pretty quickly. It only takes a few people at the top creating that culture and it’s not an ‘us or them’ situation, it’s an all of us situation.
“I don’t think it’s expensive. I think it’s adding value more than it’s taking away value.”
Duggan is hosting a three-day residency at MasterChef, the TV Experience in Dubai on February 18-20, where she will serve a five-course flexi-menu that can be adapted to suit customers’ dietary requirements.