Just this month California Pizza Kitchen debuted their new menu which lists 29 varieties of gluten-free pizza. I am not going to lie, we have had the pizza three times already. It is fantastic! However, over the past couple of days, a lot of concern has been raised about certain kitchen procedures that may lead to cross contamination.
While I did speak with the manager on my first visit about how the gluten-free pizza was prepared, it became evident that I may need to dig a little deeper to find out what was really going on in the kitchen. I went back tonight with that in mind and I did get some answers, though they were not the ones I was hoping for.
I had seen many Tweets and Facebook posts regarding CPK recently about the gluten-free pizzas being made with the same utensils that are used to prepare the wheat-based pizzas. This apparently isn’t just a fluke, but a company-wide procedure. I also read that the gluten-free menu is not recommended for people with Celiac Disease, but for those just simply trying to avoid gluten. What is that supposed to mean? Does that mean if I am following the gluten-free diet because it is the newest “fad diet” that CPK pizza is okay, but if I have a serious gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease, it isn’t?
As soon as we were seated at our table, I asked to speak to the manager. I wanted to try to get to the bottom of this. Brian came over, introduced himself and asked how he could help. I explained my concerns and asked how the pizzas were prepared in the kitchen. He went over the procedure that included the employees changing gloves, foil on the pan, separate spatulas & pizza cutters. Okay, so far, so good. Now, the sauce & toppings. I asked about the common ladles and toppings. He assured me the toppings were gluten-free, but then I pointed out that if an employee who was making a wheat-based pizza were to stick their hands in the toppings, they have just contaminated that container with gluten. I went on to point the same thing out about the sauces. If you scoop the sauce onto a wheat-based pizza and spread it around with the ladle and then use the same ladle for the gluten-free pizza, the gluten-free pizza is now contaminated. He looked a little surprised at first and then agreed that this was certainly an issue. He seemed very concerned and told me he would speak to his RD (not sure who this is, maybe regional director) about the problem. He asked for my contact information so that he could follow up with me and let me know what he finds out.
While I realize that cross contamination is possible in any restaurant that isn’t 100% gluten-free, it is still a huge disappointment. Jon and I have been fortunate not to get sick any of the times that we have eaten the pizza at CPK. Does that mean that I feel comfortable enough to continue to eat the pizza? I am not sure at this point. I am anxiously awaiting more information from the corporate offices (I emailed them earlier today) and Brian.
What are your thoughts? Have you tried the new gluten-free pizza at CPK? Did you get sick?