Trying new things has been a theme this Mariners season—a rebuilding year of sorts. This theme has led to ups and (many) downs, but ultimately has made the young core of the Mariners (Crawford, Long, Vogelbach) mostly fun to watch. The theme of trying new things, though, goes beyond the product on the field.
This past Thursday night, the Mariners held a Gluten-Free Night at the ballpark, offering fans with gluten sensitivities (like myself!) a chance to try some new things. Partnering with Seattle Children’s Hospital, the event included a pregame menu featuring all gluten-free food. The menu consisted of Greek salad with quinoa, Caesar salad, a hot dog (or plant-based dog) with a gluten-free bun, and a gluten-free brownie. Options for gluten-free beer and cider were also available.
Sure, ballpark snacks like cotton candy, popcorn, peanuts, and even the garlic fries (as long as they are cooked in a separate fryer from chicken tenders and the like—ask the people at the stand if you aren’t sure) are all gluten-free, but what about options for people who want something more substantial? And is it safe for those with celiac disease?
Centerplate T-Mobile Park Executive Chef Taylor Park has made it his goal to provide food options for people with all kinds of dietary restrictions. He makes sure to take many precautions when preparing gluten-free food at the stadium, which you can find at The Natural stand on the main concourse or at special events like Gluten-Free Night.
“We clean and sanitize the stand to make sure there is no cross-contamination. I brought in brand new cutting boards that were wrapped in plastic before the event even started, so everything was freshly used from scrubbies to sheet trays to tongs, to...you name it. We take it very seriously, we know that a lot of people can be severely affected by this, so we want to make sure that no one has the potential for any cross-contamination or any type of infection,” says Chef Park.
The menu for the event featured the most popular gluten-free food at the stadium, the Beyond Meat Sausage from the Natural, my personal favorite.
“Me as a non-vegan meat eater, I think that is hands down one of the best vegan sausages I have ever had. It’s vegan, gluten free, soy free, all that stuff, so it’s great!,” says Park.
According to Forbes, upwards of 3.1 million people in America follow gluten-free diets. It’s also estimated that 1 in 133 Americans have celiac disease, which is an immune disease in which people can’t eat gluten because it damages their small intestine. Chef Park himself follows a gluten-free diet, and likes that it makes him feel healthier.
“I feel better when I don’t eat it,and I imagine a lot of people feel the same and will be looking for those type of concessions.”
Park also mentions that he thinks the awareness towards gluten-free eating is growing, both as an actual awareness of a dietary restriction and as an option for those who feel it’s healthier for them. As someone who is gluten-intolerant myself, finding food options is always challenging. It often requires taking my own food to events, which can result in feeling like I’m missing out on an experience everyone else gets to have. Knowing that T-Mobile Park has many options for all kinds of food intolerances—including the classic ballpark hot dog—makes going to baseball games easier and more enjoyable.
If there’s one thing Chef Park wants a gluten-sensitive person should know, it’s that “It’s safe to eat at the ballpark! If you’re gluten-intolerant or if you have any other type of intolerance, please let us know so we can see what we can do to help you out!,” says Chef Park. You can reach Chef Park by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, on a beautiful Seattle night at the namesake Lookout Landing, with an awesome view of Downtown and T-Mobile Park, I was inspired to think about what new things I’m going to try. What about you? Take a risk, try something new, and see what happens. For the gluten-intolerant, this event was a major step forward.