Monday, August 12, 2013

5 Star Amenities / 1 Star Execution

Posted by Celiac Disease Family

The following summarizes my recent experience at the Waldorf Astoria in Naples, FL.  This was our fourth time staying here--and I have to say the facility and overall experience is a great one.

But not for a person with celiac disease.  

In fairness to the management staff, they comped the meal, but what I really wanted was a personal response to the last email.

I have yet to be formally acknowledged.


Dear Celiac Disease Family,

Welcome to Waldorf Astoria Naples. It is my pleasure to serve as your Personal Concierge for your upcoming stay with us.

Please allow me to assist you with transportation, dining, relaxation, entertainment or any other special requests you may have prior to your arrival. Some suggested activities for your upcoming stay may include enjoying the following:  
  • Indulging in inventive dining prepared especially for you by our world-class chefs.
  • Enjoy a comfortable day at the beach including luxury loungers, a kid's sand pit, day beds and water activities.
  •  Renew your mind, body and spirit at our luxurious spa or enjoy energizing recreation at our exclusive golf course or award-winning tennis center.

We pride ourselves on having an experienced team of people dedicated to delivering the best possible experience for you. This is what we call True Waldorf Service.
Please Click Here, to Plan Your Stay or reply to this email directly to explore all the possibilities and reserve the activities and services you desire. I look forward to hearing from you soon and welcoming you in person to our hotel.

At your service,

Leela Kuttemperoor
Your Personal Concierge
Waldorf Astoria Naples
P 239.254.5600
C 239.961.2734


 Hi Leela,

While I realize the email I received below is probably a templated correspondence from corporate, In the event you (or someone on your staff does) read this, I did want to bring to your attention a special need my family now has while traveling. 

My daughter has been recently diagnosed with celiac disease.  This means she cannot eat anything with gluten in it.  As you might suspect, this can make eating out very challenging at times. We are planning to stay at your location for five days, and I'd like to understand, specifically, your chef's position on maintaining a clean kitchen for Celiacs.  I presume your chef will know what this is, and how important it is for people with celiac disease.

Furthermore, in the spirit of full disclosure, I maintain a popular blog about experiences while traveling abroad specifically as it relates to high-end hospitality institutions catering to celiacs. 

This will be our fourth stay at your location (but not as a celiac family) and we have always been impressed with the service, food and overall experience.

I look forward to response so we can plan accordingly for our daughter's meals during our stay.

Thank you,

Celiac Disease Family

Please pardon brevity and any typos. This was dictated to Siri and sent from my iPad in transit. And we're still getting to know each other. Slowly.


Dear Iris,

Mr. Celiac asked me to send this to you.

And, now that he knows that the entire concierge team gets this message, the professional courtesy of a reply would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

Sent from my iPad


Dear Mr. Celiac –

Sorry it has taken so many emails to put your concerns to rest. I am the Restaurant Chef here at the hotel and I can assure you that we will have no problem handling your daughter’s dietary restrictions.  We commonly accommodate gluten-free requests and many other allergy related restrictions. By simply making your server aware of your presence with your last name; where ever you choose to dine with us, we will have options available for all meal periods. I can be very creative as my experience co-owning a Paleo Diet delivery business here in town, which is entirely gluten free!  I am confident that my experience and knowledge will allow your family’s vacation to be worry-free and enjoyable.  Please feel free to contact me with any other concerns.

We look forward to seeing here around the resort!

Best Regards,

Brent Devlin
Aura Restaurant Chef
Waldorf Astoria Naples

This transmission is not a digital or electronic signature and cannot be used to form, document, or authenticate a contract. Hilton and its affiliates accept no liability arising in connection with this transmission.Copyright 2013 Hilton Worldwide Proprietary and Confidential


Hi Chef Devlin,

Thanks for your attention to this special request.

And please pardon this next and final question--as I am 4-months new to the specific celiac requirements (compared to the increasingly popular, different and albeit fad-conscious "gluten-free" diets), but are you asserting that your team is (or will be) aware of and can adhere to the importance of cross contamination prevention when preparing a meal for a celiac?

I presume your previous experience co-owning a related Paleo business makes it a moot point, but over the last several months, I am surprised at how many people just don't understand the difference between gluten-free sensitivities and celiac disease.

We very much look forward to staying with you, again.

And thank you for this extra piece of mind.

Best regards,

Celiac Disease Family

Please pardon brevity and any typos. This was sent from a mobile device using Siri and we are still getting to know each other.  Slowly.


Hi Mr. Celiac,

I can assure you that all of your daughter’s meals will be prepared wearing latex gloves using separate clean bowls, spoons, pan’s and in a private kitchen where no one else is cooking. My self and my Sous Chef Jose Rivera will be the only two people handling your daughter’s food. All of her meals will be prepared and delivered in the Aura Kitchen where one of us will be at all times. I have copied our Front Desk manager on this email, which as you already know she is on vacation and I will forward this email Jared Miners who is in charge while she is gone. He will let us know you have arrived. I have also copied our F&B managers, Dawn and Jessica who will make all of our service staff aware of your special needs. Last but not least from your end – Please remember to make your food server aware of Your Name and Celiac Requirements and Jose and I will handle the rest.

Best Regards,

Brent Devlin
Aura Restaurant Chef
Waldorf Astoria Naples

This transmission is not a digital or electronic signature and cannot be used to form, document, or authenticate a contract. Hilton and its affiliates accept no liability arising in connection with this transmission.Copyright 2013 Hilton Worldwide Proprietary and Confidential


Dear Chef

Thank you very, very much.

I sincerely appreciate this.

And most importantly, my daughter will too.


Celiac Disease Family


And on the same day that I spoke with three people, that's when it happened...

Hi Brent,

Feedback for what is it worth at this point....

Please make a future note to inform your bar staff that, according to Coca Cola, the makers of Minute Maid, the pink fountain generated lemonade that is served pool side is NOT gluten free.

I take responsibility for not double checking, but after a direct personal conversation today poolside with Dawn, Chef Jose and our server Sandra re-memorializing the importance of a gluten free experience for my daughter here at the Waldorf Astoria Naples, I was assured that you "deal with this every day and that I was in good hands."

Well today--at least for my family--something slipped through the cracks.

Candidly, this is disappointing from our experience--especially since I think I (over)-informed many people here about my daughters celiac disease to the point at which I was probably viewed as a pain in the *ss customer.

Perhaps this formal memorandum will benefit other celiac families in the future when they request /require a gluten free experience at the Waldorf Astoria Naples.


Celiac Disease Family

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Outpatient Endoscopy: A smooth process with a surprise ending

Posted by Celiac Disease Family

Off to see the Peds G.I. for our daughters first endoscopy.  But, before I explain the surprise ending, let me take a moment to talk about the methodical pre-procedure experience as I believe it deserves some merit--and reflection.

A few days prior, I received a call from the outpatient clinic's office asking me to surrender my insurance information so they could verify my daughter's insurance benefits.  The following day, another person from the same office called me, letting me know my insurance was fine--but that I had not met my deductible and that I owed a sizeable amount which must be paid now over the phone or the procedure could not be confirmed.  She was ready for my credit card faster than I could whip it out.

I chose my preferred Amex card (waiting for them to say they do not accept it) and proudly stated it's the only card I carry.  I thought to myself: what if a family could not pay via credit card?  Why wouldn't they have shared this important payment information during this initial consult?   In short, they worked really hard to make sure I was a qualified, paying customer.  And had paid--in advance--the day before.  I'm sure the doctor was VERY focused on these important details.

Nonetheless, the day of the procedure arrived.  Our daughter was understandably nervous.  My wife and I explained what the procedure entailed and that it would go smoothly.  We chose sedation through the mask therapy and we went her off.

After 40 or so minutes, the doctor called us in and explained that it was, in his opinion, celiac.  He put her on a gluten free diet and told us that we would need to see him in his office after the results came back to ensure that it was in fact, celiac.  He took the time to explain a little more about the disease and answer some of our preliminary questions.  And we were off to pick up our daughter from the recovery area.

And this is where it gets shocking.

As my wife and I approached our groggy -- but still smiling daughter -- a nurse came over with a glass of juice and some crackers for her.  We asked her how she was feeling, each gave her a huge hug and a kiss and she started to munch on the crackers and drink her juice.  As she started to happily munch on her second cracker, I asked the nurse in my sarcastic manner, "those are gluten free crackers, correct?"

Her eyes lit up, I grabbed the crackers from my daughter and the nurse's face turned white.  She didn't know what to say.  When I asked her how she could serve wheat crackers to a recently confirmed patient with Stage IV celiac disease, she simply replied, "The doctor didn't mention anything about eating gluten free."  Are you kidding me?

And that is what is simply so disappointing.

We had "process" where, on a quest to identify whether my daughter has celiac: his office

  • takes my money quickly and efficiently for the initial consult
  • takes my money quickly and efficiently for the follow-up consult
  • swiftly calls me to verify my insurance before the procedure to make sure I am qualified to pay
  • makes me pay quickly and efficiently the DAY BEFORE the procedure
And then minutes after the doc confirms a positive celiac diagnosis, our daughter:

  • is sloppily and carelessly given wheat crackers as her first meal!
I am still baffled at how a physician with 10+ years of medical training and years of experience treating pediatric GI patients--specializing in celiac disease--can let this happen on his watch.

I am certainly aware of and have sympathy for the more consequential medical errors occurring to others, but this one seems so easy to manage.

It's just unacceptable to me.  I feel badly (embarrassed) for Dr. Enrique Hernandez...but more so for my daughter since this should have been preventable.  And she can't do anything about it...she's only 5.

Monday, April 1, 2013

My daughter is about to get checked for Celiac Disease

Posted by Celiac Disease Family

I've been lucky so far.  I've been blessed with a beautiful wife and two great kids--one girl and one boy.  They sleep well, eat a healthy diet, perform well in school and are respectful to others.  We have our fair share of end-of-day overtired meltdowns and occasional public tantrums.  But overall, I couldn't be happier with how our "babies" (now aged 5 and 6) have developed into young kids.

About nine months ago, our daughter had been complaining of stomach cramps after eating.  We encouraged her to simply "go to the bathroom" and the pain (or so we thought) often went away after a while.  But then invariably, it would return a few days later.  My wife then started isolating certain foods,  such as Kelloggs Special K Strawberry cereal, then Danimals Yogurt -- both favorites of hers.  But the pain never stopped completely.

I drink Almond milk normally, but we buy our kids organic whole milk--and we thought she might have a lactose intolerance.  So we stopped dairy for a while.  No luck there either.  We were stumped and continued to be concerned.

During her routine annual physical, we spoke with our pediatrician and explained the situation in detail.  He noticed that her height chart had been increasing at the normal trajectory for someone of her age...but her weight was not following the same growth pattern.  He ordered a complete metabolic / blood panel and told us he'd have the results in several days.

That next week, one his his nurses called and asked us to meet with her pediatrician--and our daughter-- personally.  The nurse noted nothing was "urgent", but in today's healthcare environment where most doctors have an incentive to spend LESS time with the patient--we both knew something was not normal.  My wife and I speculated on several conditions but reminded ourselves it was senseless, negative energy and waited eagerly for that appointment the following week.

When we arrived that Monday with our daughter, her pediatrician, (Dr, Enrique Hernandez of Pediatric GI of the Palm Beaches) explained that her IgA and igE levels were "positive" and abnormally high.  Not knowing what this really meant, he explained that this is likely a sign of celiac disease. However, further testing needed to be done to confirm his diagnosis.

There is no history of celiac disease in either of our families..and neither of us really know what this disease is all about.  He answered our preliminary questions about celiac disease and how her recurring symtoms seemed to suggest it. But, he insisted we make sure she kept her regular eating habits so the upcoming tests would not be biased.

So, our daughter is set for an endoscopy next week with Dr. Enrique Hernandez. We have started to read a lot more about this disease and educate her about it as well.  I think we're ready for this....