Statement from coeliac Anthony Demetre re: Saturday Kitchen remarks: still missing the point?

Unless I missed it, the hoped-for apology following the comments made by Anthony Demetre on the 9th April’s Saturday Kitchen never materialised on the episode broadcast on the 16th, but last Thursday Demetre did issue a statement via his agent’s blog, which I only spotted Saturday evening, hours before a trip away, leaving me unable to comment sooner. Some may still not have seen it, as it appears very little noise accompanied it. I found it mostly disappointing, and I’ll comment a little on it here.

He opens:

“I am a coeliac and like others, I need to control my intake of gluten.”

And already I feel the frustration rising. Coeliacs need to do more than control their gluten intake – they need to minimise their gluten intake.

He goes on:

“My understanding of this disease is that different people have different levels of tolerance, and I am one of the “lucky” ones who can succumb to a craving for pasta or the occasional croissant, once in a blue moon.”

Speaking symptomatically, some coeliacs may not be able to get away with a crumb while some may be able to get away with a bite of bread – but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the internal harm that might or might not be going on. It appears from this that Demetre is unaware that lack of symptoms may not necessarily mean lack of damage.

As for “succumb to a craving for pasta”… well, this isn’t what the chef said on Saturday Kitchen. His words were: “I go on this diet.. no gluten for about three months and then for two weeks I just eat as much pasta and pizza as I can get hold of…”

To me, a two-week feast of pasta is clearly something more than giving in to some ‘craving’, and I’m not sure ‘once in a blue moon’ is equivalent to ‘once every three months’ either, although this is of course more subjective. Now I don’t mind what the truth is – as others have said, it is his business what he eats and when – but I don’t understand why, instead of clarifying his statement on his gluten-consumption, Demetre has chosen to replace it with something which appears to at least partially contradict it.

Next, he makes some apologetic remarks, and these do seem sincere. He points out that his comments were not intended as advice, and I do feel this is reasonable, as he was not recommending his approach – yet all this still fails to address the confusion his remarks may have caused some people new to the disease, or to any children watching.

The last thing I want to comment on is this edited line:

“I apologise for …. allegedly underplaying the seriousness of this condition.”

Let’s be clear: he laughed. His ‘allegedly’ seems to me to imply that he doesn’t feel he did underplay the seriousness of the condition with that laughter, and I think it is this apparent denial, ultimately, that will leave a slightly bitter taste in the mouths of many coeliacs.

I still don’t feel he fully gets it. Do you? Or am I being unfair?

9 Comments

  1. dai

    he certainly has not got the point , nor recognised the potential for dangerous misinformation, sadly. Simple…if you are Coeliac and wish to stay healthy..STOP ingesting Gluten!
    David C

    Reply
  2. Ruth Holroyd

    NO he doesn't get it. His agent did not respond to my email. That is rude. To just sneak a statement onto a website isn't really enough is it? Especialy when he doesn't, as you say, really quite get the apology bit. The BBC haven't responded to my written letter yet, this is a letter I sent AFTER the very lame circular we all got. I feel like boycotting all these food porn TV food programmes, especially Saturday Kitchen. I'd rather they didn't mention gluten at all if they are going to laugh and portray it all so badly. They pay little of no regard to allergies, intolerances and coeliacs, despite the fact that the numbers of people who seem to be effected are rising fast. Get with the trend BBC.

    Reply
  3. Alex G

    Thanks for comments. It is as simple as that, when it boils down to it, isn't it Dai? And yes, Ruth – I agree the BBC doesn't show enough acknowledgement of food sensitivity issues.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    I can easily eat gluten-free at home, and eating in a restaurant is generally fine, because coeliac disease is covered in catering school training. My hardest job is convincing the wider family that the disease is in my tummy and not my head. Even a single breadcrumb can cause days of discomfort and diarrhoea. This programme is obviously aimed at the home cook, who may want to make a special meal as a treat for a friend or a member of their family. Mr Demetre's comments have simply reinforced my step-dad's view that I'm making a fuss. Wouldn't it have been so much better if he had explained that he is weak and cannot help bingeing every couple of months, but, in fact, he should try to avoid gluten at all costs because each time he eats it he is damaging his body. From personal experieince, I don't think a couple of months is enough to get the full benefit of going gluten-free. When I started the diet, the most obvious symptoms disappeared within a week. However, 2+ years down the line, other medical problems that I've had for years are suddenly righting themselves – better than 30 years of drug treatment ever managed – this just shows that coeliac disease has effects on the whole body, not just the gut (my GP has backed this up, and says other patients have a similar experience).

    Reply
  5. Alex G

    Thanks for your comment. It is such a shame that some people simply refuse to 'get' food sensitivities at all. Sadly, I suspect it may always be this way for some people – though I hope in your case your step-father can be convinced eventually. I agree with the systemic effects – it really is far more than a gut disease, something I was at pains to point out in my book. Part of the problem of underdiagnosis is mild symptoms being misdiag'd as IBS – but I suspect another part is unusual non-gut symptoms which simply don't register with docs as potential coeliac. Thanks again for commenting.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    Its rather ironic that the name Demeter..is the Greek goddess of harvest and grains…..

    He has missed the point totally….and if he wishes to be irresponsible for his own health…then thats his own foolish choice.

    Most chefs welcome the challenge of making delicious food for us…its doing something a little out of the ordinary…and a real test for their culinary skills.

    He hasnt said much to make me want to dine in his restaurant….

    By happy…

    Reply
  7. Alex G

    Thanks – I think that's how a lot of coeliacs feel about it…

    Reply
  8. @MalSannie

    I agree, Alex. The 'allegedly' in effect cancels his 'apology'.

    Regarding coeliacs having 'to minimise their gluten intake' – I'd think it should be eliminate gluten intake? That is what I try in my own diet as I find I react to the smallest amounts of gluten.

    Thanks again for bringing these things to our attention!

    Reply
  9. Alex G

    Yes, in an ideal world 'eliminate', you're right – I think I used 'minimise' because, in practice, it is probably impossible to have a zero intake of gluten, due to trace gluten in many GF products, and trace contamination, which inevitably many become exposed to. We can't measure zero gluten, so we can't know that any coeliacs have zero intake – despite their best efforts. But I take your point and perhaps I should've made that clear. Thanks!

    Reply

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