By Allie Bahn

Dining out at a restaurant or café can feel overwhelming and exhausting when you are dealing with food allergies. Disclosing your dietary requirements as well as making sure you are heard and understood can feel like a lot of work.

Many people with food allergies use a chef card to convey the messages you need the server, manager and chef to understand and to help relieve some of the worry and apprehension when dining out.

What is a Chef Card?

A chef card is a printed paper or notecard – usually pocket- or wallet-sized – that states your specific food allergies, their severity, and the need for kitchen staff to use clean surfaces and utensils to avoid cross contact of your allergens.

There is no right or wrong way to write a chef card. You decide how detailed you want it to be.

You should still give a brief verbal explanation of the severity of your food allergies. The chef card adds a visual cue and increases the likelihood that your important message makes it to the chef and kitchen.

Restaurants are usually happy to see a chef card because it addresses your food allergies and it helps the staff remember your allergens – decreasing the likelihood of mistakes when writing out the order.

Thumbmail version of AAN's chef's card for printing

Click on image above to download a fillable PDF for printing.

How Do You Use a Chef Card?

When you arrive at the restaurant, you should briefly explain your food allergies, the need for clean, cross-contact free surfaces and utensils, and the severity of your food allergies so that they are taken seriously. Then hand over the chef card to the server, manager or chef.

You may want to have a digital chef card that you can email the restaurant ahead of time to check if they can accommodate your food allergies.

Chef cards can also be utilized in other ways as well, such as sharing your food allergies with extended family and friends.

By using a chef card, dining out with food allergies becomes less stressful and more enjoyable. You and your family will also feel an increased sense of confidence that your food allergy needs are being accommodated safely.

For more information on chef cards and to download a free chef card template, visit