May is allergy awareness month, and with the warm-weather entertaining season kicking into high gear, it’s the perfect time to brush up on your etiquette for hosting guests with dietary restrictions. Enter Molly Yeh, cookbook author, blogger and host of Food Network’s Girl Meets Farm. In a partnership with Canadian snack brand MadeGood to bring awareness to allergies, Yeh has developed recipes, like her Sprinkle Ice Cream Pie (watch her make it here!) and her creamy Navy Bean Dip, that are free of common allergens and perfect for feeding a crowd.
Yeh credits her mom’s peanut intolerance with teaching her the importance of allergy-inclusive cooking from a young age. She grew up in a no-peanut household before moving to Brooklyn to attend Julliard, which is where she also started her food blog, mynameisyeh.com, in 2008. She ultimately returned to rural life and moved with her husband to a farm in Minnesota, where her blog snowballed into a cookbook deal (Molly on the Range) and Food Network contract. Girl Meets Farm first aired in 2018: a cooking show about embracing the country life, featuring Yeh in her rural digs, preparing homestyle dishes inspired by her Jewish and Chinese heritage. Now in the eleventh season of her show and with two little ones of her own, Yeh is more careful than ever about what she feeds the guests who come into her home.
We caught up with Molly Yeh to get her top tips for entertaining and hosting guests with dietary restrictions. Whether you’re planning a dinner, cocktail party or Mother’s Day brunch, this guide will help you be a thoughtful host.
1. Ask, even if you think you know
Whenever Yeh has guests over, she sends a text to ask about dietary restrictions – even if it’s a close friend or family member she’s been feeding for years. “Dietary restrictions can be fluid. I didn’t eat dairy when I was breastfeeding, for example,” she explains. Before you plan your menu or snacks, check in with your guests to see if they have any needs that you can accommodate. “I always check in and say ‘hey, what are your dietary restrictions right now?’ I get that cleared away right off the bat,” Yeh says.
2. Try to be discreet
Some people may prefer to keep their dietary restrictions between them and their host. Yeh says it’s best to err on the safe side and prepare dishes that everyone can eat, so no one feels the need to discuss their health or dining habits with the other guests. “I’m not about making one thing for most people, and then making one allergy-friendly dish just for that one person,” she says. “I don’t ever want people to feel like they’re getting called-out at the dinner table for having an allergy. I just want everyone to be welcomed.”
3. Teamwork makes the dream work
Rather than taking a random stab at picking an allergen alternative in the grocery store, Yeh advises letting the guest recommend brands they like. “If ever I run into a question, I always ask the person who’s coming over,” she says. “They’ve tried all the products.” If it’s not an ingredient you’ve cooked with before, consider inviting the guest to prepare it with you to make sure it’s just the way they like it. “Get them involved too,” Yeh says. “For me, it’s a sign of love to include them and include their preferences at the dinner table.”