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Sherbrooke Salmon Tartare Allergy Victim Finally Speaks

He says he’s had nightmares and panic attacks since accidentally being served salmon

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The Quebec restaurant controversy of the summer just keeps on going, as the customer with a seafood allergy who was served salmon tartare in a Sherbrooke restaurant has finally spoken about the incident.

Allergy news website Allergic Living published the interview with Simon-Pierre Canuel on Wednesday, and it’s the first at-length comment he’s given about the incident. In case you forgot, Canuel dined at Sherbrooke tapas restaurant Le Tapageur in late May. He was accidentally served salmon tartare, and had an allergic reaction that put him in a coma. The story came to light in August when the server responsible was arrested: charges of criminal negligence seemed possible but were later dropped.

The interview with Allergic Living is quite supportive of Canuel, but it’s fair given that Canuel was the victim in the situation (not to mention the fact his heart stopped).

Canuel describes the incident emotively: “I was holding my boyfriend’s hand and I said, ‘Can you call my family? I don’t think I’m going to survive,” he recalls. Canuel also recounts an unfortunate encounter with another not-so-competent server in Montreal when the incident was big news, saying that a server at an unnamed Montreal restaurant laughed him off when he pointed out the danger of serious allergies.

“She said, ‘It’s true, like that idiot who lodged a complaint against the waiter,’” recounts Canuel. “I looked at her straight in the eye and said, ‘Madame, that idiot who complained about the waiter is me.’” Yikes.

According to the interview, he has experienced insomnia, nightmares and panic attacks since the reaction, and was forced to change his phone number and delete social media accounts due to the public attention. This one cuts both ways — on Le Tapageur’s Facebook page, various reviews and posts denouncing the restaurant over the incident are still online.

The interview does go a little far, with hints that Quebec media coverage as having been heavily against Canuel — while there’s no accounting for internet commenters, most news outlets were even-handed and published comments from Canuel. While there were reports that Canuel had extracted money from other restaurants for similar cases in the past, even the most gossipy outlets highlighted that they were unsubstantiated.

The article also implies the Quebec Restaurant Association (ARQ) was going too far when they claimed after the incident that charges against the server would make restaurants unwilling to serve allergic clients. “[The] vice president of the Quebec Restaurant Association even suggested that if the waiter was charged, restaurateurs might refuse to serve allergic patrons,” the story says, as if to lump the ARQ in with angry internet trolls.

It was a fair comment for the lobby group to make, given that mix-ups in communication can happen in multiple places in a restaurant: a server might forget to note an allergy on an order, the kitchen might not see it, or a server might write “no seafood”, and kitchen staff think it’s just a picky eater and ignore the request. If a restaurant could face criminal charges for mix-ups, it seems safer to just not make the necessary accommodations.

According to the interview, Canuel is still engaging in civil lawsuits against both Le Tapageur and a radio station that carried those reports, and the article includes a claim from Canuel that “he is not going to court to make money.” This comes off as a little disingenuous: there’s really no other reason to take it to court except for compensation — while the compensation is probably deserved, it’s not like Canuel is pursuing two separate cases just to get a friendly apology letter.

Le Tapageur

83 Rue King Ouest, Sherbrooke, Quebec 819-823-5444 Visit Website