Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Keep The Epicurean Home Fires Burning

Like most responsible Americans, I've been stuck indoors for, what seems like, forever. Even though I've practically been chained to my computer, I haven't written a food blog in quite some time.  Like the rest of the world, the food landscape has changed dramatically, over night.

Subject: Waitress | Date: 03/27/2008 | Photographer: Json |
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

For the last few weeks, states with responsible governors have closed nonessential businesses, including dining rooms and bars.  Restaurant fare has been reduced to take-out and/or delivered meals.

Fast food places and other chain restaurants are taking a hit to their bottom line, but they can adapt.  Much of their business was from delivery and drive-thru orders before this happened.  The staff who worked the dining rooms have been laid off, and they're hurting, but the chains themselves, for the most part, will survive.  However, 75% of restaurants in the United States of America are independently owned.

One can eat a burger, box of chicken, or taco anywhere.  Eaters can down such meals in their cars, if they want to, and not sacrifice much of the experience.  Yet, a meal of 28 day aged center cut tenderloin, partially wrapped in smoky bacon, and topped with a demi-glace, served over rustic buttermilk mashed potatoes alongside seasonal vegetables doesn't translate as well as a take-out meal.  Thus, such restaurants are struggling to keep the lights on until this is over, whenever that will be.

The government is offering restaurants and bars loans to get the through the crisis, on the condition that 75% of the loan will be spent on payroll.  Yet, as Chef Tom Colicchio of Top Chef has pointed out, if dining room staff aren't working, the money is needed for; gas, water, electricity, rent, and ingredients; more than payroll.  Thus, the restaurants which need it most aren't qualifying.

Organizations, such as the James Beard Foundation Relief Fund are raising to keep the epicurean home fires burning.  According to their site, "The purpose of the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund (the “Fund”) is to provide critical financial assistance to small, independent restaurants that, due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) national disaster, have an immediate need for funds to pay set operating expenses and keep from going out of business."

While their efforts may indeed payoff, as's "There Will Be No Grand Reopening for Restaurants  suggests the new normal may not be the normal w once knew.  "'You may be having dinner with a waiter wearing gloves,' suggested the governor (of California), drawing on previous remarks made by California public health director Dr. Sonia Angell. 'Maybe a face mask, a dinner where the menu is disposable, where the tables, half of the tables in that restaurant no longer appear, where your temperature is checked before you walk into the establishment.'”

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