When the coronavirus pandemic first took hold in Italy almost eight weeks ago over we saw Italian chefs taking responsibility and deciding to close ahead of any government-mandated decisions, putting customer and staff safety first.
Once again, we're seeing this decisive chef action echoed by another group of over 50 chefs and restaurateurs in the US's Atlanta and Savannah. United under the hashtag #GAHospitality the group have decided not to re-open for dine-in service despite being given the official go-ahead by local authorities and instead emphasising the role and responsibility of restaurant owners in managing their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We agree that it’s in the best interest of our employees, our guest, our community, and our industry to keep our dining room closed at this time,” a statement reads.
Veteran chef and restaurateur Linton Hopkins from the region reinforces this sense of responsibility. “The bottom line: We recognize everyone is facing incredible decisions. Safety is our top priority. We won’t be opening our restaurants at this time. That statement is going to change. We’re not saying everyone has to open at the same time.”
Writing in the Washington Post chef Hugh Acheson, owner of Five & Ten in Athens, Ga., and Empire State South and By George in Atlanta, echoes the sentiments that it's neither safe nor smart to dine out yet, and as won't be opening his restaurants on Friday when the ban lifts. "The hospitality industry was already among the first to succumb to the economic wrath of the pandemic, and I, as a chef and restaurateur, refuse to have the people I employ and work with used as sacrificial lambs for an economic uptick that is far from guaranteed anyway," he writes.
He continues "I want to get back to work, but I will keep my places closed, as will every chef I have talked to" concluding, "That will happen again soon. But right now I need to help nourish my community, and prove to myself, my team and my customers that we can provide a safe place of respite from this catastrophe."
While the health and safety measures applied as a result of the virus transmission have largely brought the industry to its knees, it's interesting to see chefs are making an autonomous stand and refusing to re-open, despite official sanctions being lifted. It remains to be seen if this sense of responsibility will ricochet amongst chef communities around the world in the coming weeks and months.