Well, I am, like countless others around the world, a chef who currently has no restaurant to work in. The Greenhouse in Dublin, where I proudly work under exec chef Mickael Viljanen, won its second Michelin star in a glitzy ceremony last October. Today, the restaurant is closed for a while. I am, like many in my bracket, looking to open my own business in the near future. This is still the plan, but how that business looks, may well have changed in the last week.
The coronavirus has arguably affected the global hospitality sector harder than any other. It doesn’t care if you have three-Michelin stars or one, it doesn’t care if you serve 2000 guests or 20, and it certainly doesn’t care if you are world-renowned or not. As a chef with little ‘skin in the game’ currently, I am extremely humbled to be a part of an industry where owners have closed business’ in order to protect their staff, the public and their customers, (often before being directed to). These decisions have been made in full knowledge they may never open again, losing everything they’ve built in the process.
I think it is fair to say the world has changed almost overnight. For the first time in recent history, we are fighting a battle without borders or man-made barriers, political preferences or opinions, and no human agendas. We are coming together as a human race with the same goal, and for this reason, we will achieve that goal. Society will be different on the other side, and how we live our lives will change, perhaps for the better.
Right now, restaurants aren’t important. But as Winston Churchill put it during WW2 when questioned on his continuing funding of the arts sector: “Well then what are we fighting for?”. With time, restaurants will regain the dynamic, creative and valuable asset they provide to our modern society. They might just appear a little differently.
I have been struck by how restaurants have adapted to the new normal here in Ireland and abroad. It almost seems like we are looking into the future of the industry, through a very unfortunate veil. Chefs, restauranteurs, bartenders, bakers, and all the people that make up our industry have temporarily halted the pursuit of technique, artistry, recognition. The ego and vision that has fuelled us for so long. Instead, they’ve adapted and responded to the short term needs of society, becoming central figures in the global fight. People still need to be supplied and fed.