What Covid Did To Food and Foodies

I can remember that deep, guttural feeling, that eye roll of my kitchen comrades, the petulance and vitriol spilling forward when the expo said, “vegetarian at table 34.”

Getting my restaurant chops in the early ‘80s, this was a common response to the announcement that a vegetarian, or, god forbid, a vegan, was in our dining room. We were protein warriors. Our best hours in the kitchen were spent butchering; we built our specials from dead animals and had their blood on our aprons as a badge of carnivorism. And now, this diner wants us to create something just using vegetables, and no fat or dairy? This was not to be fun.

We were young, and we were certainly dumb. Cooking for vegetarians, vegans and folks with special dietary needs is something we now take on as a joy, a challenge, and a quick-fire test these days. Cooking for our gluten-free friends is a treat (even the ones who say they are and then you see them mackin’ on a slice of clearly not-GF pizza the next day). Making everyone happy with food is a joy that never gets old.

Hearing someone say “I’m a real foodie” makes most professional restaurant people cringe, or straight-up gag, depending on the delivery. It usually coincides with them announcing that they are also a Yelp Elite, and that they are starting a food blog. Anyone can be a foodie I guess, if you like food — some just have to make an announcement about it.

There aren’t a lot of warm and feel-good moments when reflecting on the devastating attack launched by the Coronavirus over the last 18 months.

Except maybe when it comes to food. Certainly not the supply chain, or pricing, or availability for that matter. But for sure when it comes to cooking — because foodies are now, in fact, foodies. Restaurants closing forced folks to cook at home. For some, they were doing it for the first time. For others who had solid chops to begin with, their skills flourished. Making pasta and risotto and trying more involved family recipes, buying more seafood and previously intimidating ingredients, and seriously getting their Traeger on. Online shopping helped folks procure better products, and people now had more relaxed fun time to cook, and to learn to cook, than ever before.

All of this creates a challenge and an opportunity for all restaurants. The challenge is that guests aren’t gonna put up with mediocre food and chefs that are more talented at writing menus then cooking the words on them. The opportunity is that our guests have higher expectations — a higher tide floating all boats …………and all that.

So come on you self-proclaimed foodies – we welcome your new skill sets, your higher knowledge and your passion for food – we’ve been right there with ya this entire time.

Stay safe, mask up, and for the love of good food – get vaccinated.

 

Big Love. DQ.