Takeaway our food and you take away some of the pride we take in presenting it, says Chantelle Nicholson.
The countless pivots that have happened in the past 12 months within our industry have been innovative and remarkable in many ways. I cannot think of another industry that has been as hard-hit by the effects of Covid, that has matched the sheer effort, determination and resilience shown. It makes me proud to be a part of it.
For me, the pivot meant takeaway food from All's Well and monthly meal boxes from both All's Well and Tredwells. It has created an opportunity for the team to be together again, and to think creatively about what the offer could be, as well as working on the logistics.
While being incredibly grateful for all the support received, there is something very transactional, versus relational, about putting food into a box. The Bob the Builder song has been playing on repeat in my mind these past few months…
There is something very transactional, versus relational, about putting food into a box
The experiential practice of sourcing, prepping, cooking and plating food is a major reason a lot of chefs embark on their career. This daily routine and finally bringing a meal together for the guest is inherent in what we do.
Creating a plate of food to be enjoyed at that particular moment, at the right temperature, cooked well and with all the elements just so, is an instantaneous reward. The intrinsic pleasure happens when it all comes together in unison, very much a sum of its many, many parts. There is the same consensus in pining for a time when cocktails were shaken and served, not bottled, and wine opened and poured rather than being part of a virtual tasting.
Yes, perhaps these are slightly rose-tinted glasses, masking the sheer grit and hard work needed to make a large restaurant break even in a pre-Brexit, post-rates increase, staff shortage-induced world. But the love of food and being able to create it to bring joy to others, is fundamental.
And I guess, ultimately, what these newfound avenues have removed is the element of human interaction and of control. Removing the ability to be able to use your experience, skills and senses to make something as good as it should be, and bring as much joy as possible, can add a little vulnerability to the situation.
In a restaurant, we as a team control the what, how and when (well, most of the time...) of the experience. The cardboard box phenomenon removes many of these elements.
Restaurant service is very much a dynamic and agile operation – fires are fought (literally and figuratively), the need to make decisions in seconds is vital, as is pre-empting any potential issues. We are the cast, the crew, the director, the producer and the distributor all in one.
When it comes to the cardboard box, we don't have this level of control nor ability to influence the end experience. We become mere facilitators. But, to look on the positive side, at least we can facilitate some joy and deliciousness into lockdown life, so it's swings and roundabouts, I guess. Either way, bring on 17 May...
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