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CHEF'S TABLE: Restaurant industry needs you now more than ever

'This whole situation has really brought to light just how important these places and these businesses are to our community,' says food columnist
2022-01-05 Empty restaurant
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"A soul of hospitality and a heart of humanity is a house of love, peace, freedom, liberty, and justice." — Oscar Auliq-Ice

To say 2021 was a difficult year for my friends in the hospitality world would be an understatement.

This week, I sat down with every intention of trying to write an optimistic look at what lies ahead. But the government announcements this week and the plunge back into stage two, the closures and the darkening of our dining rooms, once again I find it hard to find the silver lining.

There is no denying that the hospitality industry has taken a massive hit through out this time. So many struggles and challenges for those that rely on the business of feeding people and providing the joys of refreshment, relaxation and restoration to the masses. Not to detract from all the other sectors that are feeling this virus and its consequences acutely, but for me restaurants are an important part of who I am and it weighs heavily seeing my friends and colleagues go through this.

The word restaurant comes from the French verb restaurer, meaning “to restore oneself,” and some of the first true restaurants came into being in France during the decades prior to the French Revolution. These were purported to be health-food shops selling one principal dish: bouillon.

We’ve come along way since then and those bowls of broth, but the fact remains that most of us all look to our local restaurants, cafes and night clubs as places of relaxation and restoration that hold an important place in our lives. And there really is a seat for everyone at the table. Be it a quiet coffee shop, a loud and rambunctious sports bar or the family-friendly diner everyone can find a spot that feels right and restores our spirit.

It used to be unimaginable to think of not having the ability to go out and grab a beer and burger or meet up with friends to share a meal together, or even take your love out for a romantic date night. Yet here we are again, living with just that.

If nothing less, this whole situation has really brought to light just how important these places and these businesses are to our community. Great cities are great because of the people, the sights and the smells. A big part of this is all comes to be through the hard work and vision of those who have taken up the vocation of service.

I love hospitality people. At their core, those who open and run these local independent places want to serve people and make them happy. Over the past year in our community, I have seen some excellent examples of outstanding service and exceptional business skills. Many people had to navigate a landscape of constant changes and obstacles yet still make the best of a bad situation. But here’s the catch they need us now.

The same people who run these restaurants are the ones who support our sports team, or who provide prizes for school fundraisers, or who donate to support those most vulnerable in our community.

I assure you they are worthy, and we are all better for them being here as a part of our community and able to keep the doors open, or get them open again as soon as they are able.

What does our help look like, you ask? There is a few ways we can help.

1. Buy local – Look for those independents, the family-run and little spots. Try something new. You may just find a new favourite spot.

2. Gift cards – Looking to buy a gift for someone or to say thank you? A gift card is a great way to help a local spot get a little much needed cash flow.

3. Be kind – Yes, lines are longer, prices must go up and not everything works as seamless as you hope. Just be kind to each other and to all those who are still working hard to serve you. They deserve your thanks and your respect.

Maybe it’s not so hard to find the silver lining in all this doom and gloom. If the hard work, determination and ingenuity that hospitality sector has had to muster means anything I hope that we all come out with a better appreciation of things that matter to us and that we all work just a little bit harder to share in the spirit of hospitality.

May 2022 bring you all health, happiness and restoration. Happy new year.

Daniel Clements

About the Author: Daniel Clements

In his bi-weekly Chef's Table column, Daniel will be looking at everything from local crops and trends in the business to seasonal delights and the local restaurant scene
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