Covid 19 has become a long and disgusting menu for Spanish chefs and eaters. The hospitality losses caused by the pandemic are heavy along 2020: 50% of the billing, 85.000 of 300.000 businesses ruined, 400.000 from 1,7 million workers unemployed.
The pandemic is a challenge for the food industry. It affects the creativity of the professionals and their ability to design new business models. Redefining the industry is a priority now. Chefs are reinventing themselves trying not to lose their identity.
Besides the necessary hygienic measures (masks, hydrogel, intensive cleaning), restaurant owners are reorienting style: shorter menus, meal shifts, less tables, apps and QR codes for the menus, healthy and vegan proposals, cheaper tickets, local focus, delivery…
Spain is living a delivery boom, with popular haute cuisine chefs working in take away projects. Forced by the confinement and stablished after as a new line of business, delivery is so ubiquitous that even Michelin Guide is planning to rate it.
Maybe they will get more stars for their delivery food brands famous chefs as Dabiz Muñoz (GoXo), Quique Dacosta (QDelivery), Paco Roncero and Ramón Freixa (Cuatro Manos), Roberto Ruiz (MX), Andoni Luis Aduriz (Topa Etxean), Rodrigo de la Calle (Verdelivery), Lucía Freitas, Mario Sandoval (CoquettoGo), Dani García (La Gran Familia Mediterránea)…
Obviously the fine dining experience is hard to express and enjoy outside the food temples. However, with gourmet delivery the diners can get a glimpse of their favorite restaurant and the cooks can solve their lack of revenue.
«The consumers will have a sort of gastronomy Spotify, with food play lists to enjoy at home”, says Andoni Luis Aduriz, chef owner of Mugaritz and president of the Spanish section of Euro-Toques. This organization, with more than 1.000 members, has released a manual of good practice in restaurants in cooperation with gastronomy university Basque Culinary Center.
“We have to guarantee our clients security and trust”, says Joan Roca, from Celler de Can Roca. Amid the changes forced by the Covid 19 the chef and his brothers Josep (sommelier) and Jordi (pastry chef) transformed this summer their space for weddings and events into a new terrace restaurant medium priced. Their main house, Celler, remain full of reservations.
The big names of Spanish culinary galaxy depend mostly on international public. The starred restaurants have at least 80% foreign customers and they were affected during the shortage of tourism caused by the pandemic. Once the frontiers were opened the situation improved. Foodie travelers with money don’t seem to lose their aim to explore restaurants around the world.
Bars problems are different. Spain has a deeply rooted bar and tapas culture. Many people were desperate of being at home with no chance to share moments with friends. Once the isolation ended, bars were crowded again but these places have been a way to spread the contagious virus.
Catalonian government took a radical measure closing bars and restaurants for 15 days in October.
Covid sprouts have also affected Michelin star restaurants as Aponiente (Andalucía), Celler de Can Roca (Catalonia) or Solana (Cantabria). A fire maintained closed for a while DiverXo’s kitchen and after the recovery it came a new closing caused by Covid.
Chefs are used to work hard and being optimistic. Surely gastronomy world will face properly the crisis and the uncertain future, but the professionals claim to Spanish Government more attention and financial aid. Food sector gives an extraordinary input to the national economy, besides the culture and social benefits.
Gastronomy is a huge network of people and entrepreneurs. Small producers linked to restaurants had suffered the crisis and many of them had started to deliver their ingredients. The motto “from farm to table” has become a reality, not only a trendy theory, and small countryside restaurants had increased their connection with their communities.
The rebirthing of home cooking during the lockdown has helped Spaniards also to rethink the feeding. “People finally discovered the value of natural and pure taste”, says Carme Ruscalleda.
And everybody shows culinary abilities trough social networks. Pastry creations are everywhere. The supermarkets are running out of flour and baking powder. Thousands of foodies share now the stardom with chefs instagramers and youtubers.
This is the English translation of an article published in Turkish online magazine Food in Life.