CW: Corona Virus, COVID-19
The world is in turmoil, Covid-19 has taken hold and many of us across the world have been dramatically affected by it. Myself included. From the moment it was clear Corona would likely end up here, my anxiety began to rise, but I was holding up and I was prepared for it to get much worse, despite people repeatedly telling me ‘it won’t come to that’.
I cried once when we didn’t know what was happening and the uncertainty of school, work and life, in general, gripped me and I was home alone with a child who had a non-corona related bout of poorliness and I felt so lonely. I had a good talk on the phone with small human’s dad though and we got me back on track. It was a reminder that I am not doing this alone.
I am writing this post for Julie’s new prompt For the Health of it #2 – Eating Out, and my feelings surrounding Corona may not seem relevant to that topic, but bear with me, all will become clear. I have stayed strong and rallied like a beast, my cupboards are full, I have a plan for the small human if we go into lockdown and I am aware of my financial situation while this crisis continues. I am doing okay, I am in a better position than many and my only hope now is that myself and those I love get out of this safe and well.
I did, however, have another moment where I felt incredibly sad and a little like my heart was breaking and I hope would judge me as overdramatic when you hear what triggered that feeling. I work in a restaurant, a big one, well known, a store in almost every town and we are very popular. I love my job, I work in the kitchen as a shift leader, weekdays I do the morning shift and this means I am the only chef on line. My busiest day ever I did 120 covers (1 cover being 1 diner) and I love it, I love feeding people, I enjoy knowing they’ve had a good dining experience and without fail, I enjoy turning up to work.
Of course, there are days when I’m tired or pre-occupied with life when I think staying home would be more fun or beneficial, but once I’m at work that fades away. I have great colleagues, great managers and I am very passionate about what I do. On Friday 2oth March though, I work my last shift until I don’t know when, because Covid-19 has forced us to shut our doors. I understand why and I support the closure but I am sad, I am so, so sad to see not just my restaurant close but our entire industry, especially knowing that many businesses will not recover from this. It is mortifying on so many levels.
Another personal loss for me is that I’d just begin to start eating out again. Prior to dating Mr F I’d eating out maybe a dozen times in 5 years, which isn’t that much for someone who very much enjoys food, enjoys having food cooked by someone else and like to explore a variety of dishes. When Mr F and I started dating eating out became something we did together very quickly, we both work in the same industry, in fact, we both work in the same restaurant, so eating out is something I have really loved revisiting with him. No, of course, that is on pause.
The world will resume some kind of normality one day, very different to what we remember I suspect, but all the same, it will include dates that don’t involve being inside our own homes and when that day comes you better believe I will be eating out again and loving every minute of it.
I will be trying new restaurants, being kind to my servers and leaving a healthy tip. People who work in hospitality do not get paid a lot of money. We work ridiculous hours, long and intense, often on the very nights everyone else is having fun. Your downtime is our busiest night of the week, we smile at you, we laugh with you, we make sure your evening goes as well as it can and often this is done with very little in the way of thanks from our patrons.
I know we all have a tale of the time our service was rubbish, or the food quality was poor, those are the stories that get old most often. When all this is over and you are sat in a restaurant, your plate clean, your belly full and you sit back and say that was delicious and your table is cleared by someone cheery, who bring you more drinks and asks how your meal was, please don’t just pay your bill and leave. In the UK tips are not added to the bill and to my mind, most of the time, if you can afford to eat out, chances are you can afford to leave a tip, please do this.
Please try and be polite too, even if something is wrong, servers don’t cook the food, being rude to them does not suddenly make your steak cook a little bit more. Also please be mindful that folks who cook for a living are only human, while many of us endeavour to always do our best, things happen and sometimes mistakes need to be rectified. I guarantee you asking for these things nicely yields far better results, rudeness does not make you seem like a valued customer, regardless of what our error was.
I’d also like to make another plea, one that will not cost you any money at all, only a few minutes of your time. When you have eaten out and it’s been good, please, please, please write a review. Trip Advisor is a site that many restaurants use in-store as a guideline for guest feedback and in many restaurants if you name staff members who made your meal enjoyable there is behind the scenes recognition. Please do not underestimate the value of your positive feedback, it is everything to us.
As a chef, I’d also say please feel free to send us your compliments, we love that shit. There is nothing better than when a server comes to the kitchen and says ‘table 72 loved their meal’, that alone will make my shift ten times better. It’s also worth noting than in the majority of restaurants cash tips are for the server only, tips given by card have a percentage distributed to the kitchen staff as well. Of course, this will vary, but as a general rule of thumb, it is worth noting.
In terms of what kind of food I enjoy when I am the one dining, all sorts really. I do enjoy curry and will often choose that if it is an option, also fish dishes are a big hit for me, especially anything involving salmon. It is very rare that I order steak in a restaurant because I cook them as part of my job and quite honestly I don’t trust anyone else to get them right.
Desserts are another big hit for me. If a restaurant gets their desserts right then that is a very good way to ensure I will return. I am all about the sweet treats. One of my all-time favourite desserts to order is a creme brulee, oh my, a good one of those is like a food orgasm. Anything that has passionfruit in it will also be a top pick. Other dessert flavours I enjoy are … all of them! I could happily eat desserts all day long and tasty, well-made desserts, served to me by other people are a definite favourite thing in my life.
Due to eating out being more of a treat than a regular occurrence, picking my meals based on health is far less likely than picking food based on yumminess. I do have some issues with an intolerance to many oils, sesame and rapeseed being the two main culprits, but to be honest, these are in so many things that avoiding them in restaurants is not something I ever aim to do. In terms of healthy choices though, fish being a popular choice for me means I often make a healthy choice by default. Occasionally I’ll feel the urge for a big dirty burger and 90% of the time I feel bloated and gross after it and realise a better decision could have been made.
Overall though eating out is a huge source of pleasure for me and I am passionate about those restaurants who offer both good service and delicious food. When all the corona chaos has died down you’d better believe that I will be out supporting the industry and getting my belly filled with lots of yummy dinners.