Coronavirus in the Culinary Industry: Life as a Cook Right Now

SELF: How did the closure affect you and your colleagues?

R.G-L.: We’re all kind of going through the motions. A lot of us have already applied for unemployment, and we’re sharing info with each other about relief funds, anything we can find.

One of the things that is most frustrating is that other people don’t understand that we don’t have a safety net. We don’t have the option of working for the restaurant from home. PTO and sick days—a lot of the people who are in this field don’t have that. People are just shit out of luck.

Being in limbo before we officially closed was the hardest. But my restaurant has been super great. The day we decided to shut down I wasn’t scheduled to work, but our chef donated all the food that was going to go to waste to the staff. He’s been very transparent about everything happening and has been sharing resources, like how to apply for unemployment. They’ve been supportive, which is great.

SELF: How did you come up with the idea to teach virtual cooking classes?

R.G-L.: I’ve always been wanting to help people in the kitchen. I love teaching people about food, talking about food—it’s something I’m super passionate about. I was talking to my dad and I was like, ‘What if I just teach people what they want to know over the phone?’ It’s always something I had in the back of my head, to connect my blog to reaching out to people. This is the push I needed.

Something I had to adjust to when I started blogging was that I would have readers with all different skill sets. Not everybody is on the same level. So my classes are a free-for-all—whatever clients want to learn, whatever they want to make. It’s not tied down to whatever I have on the blog. I have one client who wants to make fresh pasta, so we’re scheduling that.

My first client was a nurse, and I taught her how to make mashed potatoes with green bean gravy and chicken. She doesn’t do much cooking at home, and she once burned a pot of water. It was really sweet. That was the most fun part about it, seeing how excited she was.

SELF: So many people are stress-baking and stress-cooking right now. Is cooking still a source of comfort for you, too?

R.G-L.: The first week of uncertainty, I was stress-cooking, for sure. But then once we got word from work and we had some semblance of an idea of what was happening, it went back to normal. I have roommates, so I’ve been cooking for everybody, which is really nice. I made some no-knead bread the other day, I made cookies. I’ve been pouring into my blog, which is a solid distraction. It’s been a great way for me to unplug from the news, because the first couple of days I was just glued to my phone.

As well as cooking, I ordered some potting soil and pots to repot my plants. I have an herb garden starter kit that arrived today. My mom has an amazing green thumb, so she’s been giving me pointers, and I’m super excited about the herbs. People have been panic buying at the store, so I thought, ‘I’ll grow my own.’

SELF: How are you handling buying food right now?

R.G.-L.: I’m mainly working through the food that I’ve had pre-pandemic. I keep a very well-stocked pantry given my upbringing and knowledge gained from culinary school. (I actually shared a list of my pantry staples and favorite pantry-focused recipes on my blog.) I grew up in a working-class family and we often ate what people would consider ‘struggle meals’ because we didn’t have much money. My mom taught me how to cook with what I have at home and make the best of it.

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