KnifeofBrian: 'The feeling of “what the fuck!” swept through the industry like its own unique natural disaster'.

The Staff Canteen

It was around 5pm on a Monday evening when the announcement came in over the news. Boris Johnson had just told the British public to avoid going to the pubs.

This was one of his first measures introduced to try and slow the spread of COVID-19. Errr, thanks mate! I’d literally spent the whole day doing Mise En Place for the next few days, as my new Sous Chef was away on an ill-timed trip to Ireland.

My first reaction was, on reflection a little selfish and rash. The feeling of “what the fuck!” swept through the industry like its own unique natural disaster. Lots of professionals and restaurateurs took to social media, demanding explanations from the government.

The handbrakes had been put on. Chefs, bar staff and food servers were all in the dark. Business owners were being asked questions they could not answer. More importantly, did I need to order more minced beef for tomorrow?

I was down to my last batch of chilli. Were we closing? I had placed orders with suppliers for later in the week. Come on Boris, give me a heads up! Mother’s Day was just days away. The stock levels were already starting to reflect this. Professionally, this could not have come at a worse time.

Mother’s Day was just days away

Mother’s day is the day the hospitality industry waits for. Usually the most frantic and intense service of the year. It makes and breaks chefs and waiters alike. But already, the cancellations were coming in, from some of those who had already taken heed of what our Prime Minister had instructed. One of the most frustrating parts, from my perspective, was getting in touch with some of the part time kitchen staff. Letting them know that they would not be needed until further notice.

Not having any real information for them apart from that. We were in unprecedented times. Over the next few days, the situation escalated. We gathered in the bar to watch the daily announcements from number 10. Waiting to find out if we were going to be told we had to close. Primarily, were we going to get paid. People were still coming in to the pub, despite advice from the World Health Organisation. I guess some people felt that they knew better than the smart souls, in the science labs, who have researched this shit.

I was only there through obligation. Doing my best to avoid contact with everyone who strolled into the bar. Watching the global, daily death tolls rising. Knowing I have friends and family in the regions they were discussing. Surely it’ll never get that bad here? Look at us now!

Coronavirus lockdown

When the word did finally come from Number 10, I was just setting up for a Friday evening service. I knew an imminent lockdown was on the cards, but the air of disbelief in the pub was visible. By 6pm there was a throng of survivalists at the bar, clambering for their last beverages. As much as I appreciated the trade coming through the door, everyone who came in, I eyed with caution. You washed your hands bruv? I just wanted to get home to my family.

I could see the stress it was putting on people around me. The pub has recently had a brand new kitchen installed, along with some other refurbishments. Due to open any day. A lot of money had been spent on getting it ready. Frustratingly close to completion. My seven year wait for the new cooking space was coming to an end, so we thought. Everything was now on hold. But the news from the government was a small piece of welcome relief.

A few assurances were announced which lifted a lot of our pressures. There were still uncertainties, but the atmosphere was definitely lightened by the knowledge that we would be getting some sort of pay.  Over the days which followed, chefs up and down the country were offering take away and delivery services to help clear remaining stocks. Some are carrying this on for the foreseeable future. But a majority of employers are starting to look towards the welfare of their staff. After all, community starts at home. As for the future, who knows?

The public need to reinvest in the British economy

This lockdown looks to be going on for a while. A few restaurants and bars may fall by the wayside and not recover. But I sincerely hope, we can all get back to where we were. I have a shiny new kitchen waiting for me and I really am starting to miss being “Chef”. My wife and kids have never eaten so well. It’s still fun to raid the kitchen cupboards and create dishes in the style of Ready-Steady-Cook! But I feel this novelty may wear off as the lockdown progresses. Once this is all over, I hope that the public look to reinvest in the British economy, by literally pissing it away.

Hitting the pubs, restaurants and theatres. Calling out the plumbers and electricians to fix all the jobs we’ve bodged up around the house during this lockdown. Meeting with friends and family, face to face and hugging them like never before. I hope the sense of community stays with us and we all respect those who helped keep us going during this crisis. The shop workers, the medical professionals and the people who have kept us connected. The entertainers, the writers, the musicians and even social media personalities, who are doing their part to provide content and memes for scrolling fingers.

Stay Home, Save Lives.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th April 2020

KnifeofBrian: 'The feeling of “what the fuck!” swept through the industry like its own unique natural disaster'.