Words by Olivia Lennox

            L’Observatoire De La Gastronomie (The Gastronomy Observer) has released their first annual report. The report produced by La Liste is based on hundreds of sources from their database, as well as an archive of reports and interviews. It’s aim is to share findings on the effects of the pandemic on the restaurant sector with a global perspective, addressing trends, changes and alterations made by the industry of food and drink.

            Summarised in no uncertain terms is that the hospitality industry is in trouble. Despite the now extensive time spent in this unprecedented situation, the specifics on restaurant closures are still shocking, and even those of prominence have not been spared from becoming collateral. Varying degrees of Governmental support are assessed, the success and sincerity of which are debatable, but it is evident that subsidies are bandaids at best.

            And not only for the extreme financial costs brought by a year of constant adjustments, but trouble exists in terms of stigma towards the food sector. Hygiene standards are called into question, and those in the industry must battle to keep a customer base when there are suggestions that their livelihoods are causing danger to others. Discrimination is not an equal act, as the report discusses the sorry disparity of stigma in English speaking countries towards Asian food businesses more than most.

            Yet here there is hope, the possibility to welcome a more genuine attitude of togetherness that depends on surviving all together as an industry or not at all. Presented with a collection of powerful stories of activism, here is the evidence of true solidarity amongst chefs as campaigns found their way round the globe. From South Africa’s Jobs Save Lives online campaign to the Save Hong Kong F&B alliance, it is shown that a positive voice for the industry is one that deserves to be collectively shouted. Some time away from service has given space to take a critical look at how #MeToo and Black Lives Matter rightly found their way into the kitchen, acknowledging that a change in kitchen culture is forcedly overdue.

            The take away is that the inspirational solutions have come from the ground up, that those who have been hit hardest have been spurred by necessity to become creative with solutions. Adaptability has been key, and with that comes an openness to finding inspiration. There are only so many ways to rearrange tables, to alter service style, to be creative with opening times, and what is evident is that the industry is keeping afloat by remixing and regurgitating inspiration. Pioneers have led the way with innovation and brought others along with them so that the hospitality industry might be in with a chance of surviving if it is done together.

            Poor mental health and exhaustion are of major concerns at this point and it is understandable  given the constant, lethargic nature of the language of the pandemic. Gastronomy’s Observer serves to remind and recognise that this is an industry that has been tirelessly rallying, relentlessly innovating, and in true hunter-gatherer style, continuing to adapt to survive. It can be read in full in English and French here https://www.laliste.com/en/