The culinary industry – Is it all doom and gloom?

The industry that provides food, wine, entertainment and most importantly togetherness was on standstill during the lockdown. Who would have thought that could happen? Not being able to get your favourite meal or enjoy the company of friends and family. As the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) we did feel and see the impact the pandemic and lockdown has caused, especially in the culinary industry.

Chefs went from serving many customers to shutting down and closing business. We as SASSI decided to run a survey on the impact the lockdown has caused on the livelihoods of many chefs. The results were shocking and further confirmed what was seen on social media. Chefs had to close business, let go of staff, cut pay and no pay at all. They also could not get their imported ingredients as borders closed and there were delays as well. This continued even after the easing of lockdown regulations.

But is it all doom and gloom? The answer is no, we as SASSI have witnessed a more vibrant and engaging sector than ever before. Chefs continued going to their restaurants to cook but for a different clientele, and this included, soup kitchens, cooking for shelters and the homeless. Chefs went as far as changing their menu to takeaways, home delivery, cooking shows, selling frozen food to even going the extra mile to making their signature sauces for selling. The lockdown has further highlighted a very important message that SASSI has been promoting, which is sustainability, buying of locally produced and seasonal food. With no doubt, the industry is slowly adjusting to the new norm and interestingly people are receiving the changes very well.

Delsy Sifundza, WWF-SASSI Science Project Officer