Interviewee: Chef Claire Stewart
Food Startup Help has reached out to several business owners, chefs, and experts in the food industry to see how they’re adjusting to the changes that coronavirus has imposed on this industry. We have conducted an interview in a Q&A format.
For today Food Startup Help is featuring Chef Claire Stewart, Associate Professor in the Hospitality Department at New York City College of Technology, CUNY. In this interview, she explains how the city and university are responding to the pandemic and what he looks forward to once this hardship is behind us.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: What is happening in your business now given the COVID-19 virus? Are you still able to work?
I am able to work because I work for a large institution and am fortunate to have tenure and am in a teacher’s union. All my courses have been converted on-line.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: What are your hopes for the near future in terms of your work?
I have two edited book chapters for two different books under peer review right now, hoping that both will be published in 2021.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: If we had not had the virus change our lives, what had you been seeing as the most important food/beverage related trend(s) in what you do?
The boundaries between haute cuisine and comfort food have shifted irreversibly.
Upcoming chefs are not insecure about not speaking French or working in “starred” restaurants. Contemporary cuisine looks to cultures beyond Europe for inspiration. Nordic and Atlantic cuisine are very popular, and their popularity lends itself to the sustainability movement.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: What do you think was driving these trends in the food//beverage industry or educational system? What did people want?
The internet and social media have made it increasingly challenging to present customers with something new and Instagram-ready. Boundaries keep getting pushed in order to offer more colorful, photo-ready food for an audience that wants to be a part of the process. Millennials and Gen Zers want to customize their food; to be involved in its sourcing, and to photograph it. Hunting and foraging are rising in popularity with this cohort for these reasons as well.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: Do you have any specific hopes or expectations for what will happen when we get through the economic impact from the COVID-19 virus? What do you think people will want?
I think any activity that involves people gathering in numbers will continue to be affected. Surely restaurants will ramp up their take-out selections. Service jobs (wait staff, bartenders, etc.) will continue to be threatened by automation. My hope is that businesses are able to recover, but it will be a hard road.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: Is there anything else you would like to add, or for potential food industry professionals, entrepreneurs, students, and/or your customers to know.
I have been trying to convey to my students 2 important things.
1. There is opportunity in disaster. The cream will always rise to the top.
In 2008 during the recession there was an out-of-work house painter. He had no education and had spent a lot of money on purchasing industrial paint equipment. No one was getting their house painted during bad economic times, so he was suffering. One day, driving through a depressed housing development, he was startled by all the empty foreclosed houses, given over to the bank and left abandoned. Every house had “for sale” signs in front, but the houses looked terrible from the outside because all their lawns were dry and brown. He used his equipment to spray one of the lawns dark green, making the lawn look alive and much better than the lawns of the houses around them. A realtor saw this and contacted him. He ended up “painting” all the lawns in the development and ended up hiring staff to keep up with demand as other companies contacted him.
I shared this story with my class last week and asked them to inventory what they had, and how could they use it? Students wrote that they could teach dance, or paint nails, or deliver food, act as a Spanish translator, etc. Everyone has something they can use to create revenue.
2. Employees (or budding entrepreneurs) must be able to follow directions. Before the epidemic jobs were flush. Now they are not. So workers need to reassess how they bring value to their employers or to their clients. One talent that makes a good employee is the ability to follow instructions. Without verbal or physical clues (doing on-line work) this is more important than ever.
Follow along with Chef Claire Stewart on http://www.aslongaswebothshalleat.com/