Italian top chef Gennaro Esposito has warned that when restaurants reopen after the COVID-19 lockdowns, changes will be significant to the point that it will require a lot of goodwill from customers to go to restaurants. “It is only right to ensure that a restaurant reduces the risk for its staff and customers. A dinner should not become a Russian Roulette,” he said.
The Italian chef was interviewed on Il Mattino after he came up with a proposal on how to reduce the risks of diffusion of COVID-19 in restaurants. He set up BrotherinFood with colleagues in his region to propose ways of how eating out can be as safe as possible when lockdowns are removed.
He has faced criticism from some colleagues for his proposals.
In the interview with journalist Luciano Pignataro, he said “Many of my colleagues have not understood that this is a global pandemic and reopening restaurants is not an act of courage. It is, of course, important on a commercial and entrepreneurial level, but also an important act of responsibility towards clients and staff. How can we think of infecting someone who comes to us and pays to eat,” he said.
“One has to be careful with what you read on social media. You read lots of stupid things. Those who speak to not understand that the measures we have proposed are recommendations of the World Health Organisation and these are being followed by Italian health authorities and are therefore non-negotiable. If you do not want to have two metres between tables, then you will need to separate the tables with a dividing panel, a tent or something that stops the contagion. It is not like you can decide to cross on the red when the rule says you have to wait for the green light.”
He said that people will need to change the habit of knocking on a restaurant door to see if they had tables available. “It will be necessary to book ahead. This will allow restaurants to work better. You may also have to choose what you are going to eat from before and order before you enter the restaurant. When you come to the restaurant you will have a mask and a member of staff will take you to your table, also in a mask, and will take your temperature. You will then be listed in a notebook that will be made available to the authorities in case you are infected so that they can track your movements,” he said.
Let’s remember that in the past two months nothing new has happened and to combat the virus we only have two ways: social distancing and washing our hands.
“We are in the middle of a global pandemic. The enemy is dangerous and has shown that it can be devastating if it finds the perfect environment. Let’s remember that in the past two months nothing new has happened and to combat the virus we only have two ways: social distancing and washing our hands. There is no vaccine or medicine. What has improved is the capacity in hospitals and maybe the way we treat patients,” he said.
The Italian chef of Torre del Saraceno said that once you arrive at table you can remove your mask. “Everything is already safe, from the table cloths to the cutlery. If you haven’t chosen what to eat, you will be able to choose via your phone. When you go to the bathroom you will need to take your mask. The tables will be distanced two metres. In the bathroom there is a whole procedure that has been put in place to keep it clean.”
He said that if you see a friend at the restaurant you will still be able to go and say hello but you will need to wear a mask. You will pay at the restaurant using a debit or credit card and when it is time to leave you will your mask back on and are ready to go.”
The Italian chef said that in winter, the restaurants will need to ensure that jackets are kept separated from one another.
Even work in the kitchen will change. “The distancing in the kitchen will be at least 1 metre. Work practices are going to have to change and some preparations will need to be done throughout the day. In this case, we will need to change our habits,” he said.
Esposito said it will be a challenge to get people to restaurants in these conditions. “But don’t listen to people who are giving you false promises. This is not political but general prescriptions that are likely to apply in all countries around the world until the pandemic ends.”
He said it was pointless to complain and criticise the government because health was at stake and therefore it was no joke.