BELGIUM: Peter Goossens, the chef of the only remaining three Michelin Star restaurant in Belgium, Hof Van Cleve, is angry.
“Last week, the security council announced that markets, hair salons and museums could reopen. But there was no word on when restaurants could reopen. Not even a slight indication,” Mr Goossens told Belgian newspaper De Standaard.
Until today, there has been no news as to when restaurants in Belgium could reopen and how the reopening would take place. The indications for the time being are that this will not happen before 8 June at the earliest.
“We were asked to close from one day to the next. Now that things are clearer, I can understand the reason for the lockdown. The virus had been circulating and we had to do something about it. But now is the time to move forward, we need to restart again. But I see that the restaurant sector is left to the side. Politicians and virologists need to take a decision. They are not providing us with any information.”
“I am angry because we are already nearing the end of May and we have no information on the date of the reopening. What I am asking for is not to reopen tomorrow, but to have a date. In the Netherlands, they announced that restaurants could reopen on 1 June. In Spain, the terraces of cafes and restaurants are already open. Here? Nothing. We need a perspective. We need a date on which we can work and prepare. Reopening a restaurant takes a certain time. You can open a chip shop in a few days. And I say this with a lot of respect. You peel the potatoes, you cook them, you serve sauce and you are ready to open. For a restaurant it is not that simple, And certainly not for a restaurant of our level,” he said.
In the interview with the Flemish newspaper, the Belgian chef said his team would need at least a week to prepare. But it was not simple to fill a restaurant. “We need to start taking bookings before. You do not say you reopen tomorrow and fill the restaurant. You need to work in advance,” he said.
The three Michelin star restaurant has a capacity of 45 covers. To break even it needs to have between 30 to 35 guests per service. “I cannot employ 25 peoples to serve 20 people. If we can only reopen with one half of our capacity, there are only two options, either to keep the restaurant closed or to sack staff. I don’t want to do this.”
He said that it was time to give people hope. “We need to look to the future with confidence. We need to think about the beauty of life. Because otherwise, we are not alive. We are ready to work and take all necessary security measures. But we need the government to wake up. “You switched off the fire when the virus was around. And that was good. But now it is the time to switch on other lights. It is time to switch on the fires of the restaurant kitchens,” the Belgian chef said.