Together We Rise : Kim Alter
Kim is always pushing to make the industry better and addressing the current issues happening in restaurants. She was one of the first people I saw being vocal towards government leaders when San Francisco declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 crisis and at a time when all of our reservations began to cancel. She was also one of the first chefs to reach out to me to see how I was doing and offer her support. So, it's only fitting that she is our first interview regarding how the industry is adapting to the current crisis and the first chef to be featured on our Kitchen Notebook "blog."
Check out Toothache issue 2 to read more about Kim Alter, see her beautiful food, and get some of her recipes!
What is the status of your restaurant? Are you closed, or did you pivot to another model?
My restaurant is closed, and we are not doing take out or delivery. We are cooking for public housing, churches, and hospital workers.
Why did you choose that option?
I have chosen not to capitalize off this crisis, but to survive, while doing something to help people and flatten the curve while doing that.
Is there anything that you've been able to do to support your staff during this time?
My staff is working through this, and we're paying 100% of their insurance. Right now, it's two managers, two cooks, one dishwasher, and some FOH that feels comfortable to work.
What have been the toughest parts of this crisis for you?
Not knowing. Not knowing when this will be over. Not knowing what our industry will look like when we get out of this. Just not knowing. As a chef, I think you live your life by planning, so not having any idea and no control is awful.
Is there any upside to this? If any, what?
I can only hope the upside of this will be people having more patience and kindness. I hope they see the value in what our industry does, what we bring to the table, and how many industries depend on us to make our economy go round.
What do you expect to happen in the future?
I expect a lot of loss, and a lot of restaurants not able to reopen.
What is your biggest concern about our industry right now?
Not trying to sound like a broken record, but worried if people will want to eat at restaurants on the level we need them to, to survive. Will we get our occupancies cut in half? Will the government help us get through this crisis when it still affects our business in November?
What have you been cooking at home?
Ron, my partner, has done the majority of the cooking (he's the better cook...)
Do you have any recipes or tips for the home cook during times like this?
Don't waste anything. Turn older produce into a soup (or dog food!), read cookbooks, and make the recipe your own since you can't get every ingredient. I think that will make people more comfortable with getting creative and not just following a recipe.
What can the average person do to support the industry right now?
Go to farmer's markets (they need help too), support restaurants when we reopen and don't be afraid! We have always had the highest standards in cleanliness, and now our procedures are much more intense.
Please check out the Bay Area Hospitality Coalition for critical information for questions you may have during COVID-19.