What’s for dinner? If that isn’t one of the many questions that’s gotten more complicated in the wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Whether you were a regular at area restaurants, or only stopped in on occasion, having the option significantly limited has certainly made it clear how much of our daily lives are into woven the culinary industry. And, they have felt the impact of this global event acutely. Some places that have been around for decades are temporarily shut, some are able to get creative to continue to provide work for their employees and food for their community. We spoke with a few of our community chefs to see how they are coping.

Bill Taibe GWFF

Bill Taibe

Owner, Jesup Hall, Kawa Ni & The Whelk

How our business has changed in the last few weeks:

“We have eliminated all social interaction which is a key element in what we do. After closing our dining rooms, we quickly pivoted to curbside pickup and delivery at all three restaurants. We adjusted our social media to connect with our customers and let them know we were still able and willing to feed them. Unfortunately, this is affecting everyone and their businesses. Restaurant colleagues are struggling to stay open and keep their staff employed. Vendors are struggling to sell food. We are doing our best to help and inspire our food community.

I have never felt such a strong bond within the food community. We are trying to give back as much as possible by servicing the community with our product and participating in projects such as Food for the Front Line.”

What community means to me:

“Community means support. People there for each other. Neighbors helping out. People being aware of the place they live and helping to make it better. People are so appreciative. There is a common feeling that we are all in this together. Our restaurants are playing a vital role in trying to keep a sense of normalcy and the reaction has been one of overwhelming appreciation.”

Entertaining Tips:

“I think gathering and eating together is very important and we have lost it as a culture. This is a great opportunity to regain that by spending time with children and having dinner around the table with those closest to you-(I might recommend that you order that food from one of your favorite restaurants locally!) But take advantage of the time you have with your family because inevitably this will go back to ‘normal’”.

Says Taibe, “Choosing the people that you decide to spend time with make the celebrations that much more special. Sometimes we think inviting more people or having a larger group makes it more important but that’s not necessarily the case. Focus on the people you really care about.”

Robin Selden

Executive Chef & Managing Partner, Marcia Selden Catering
info@marciaselden.com, 203-353-8000

How our business has changed in the last few weeks:

In mid-March, Selden says she “walked in the office to change our entire business model to a full service, prepackaged delivery catering company so that we could stay afloat and keep our dedicated team working and our doors open.”

The menus that we have been designing are getting rave reviews from our clients. We have fresh options that can be enjoyed that day and or go directly to their freezer for future meals. We have Fresh options including amazing salads and healthy meals that could be enjoyed right away. We designed a bunch of snacks to have while watching movies etc. Offering our famous hors d’oeuvres for their virtual cocktail parties.  When we saw the positive reaction to this we also designed a “Party in a Box” which includes a bunch of hors d’oeuvres, mixers, sodas, waters, beer, liquor and bar fruit to make your own party at home.

On Giving Back:

In recent weeks, Robin and her team have also been delivering fresh food to area hospitals to support the hard work the healthcare workers are doing. The choice to act, says Selden, “wasn’t really something that we needed to think about as we truly know that there are people out there risking their lives to keep our communities safe and that they need to eat!

When my friend Nicole Straight, formerly of Food Rescue, reached out to say that she was personally raising funds to  give to local foodies as a stipend so that we could in turn deliver food to the front lines of our hospitals ER & ICU without hesitation we said that we were in for whatever they needed and that we would go above and beyond to embellish and make the meals extra special to show our appreciation. I personally have been on every delivery with my brother Jeffrey as it’s important for us to be there for them. The response to this outreach was so huge that she started a go fund me page appropriately called “Food for the Front Lines” which is SO amazing!  What’s also incredible here is that not only is this making the days of our hospital’s nurses and doctors BUT it is also helping to support the local restaurants that are trying desperately to keep their doors open and people employed.  

These people are so filled with gratitude from what we are all doing. They’ve said things like ‘This gesture of kindness is what makes it possible for me to get out of bed and come to work’ and ‘This was so generous and made my day so much brighter. It is because of those in our community like you that make all things so much better.’”

What community means to me:

EVERYTHING! Our community at work is my family. Our community of caterers in the US is something I am so passionate about. It’s why my brother and I teach at Cornell and BU’s School of Hospitality. I LOVE inspiring the future generation of our community. Lastly, the people and teams of the Hospitality and Food community in general are the best people I know!!”

Entertaining Tips:

I’m totally loving the virtual party time I’ve been having with my friends! I highly recommend trying it so that you can still be “together” and catch up even though you are not physically together. Special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries still should be celebrated with gusto–they are just different from what you might have done before. Support your local caterers and restaurants. They will all deliver amazing meals (contact free) to your homes to help make those moments memorable!

On Robin’s Playlist:

  1. Know Your Worth ~ Khalid & Disclosure
  2. Intentions ~ Justin Bieber
  3. Watermelon Sugar ~ Harry Styles
  4. Ocean Eyes ~ Billie Eilish
  5. South of the Border ~ Ed Sheeran
  6. Underdog ~ Alicia Keys
  7. Don’t Start Now ~ Dua Lipa
  8. Only Human ~ Jonas Brothers
  9. Good as Hell ~ Lizzo
  10. Cross Me ~ Ed Sheeran
  11. Love on Top ~ Beyoncé
  12. Don’t Stop Me Now ~ Queen
  13. Talk ~ Khalid
  14. Nice for What ~ Drake
  15. Sauce ~ Justin Timberlake

Main image photos courtesy Marcia Selden (left) Catering and Kawa-Ni (right).