Q&A COVID-19 Food Restaurant COVID-19, with Chef Kevin Fonzo

Give In To The Urges

April 16, 2020

From the impact of COVID-19 on the food and restaurant industry to the changing relationship with food many of us are currently dealing with, Chef Kevin Fonzo sheds light on all things food in today's Q&A. Former owner of the famous "K" restaurant, Chef Fonzo has cooked numerous times at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City, he's been added to the “Orlando’s Dining Hall of Fame”, and now heads his very own NPO, "The Kevin Fonzo Foundation". We are incredibly proud to have the esteemed Chef Fonzo as an Art in Voyage Journey Host., heading many of our culinary journeys!

The restaurant industry is responsible for more than 10 million jobs in the United States alone. What can people do right now to support their local eateries and wine bars who will be seriously feeling the affects of the current crisis?

What people don’t often realize is that besides the employees they see when walking into a restaurant – servers, bartenders, chefs etc, we directly contribute to the employment of many other services. Local farmers and farmhands, food distribution companies with all their employees – whether it be produce, seafood, meat, dry goods, cleaning supplies, or paper goods. Repair people for all categories, such as refrigeration and plumbing, wine production and alcohol production, and along with all of that, those involved in sales, marketing, and distribution.

So the number is actually incredibly high. As a whole, I would say the restaurant/hospitality industry is the largest “employer” in this nation. To support them, I highly suggest you consider picking up a to-go lunch or dinner from them and remember, when and if you can, please tip so that they can keep a cash flow for their servers/bartenders who rely on tips as a major part of their income.

I highly recommend cash sales, if possible, as credit cards take a percentage of the sale (only if the handling of cash is safely done). Lastly, words of encouragement and thanks go a long way, along with spreading the word on who is offering food to go!

In the world following this pandemic, do you envisage a move toward delivery and away from in-restaurant dining?

I think that delivery and/or pick up will always play an important role in the daily operations of a restaurant, mostly due to the fact that in a lot of households, both parents work and have limited time to cook or get ready to go out for a meal.

I do think we will see a steady increase in the amount of to-go/pick up entrees due to the virus and safety concerns, however, I do believe that dining in a restaurant fulfills our need to socialize amongst our peers, friends and family.

Once people believe it is safe, I can see our restaurants becoming lively once again. I think we may also see changes in how close we put tables together or how many people we try to cram into a restaurant.

With lockdown restrictions across the world, there is certainly a lot more home-cooked food being prepared. Do you expect this to impact food trends at all?

So in regard to food trends, I have seen a huge surge in people wanting comfort foods during this stressful time. I’m noticing a big push on pasta with a simple bolognese sauce/Sunday gravy, roast chicken, meatloaf, and killer desserts! I think people are looking to remember all the great memories of the past with family gatherings and holidays.
I see this trend continuing for a while…

Social media is currently bombarded with posts from people in lockdown expressing their constant desire to snack and head to the fridge. What would you suggest to those wanting to control these urges?

Go for it!! Give in to that urge, just not everyday! I am a true believer in moderation. There is nothing wrong with going for that ice-cream or cookie at this time, but remember, you also need to stay active!

I suggest you balance your diet with lots of healthy vegetables and fresh fruits as well. Make sure to get outside (even if it’s just in your backyard or on your balcony) and do some exercise, get a dose of Vitamin D, and fill your lungs with fresh air. Don’t forget to keep your immune systems strong during this time!

What is your go-to meal when you have to rely purely on the staple ingredients in your kitchen at home?

My go-to meal…and if you know me…is always pasta! I absolutely love making pasta from scratch. It is very easy and very affordable with the things I have in my pantry every day. Flour, eggs, and water! Of course, with a kick-ass Sunday gravy!!

Lockdown means there’s time to experiment with food, cooking techniques, and recipes. Challenge our readers with something you feel would be beneficial for everyone to learn in the kitchen...

With so many people having some down-time, I think it’s a great opportunity to treat this as a sabbatical. Try doing those things that you always said you would like to do if you had time.

One of those things can be to experiment in creating your favorite dish from one of your best restaurants or a dish you saw on a TV show or in a magazine. Challenge yourself and step out of the box. Try new flavors and experiment with new cooking techniques.

Remember, if you screw it up, you now have the time to correct it….we learn from our mistakes and challenges! A simple rule of thumb while cooking is “you can always add more, but you can’t take it out” – learn to season in steps and always taste what you are making!