#ChefsOnCOVID: A chat with chef Vicky Lau of Tate Dining Room
12 Jun 2020
It goes without saying but unfortunately COVID-19 has been the biggest challenge faced by the celebrated F&B scene all over the world. Over the past few months, we’ve been hit with sad news of our favourite restaurants that have decided to throw in the towel. And to cope with the situation, we’ve seen an influx of takeaway and delivery services to keep the city that’s no longer dining out, fed.
Fortunately, the city has been recovering with new restaurants that have been opening here and there. However, we still wanted to shed some light on how our friends in the industry have dealt (or have been dealing) with the pandemic. This time around, we we invited chef-patron Vicky Lau (Asia’s Best Female Chef 2015) of one-Michelin-starred Tate Dining Room to share her personal experience.
How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected day-to-day business operations?
At the beginning of the outbreak, we have to close the business for a short period of time as protecting [our] staff and guest’s health is our [top] priority. And we knew COVID-19 would change the food and beverage scene and the diners’ behaviour. Hence, we [needed] to adapt to new hygiene measures and question any possibilities to keep our workplace safe from the virus.
What measures have you been implemented to deal with the current situation?
We have launched a new Friday and Saturday lunch menu. It’s our first time launching it to allow more guests to know about our food, and dine with us.
What are your thoughts on restaurants both in Hong Kong and all around the world that had to close down?
It is of course sad but at the same time we have to change. [If] we cannot survive this is because of issues in the system as well.
How’ve you been helping your staff to cope with the current state of business?
I think being empathetic is the most important [way] to help myself and everyone cope with the stress.
Besides work, what’s been keeping you busy?
Self improvement, keeping updated on news and hanging out with my daughter.
What’s been the biggest learning experience for you from this unprecedented situation?
We are all creatures of habits. Change is hard [and it will come as] a big shock. And this time, we are really faced with distress which means [that] all the old ‘rules’ can be broken. The world that we know is shifting. Some restaurants will shut and some will alchemize and adapt.
For people that want to help the restaurants they care about? Is there anything they can do?
The easiest way to support your favourite restaurants and bars is to dine there directly. [This will] show how much you trust them and enjoy eating with them.
With more restaurants offering delivery and takeaway services and some even completely stepping away from in-house dining, do you think this is a sustainable move?
For the past few months, I believe delivery and takeaway services were very helpful to some of the restaurants/ bars business, and it was actually the only way to reach out to your customers. But since the situation [is getting] better, we see that guests are becoming more active and willing to dine in with us again. I believe [dining in] is very unique as it provides you [with] not only the food but a whole different experience.
What are three things that you’ll no longer take for granted?
Well, we should never take anything granted (agreed!) but a few big ones are quality of ingredients, school and group gatherings.
What are your thoughts on the future of the F&B and dining scene?
Some of the changes that I think will really affect the F&B scene:
We will go back to a more humanistic approach [with] organizations [helping to] improve people’s wellbeing [both] mentally and physically. We will start to think if we are only selling a product/ experience or [if there is a way for us] to help our customers to become more independent or a better version of themselves.
As more people are cooking at home, we will continue to think about what skills and knowledge our community would be interested in developing. Live streaming, online videos and shopping are readily available [so] we will focus on collectively [educating] on the important life skill of learning how to cook.
Back to Local
Globalization will be on pause. We [must] source locally and [start] supporting local farmers.
We will continue to focus a lot [more] on hygiene and eating more healthy.