This was a hard issue to put together.
Hard because as it was being written and edited, the circumstances around some of our stories were changing – particularly our longest one, on the state of Fort Lauderdale restaurants.
This is our Food and Drink issue. We do one every year, and it’s always one I look forward to. We find fun, unusual recipes. We tell you about helpful, interesting products for the kitchen. We look at trends in the local restaurant industry.
Trends in the local restaurant industry? What a year to write about that.
For our big story on local restaurants, I spoke to people including Rocco Mangel, whose growing restaurant empire includes Las Olas favorite Rocco’s Tacos. He was blunt about his fears and frustrations. He’s one of those guys who just has to be in the restaurant business. He loves it. He loves standing in his restaurant on a busy night and greeting people, going to tables, shaking hands. Except of course, now he doesn’t do any of that.
Now he gets on conference calls with other restaurateurs, people who maybe aren’t always wild about giving away information, except that now they’re all just figuring out how to survive. How to do things safely. How to navigate the ever-developing, constantly changing new world they live in. Rocco used to worry about something like the pork order; now he worries about his employees’ well-being.
He takes this personally. He told me he thinks of the parents of the young people who work for him, how if his daughter was older and working at a big restaurant, he’d want to know somebody in charge was thinking of her safety. He worries about his employees; he misses worrying about big food orders.
I also talked to Stephen Brown. He’s worked for years in the food-and-drink industry; he’d originally planned on opening his own place, Gingers Bar and Restaurant, in the spring. He’s still planning on opening it, hopefully this month.
One night when I stopped in to chat to Stephen, he and his business partner, Zoe, had just finished building some big wooden chairs for outside. They’ve had more time than they expected, and they’re going to need more outdoor seating than they’d anticipated. So rather than buy chairs, they figured out how to make some.
By the time you read this, the rules governing Fort Lauderdale restaurants may have changed again. Maybe there’ll be another shutdown. Maybe there will be new CDC guidance. That part of the story changes fast.
What doesn’t change is the people. Listening to Rocco Mangel talk about the sleep he loses over employee safety or Stephen Brown explain that, well, if you’ve got time to make chairs, you learn to make chairs, I felt good about the care and creativity that go into this industry. Restaurant people are creators and survivors. Whatever comes next, they’ll find a way to make something good.