On Going Down in Flames and the Attractive Escape of the High End Dining Experience

The Intelligence Brief is our weekly compendium of food and drink news sourced from outlets all over the world, including right here at home.

Another week, another record set. Health officials announced on Friday that the province confirmed another 223 new cases of coronavirus. The news came on the heels of this past Thursday’s announcement of a record breaking 274 new cases for the province. As Dr. Bonne Henry considers further tightening restrictions across BC, we continue to follow how the restaurant industry is faring through ongoing changes and uncertainty…

As if Covid-19 wasn’t already wreaking enough havoc, Dalhousie Professor Sylvain Charlebois predicts the pandemic will accelerate the pace of rising food costs across Canada.

The virus also seems to be taking a toll on the champagne industry as sales have plummeted since March. Considering how few things there are to celebrate this is hardly a surprise.

In a bit of hopeful news, however, there is a new local food app that is helping to divert quality food bound for the landfill to those in need.

“Vancouver Food Runners (VFR) diverts healthy food away from being thrown away by redirecting it to organizations that are helping people in need. Since its inception, the organization has already saved 75,912 kilograms (167,357 pounds) worth of food from becoming waste, and provided the equivalent of over 139,000 meals.”

Journalist Rafael Tonon tries to understand why there are bold, innovative and ambitious restaurants still opening in the midst of the pandemic:

“It has been a curious facet of the lockdown restrictions that many consumers have sought out high-end dining experiences. It may explain why many chefs with fine-dining restaurants report excellent results in the last months — even though many of them now have to work at 40% of their capacity.”

After 19 years in business, Mount Pleasant bids a very sudden and sad goodbye to Frenchie’s Poutine due to suspected arson. 

An all-star line-up of local chefs are cooking together this week to benefit the Vancouver Food and Beverage Community Relief Fund.

The very public drama surrounding New York’s famed Mission Chinese restaurant continues as chef Danny Bowien apologizes for a workplace culture that several staffers have described as abusive and toxic:

In his post, Bowien alleged that he experienced sexual abuse and trauma as a child, followed by physical assault as he started his restaurant career. Bowien acknowledges that, while leading Mission Chinese, he was “cruel” and regularly used homophobic slurs, but writes that, at the time, the misconduct felt mild compared to what he had experienced in kitchens. He goes on to question the workplace ethics of restaurants as a whole, ultimately seeming to take a resigned view of the entire industry and the abuse that seems endemic to it.

Who’s to say what will happen in the American election next week, but at least Trump just lost in his efforts to kick thousands of people off food stamps.

As restaurants around the country prepare for the imminent arrival of colder weather, Toronto is considering by-laws to allow restaurant patios to remain open throughout the winter.

As of this past weekend, NYC restaurants are now allowed to add up to a 10% Covid surcharge.

“Plans to add a restaurant surcharge have been in the works for a couple of years now due to rising costs for restaurateurs, but this particular surcharge is tied to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the restaurant industry.”

And speaking of NYC restaurants, the industry took center stage during the final presidential debate when Trump claimed that the city’s restaurants are “dying”.

Eater explains why restaurant workers are at greater risk of contracting the virus, especially as indoor dining increases with the colder weather en route.

“Even in restaurant settings featuring spaced-apart tables and barriers between diners, the potential for airborne transmission raises some serious concerns. Restaurants’ often-tiny kitchens place cooks shoulder to shoulder, and those in the space can share the same air for hours. The reality is, restaurant employees will spend hours indoors with one another, and with people who take off their masks to eat.”

Food and Wine gets into why chains are faring better than independent restaurants through the pandemic and why this disparity will likely increase through the winter months.

Similarly, the Globe and Mail’s Alexandra Gill explores why some chefs are leaving the city in search of more sustainable options:

“Over the past few years, as the cost of running a restaurant in the city has become less and less affordable, the outward trickle has been gaining momentum. The pandemic, it would appear, is merely accelerating relocation decisions that were already in motion and making the dream of escape even more attractive.”

With some of the highest rates of mental health concerns of any industry, Jezabel Cafe owner Jezabel Careago explains why access to mental health care is critical for restaurant workers, especially during the pandemic.

If you’ve been wondering what’s up with those outdoor dining domes, NPR’s got answers.

Finally, in the lead-up to Halloween, check out the story behind Coffee Crisp and why this favourite chocolate bar is only sold in Canada:

“Oddly, Coffee Crisp is not a Canadian creation. It was invented by a British company, Rowntree, which also gave us Kit Kats (originally known as “Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisps”). Ever since the company opened a factory in Toronto and began producing Coffee Crisps in 1939, the candy has largely been made exclusively for Canadian markets.”

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