On Restaurant Critics Going Back to Work and Ghost Kitchens Working Chefs to the Bone

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

As of Friday, the province reached 2,390 active cases of Covid-19, a record high since the beginning of the global pandemic. With another 272 new cases announced heading into Halloween weekend, health officials urged residents to avoid large gatherings and parties and find safer ways to celebrate the holiday, but that seems to have been widely ignored on Saturday night. This morning, BC’s Health Minister teased a ‘significant’ increase in new cases over the weekend, so the chances of this being a bright week are pretty dim. As restaurants weather the challenges of rising Covid numbers, we continue to cover how the industry is fairing through these challenging times…

First up, with cases mounting in several European countries, France and Germany have announced a return of several lockdown measures including the closure of bars and restaurants.

And on this side of the pond, Newark, NJ is also back to more stringent precautions with the closure of all non-essential businesses.

There’s mounting evidence that the pandemic is negatively impacting food security and advocates assert that a charity model isn’t enough to help struggling residents.

The rise of today’s busy, delivery app-driven ghost kitchens foretells a dystopian future:

“He works in a cubicle, alone, laughing with his colleagues through Perspex dividers. Through his earpiece he receives instructions from the overseer. Chef is on a production line, so never sees the finished dish, just passes it along to the next stage, and repeat. Chef works hard. As hard as he can. He needs the money, and to be honest, he’s lucky to have a job at all. They’re talking about bringing in robot arms and cutting back on staff. There’s still the Universal Income, but inflation has made even the basics unaffordable.”

How questionable CDC health and safety guidelines in the US may be contributing to increased plastic waste from restaurants.

“If using throwaway dishes and forks were to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, we could certainly live with a temporary uptick in plastic waste. The problem is, there is absolutely no evidence that disposables are safer.”

While exposure events at restaurants have decreased, we’re still seeing occasional public health notices including one in Port Moody and one in Surrey this past week.

Halloween might be over but ghosts still linger in certain haunted local restaurants.

How one nonprofit in LA has been supporting undocumented restaurant workers through the pandemic.

“Founded by Diaz and Othón Nolasco, veteran bartenders behind some of Los Angeles’s hippest cocktail bars and co-owners of consulting group Va’La Hospitality, the group is dedicated to helping the most vulnerable workers in an industry in slow-motion collapse. No Us Without You serves 1,300 (and counting) families and distributes almost 120,000 pounds of food a week, fueled by official relief programs and massive amounts of donations.”

Eater on how the pandemic has changed restaurant menus and whether or not the industry will continue with paper options in the future.

This week in food and podcasts: NPR explores the mystery of the mummified Twinkie.

A burrito months in the making: This pre-pandemic collaboration was put on pause in mid-March but it has finally come to fruition and was well worth the wait!

And speaking of being well worth the wait, after a two year hiatus, Le Tigre food truck is gearing up to hit the streets once again!

Eater on the history of the finger bowl, an antiquated and classist dining practice that is likely heading the way to the dodo due to the pandemic.

VinePair interviews former Vancouver bartender Evelyn Chick, who is finding creative ways to bring the bartending experience into your home.

Another moment of reckoning for the wine world as 21 women come forward detailing experiences of sexual harassment and abuse from both members and leadership of the Court of Master Sommeliers.

“Twenty-one women told The New York Times that they have been sexually harassed, manipulated or assaulted by male master sommeliers. They, and other current and former members of the court, say the abuse is a continuing problem of which its leadership has long been aware.”

With a pandemic that is limiting our ability to gather and celebrate the upcoming holiday season, it seems that farmers are breeding smaller turkeys more suited to our current get-togethers.

Restaurant reviews in the time of the pandemic: The Globe and Mail’s Alexandra Gill explains what it’s like to get back to the business of critiquing their dining experiences after a 7-month hiatus.

And finally, just because Halloween has passed doesn’t mean we can’t learn a little bit about the famed holiday confection everybody loves to hate.

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