WATCH: From being fully booked to closing down – top local chefs talk way forward
They share some insights on Malta’s restaurant scene amid the pandemic.
On today’s episode of Whoswho.mt’s The Boardroom, local chefs Victor Borg, Stefan Hogan and Sean Gravina discuss the re-opening of restaurants and hotels and how they have had to adapt their entire operational systems due to COVID-19.
Stefan Hogan, Executive Chef at Corinthia Palace, says that he had “mixed feelings” on the re-opening; it is great to be back with the team, but “it was tempered by an inner knowledge that the numbers would be slow and it would be a slow start.”
Sean Gravina, Director and Chef Patron at Crust, chimes in saying they started slowly with deliveries and take-aways about three weeks ago. “Considering the situation those were doing ok – that’s the word that is really appropriate at the moment, ‘ok,’ nothing more. Today I reopened outside and inside,” he shares, saying that he was busy. “If I had to base everything on today, I’d say it’s a very good start, but no one knows what the future holds.”
Victor Borg, Executive Chef at Grain Street and Under Grain, shares that it was quite a “sad story” having to close down, three weeks after Grain obtained its first Michelin star. “Now we have to put it all behind us and we have to be positive about all this.”
Restaurants were asked to close, but thankfully earlier this month, the Ministry for Tourism gave the go ahead for certain establishments to reopen, which meant adaptations needed to be made to comply with the COVID-19 safety measures.
Hogan shares that they consolidated the business, using the Villa Corinthia’s outer area for the Rickshaw restaurant, a bar and Orange Grove (all-day menu). “The area looks very good and it lends itself to this type of approach,” saying he’d always wanted to experiment with the area. He also shared that the experiencing of dining has changed, and the restaurant has transformed their approach, including having health at the forefront of the restaurant scene.
“It was an experience that in 30 years of my career I never experienced,” Borg shares, saying COVID-19 came as a shock. But now, they have taken measures to re-open on Friday 5th June. He confirmed that Under Grain in Valletta will be operating on the roof for dinner service on Fridays and Saturdays only for the time being, since both Grain Street and Under Grain’s indoor areas are small. They are working with the same concept, but offering a new menu – a summer one.
They all concluded that it is best to look forward with a positive attitude, noting that dining “will always bounce back” and this time is an opportunity to “re-evaluate the product, re-assess what you’re doing,” to upskill staff and making the business work from all facets.