I am a restaurateur and a documentarian. I always knew my culinary and storytelling worlds would merge. Now seemed like the right time. My photo-essay series, Lockdown 2.0, tells the behind-the-scenes story of restaurant chefs, owners, and staff, as they try to safely navigate their businesses – their livelihoods – through the operational restrictions that they face.
Despite the daily headlines, there are stories happening at restaurants throughout Toronto that not everyone can see. At Antler, we have had to reinvent ourselves nine different times during the pandemic. It’s exhausting. Each day brings new challenges that a core group of strong people are determined to weather together. Yet the will to survive as a business (safely, profitably) is not unique. Hundreds of restaurants across the city are reinventing themselves daily. Masked chefs, now sporting an anonymous presence in the kitchen, work alongside family members and what little support staff they can afford. Dining rooms are shuttered, chairs stacked, tasting menus are being delivered in plastic containers. Creativity on the plate is diminished by the logistics of an online ordering system. Yet, inspiring culinary experiences are still being delivered.
This is an unprecedented time in the hospitality industry and, as such, it’s an important period to document. In the near future we will look back at this lockdown as a time of change; for some it will be time of loss, for others, a time of triumph.
Restaurants currently included in the series: Antler, Ascari, Beast, Blackbird Bakery, Canoe, The Federal, Hawk + Chick, Labora, Lev Bakery, Rasa, Sakai Bar, Skippa, The Skyline, Uncle Mikey’s.