We all remember where we were on September 11, 2001. And years later we will probably know where we were when it was called lockdown in 2020. Everything closed. Everybody go home. Mario Aliberti had just been the head chef in a restaurant in Karlsruhe for two weeks. ‘As an Italian, of course, I observed how things were going there and when Markus Söder said that we don't want pictures like in Italy [here in Germany], you just had to put one and one together. It was still a shock. We stopped taking reservations and started emptying the cold stores.’ Everything that could be preserved was preserved; food such as cream, milk or butter was donated to Caritas. For one month the employees were paid their wages, after that, Alibertis' employers, like almost 80% of German hotels and restaurants, applied for short-time work.
The towns aren't dead, and the restaurants are full.Mario Aliberti, chef
What was it like to suddenly be at home all day? ‘Well, as a chef you are quite unbalanced in your everyday life. You don't know what to do at home on a Saturday evening either – because you simply don't know this, since you usually work on Saturdays.’ Mario Aliberti went jogging, tidied up the garage, spent ‘more time than in seven years’ with his girlfriend. ‘It was really suddenly all different.’
Different Dining Hours and a Reduced Menu
According to Dehoga, 67% of catering businesses have now taken at least some of their employees off short-time work. Mario Aliberti has found a new job – in a newly opened restaurant. ‘The owners of the restaurant in Karlsruhe have decided not to open again – it probably wouldn't have been profitable. So we all quit.’
A newly opened restaurant? In Covid-19 times? ‘The cities are not dead and the restaurants are full,’ says Aliberti. ‘I am convinced that some people use Covid-19 simply as an excuse. If you have 50 seats inside and now only 30, you can still make two dining times and get the place full. You have to be flexible.'
Indeed, futurologist and management consultant Harry Gatterer said in an interview with Rolling Pin that Covid-19 puts us in ‘one of the most entrepreneurial times ever’. The lockdown had disrupted structures that cannot be revived in this way. This brings with it a completely new scope for creativity. Mario Aliberti is certain: ‘Covid-19 offers the opportunity to create a greater understanding for the gastronomy industry in society. There's absolutely nothing wrong with saying as a restaurateur that from now on you'll be doing two dining times – and if you look around, many good restaurants are already doing that anyway. For small restaurants or generally for the colder season this is the best solution. The guests who can't show any understanding can go somewhere else – that's how I see it.’
Alberti's new employer also works with two shifts. The kitchen is tightly organized under the experienced young chef. ‘You don't need a menu with 500 items on it – especially not now! 3 starters, 2 intermediate courses, 4 meat, 2 fish, 2 vegetarian dishes – 1 of which is vegan – and 2 desserts. That's quite enough!’