That’s a wrap on Season Three of The Future of Food. We examined how restaurants were coping with their survival during these pandemic times. I looked for answers from many perspectives. I started with the founder of a listing service for restaurants delivering to neighborhoods or open for pickup, learned what it was like to be a waitress who reminded people to wear masks, looked at the supply chain and its failures, and examined some rather strange tech solutions, like using flies as a protein replacement. (Don’t try that at home.) Plant-based meat, we learned, certainly has a future.
On the very practical side of things, I was surprised to learn that ghost kitchens, those industrial-sized kitchens that operate privately, probably in your neighborhood, without a storefront or signage, and without customers who will sit at their tables, may help some restaurants make a culture-shaking transition. Restaurants may transform from places that we go to eat in to places where we go to pick up food to eat somewhere else.
You could argue that much is lost when you configure a restaurant that way. No more servers suggesting a bottle of wine with your meal, no more running into friends at your favorite neighborhood establishment, no more surprise specials when you open the menu. But the pandemic has put many neighborhood places into financial crisis. Many will not survive. Restaurants were always a risky business They look even more risky now. To survive will mean to invent something new.
Ghost kitchens may represent the restaurant laboratory many chefs and investors need. Thing of this for context: There was a time, seemingly long ago, when you could sample a talented chef’s best experimental dish from a food truck. Stealthily, in many big cities, food trucks became the vanguard of culinary experimentation for some. There was freedom to spread out into new cultures and culinary histories. Freedom to try something you’d never tried before and let it become your favorite street food. Ghost kitchens may fill that gap by becoming the places where chefs can experiment and you can get to eat the benefits.
Thanks to everyone for listening to all three seasons of The Future of Food. A podcast is nothing without its listeners. I’m grateful for your support. Next, the feed will get quiet as we take a break to work on Season Four. We’re changing the name of the show to The Future of Food Justice.
We’re going to be addressing racism, diversity and social justice in food. We’re be bringing you stories about cultural appropriation of food and ask who writes culinary history. It’s an ambitious development slate. I have a great team helping bring Season Four to life and I look forward to producing it for you. Stay tuned.
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