As is tradition at Eater, we close the year by asking a group of food writers, editors, photographers, and others about town to weigh in on the past year in food. Their answers — unedited (except for grammar and translation) and in no particular order — will be revealed in several posts by the time the clock runs out on 2021. Here they share their hopes for the coming year.
Erik Leijon, freelance writer, Montreal Gazette, Cult MTL, and others: Obviously a safe environment for restaurant workers to do their jobs, but also that diners don’t forget the cozy neighbourhood spots that sustained them during lockdowns.
Jason Lee, food blogger, Shut Up and Eat: For the face of the restaurant industry to modernize and reflect the times. To have a bigger BIPOC representation in back-of-house talent. For diners to be kind and understanding and for everyone to practice patience and compassion.
Ivy Lerner-Frank, Eater Montreal contributor: More societal (and governmental) recognition of the work and role that the restaurant industry plays, starting with an acknowledgement that restaurant and service workers are essential workers — with attendant prioritization for vaccinations. I’d like to see a broader understanding of the complexities of running a restaurant, the factors that contribute to pricing, and an appreciation of the creativity, commitment and drive that keeps this industry going (read: more kindness overall to restaurateurs and staff). An end to no-shows. And while I’m hoping? Universal Basic Income would be good, too.
Iris Gagnon-Paradis, restaurant reporter and critic, La Presse: That this pandemic will be soon over and that the restaurants remain open.
JP Karwacki, editor, Time Out Montreal: There’s the basic matter of survival, but beyond that, what I want to see is increased permissions for bars to sell drinks to go; for rent subsidies to be put in place for the city’s cultural makers and shakers; for wages to go up and for workers’ health and dental insurance and proper human resources to be provided; restaurants to downsize into smaller formats with simpler menus and more attentive service; and for Montrealers to find ways to keep up their support for restaurants like buying gift certificates or inventory instead of turning tail and cancelling reservations.
Tommy Dion, food blogger, Le Cuisinomane: That the restaurant industry find a balance between personal life, work life, labour, profit, and pleasure. #ÇaVaBienAller, right?
Daniel Bromberg, Eater Montreal contributor: I hope restaurants will be able to operate at full capacity and find ways to mitigate reservation cancellations, without having to worry about another closure/lockdown situation. Alma gave it a shot this winter and we may see other high-end restaurants trying similar things. Oh, and more in-house merch!
Rachel Cheng, photographer and food security and restaurant work activist: Through my work with the Canadian Restaurant Workers Coalition and the Montreal Restaurant Workers Relief Fund, I see so many hospitality spaces reimagining what the industry could look like. My biggest hope is that every café, restaurant, and bar recognizes that we can no longer operate outside of the climate or health crises, and that we all see this tumultuous time as a way to reconfigure our priorities, prioritizing the well-being of workers — essentially, the well-being of each other.
Clay Sandhu, food editor, Cult MTL: For me, my hope is that the romance of restaurants comes back. I hope we can return to a place where beautiful meals are served in beautiful settings untainted by the knowledge that my meal may come at the expense of a cook’s health and livelihood or that I may contribute to the proliferation of a looming and worsening virus. It would be nice to eat, drink, and be merry with no strings attached.
Alison Slattery, photographer, Two Food Photographers: Survival. Our city’s food people are some of the most resilient folks I know, and I hope that their creativity and passion will outlast this horrible situation. I hope we can continue to support our city’s restaurants as best we can. Let’s get those gift cards and cookbooks and fancy pickles and merch. If buying local and supporting local community is your thing, this is one of those ways. I hope we can get through this together.