As restaurants struggled last year, many chefs survived by selling food directly to customers, an age-old practice that is now shaping the future of hospitality.
By Korsha Wilson
Last September, the chef Jennifer Kim did something that would have been unthinkable a year prior: Faced with the possibility of an ongoing shutdown as cases of Covid-19 rose in Chicago, and the risk of her staff getting sick, she closed the doors of Passerotto, the successful Italian-inflected Korean restaurant she’d opened in the city’s Andersonville neighborhood in 2018. “We had to make the decision to put people over profits,” she said. But she hardly sat idle. Instead, she began offering ready-made dishes and do-it-yourself meal kits, ordered via a website and prepped by herself and others in underground kitchens, shared kitchen spaces and even homes around Chicago. On the day of pickup, Kim and the vendors whose wares were part of the boxes collectively put together the orders in storefronts or restaurants where customers could stop by and take home their food. “The advantage of having no dedicated staff and everyone being their own bosses is that it’s a decentralized, fluid and completely collaborative project,” Kim says.
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