With the coronavirus, countless bars and restaurants have had to temporarily or permanently close in New York, one of the most competitive cities on the planet for the hospitality sector, but Spanish chef Mikel de Luis has managed to launch the new “Haizea” restaurant in the middle of a pandemic.
“If you had told me before, I would say ‘you don’t believe it or you,'” says De Luis in an interview with Efe about the unlikely situation in which he has been seen. “If you get to my restaurant now, there are gloves for everyone who comes in, there is a ‘sanitizer’ on every corner,” he explains.
As for so many others, the epidemic has been for the Spanish an unforeseen and enormous obstacle that has forced him to change his plans overnight.
“Haizea” was to open its doors on March 19 in the pre-coronavirus era, without the need for social distancing or masks, when the disinfectant gel was used only in hospitals, and when people shook hands and hugged each other without fear.
But four days earlier, on March 15, the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, announced the mandatory closure of all bars, restaurants and public schools in the face of the unstoppable advance of contagions in the metropolis, one of the hardest hit in the world by disease.
“It was all too hasty,” says the Bilbao resident in New York since 2007, as evidenced by his persistent “Spanglish”.
“I already had my staff on ‘payroll’ (on payroll) the last three months so that they could acclimatize to the space, to my hobbies. This space is also very ‘narrow’, very narrow, with which it was necessary to get the best from him, “he explains.
The only oxygen route that De Blasio left open for the hospitality sector was the “take away” order, food and drink to go. And that system is what De Luis has clung to with determination and confidence for the first weeks of life of “Haizea”, his “first baby”, as he calls it.
For just over a week, New Yorkers have been enjoying their “trio of croquettes” – squid ink, chicken and ham -, their Iberian or roncal cheese sandwiches, their octopus tacos, their baked suckling pig , its duck and mushroom fideuá or its syrupy rice with chicken and prawns. But everything to taste at home.
The acceptance in the Soho neighborhood, where it is located, has been good: “I have friends who have businesses that do not make even $ 50 a day, and I can say that I have done a lot better than that is a week every day, with which (…) I am grateful and I am privileged in a certain way. ”
After more than two months of the “New York on Pause” that the state authorities decreed, uncertainty still reigns in the city, where it is expected to reopen non-essential businesses and return to a certain “normality” in the first or second week of June .
But the huge population density of the Big Apple and the dependence on public transport for New Yorkers mean that this possibility can collapse at any time if there is an upturn in coronavirus cases, lengthening the already precarious situation of the hospitality industry. .
“The truth is that I am not afraid, honestly,” says the chef, despite the fact that his main company, the event company, “Amona Events”, has been paralyzed with the cancellation of any social act.
“Before, I was counting in a certain way that my events company was going to support my restaurant. Right now, my events company, who knows how it will work for a while, but at least I have the restaurant,” says the Spaniard.
“I AM A PRIVILEGED”
De Luis describes himself as “generally positive, but circumstantial negative”, and yet his words spread a feeling of gratitude and hope that is not easy to find in these times.
“I am privileged, because there are a lot of people who are closing and I am still open and I will continue to be open,” emphasizes the chef, who despite the complicated circumstances, with all the new measures he has had and will have to adopt , continues your adventure with energy.
“With great enthusiasm, now adopting another conception, that of ‘take away’ or ‘to go’ while things are clarified, but always with the hope of getting back to work and working day by day, which is what I’ve missed the past few months. ”