LA chefs and restaurant owners on how COVID-19 changed business

Restaurants across LA have been forced to close, putting millions of servers, bartenders, and cooks out of work. Some places are trying to survive on carry-out and deliveries. The hope is that business will operate as usual once the pandemic ends. But already, some restaurants (like Swingers ) are saying they won’t be able to re-open. 

We hear from two LA chefs on how they’re faring.

Valerie Gordon. Credit: Valerie Confections. 

Valerie Gordon is the owner of Valerie Confections , a bakery and cafe that’s still offering delivery and take-out.

To stay afloat, Gordon reworked kitchen and business operations to create a safe environment.

“It’s that fight or flight thing. I definitely went right into fight mode. It was like, ‘We are not going down. We have to restructure immediately.’ All of a sudden, we were selling toilet paper and flour and all of these things to stay in business,” she says.

Crunch Cake at Valerie Confections. Credit: Valerie Confections. 
Various treats from Valerie Confections. Credit: Valerie Confections.

Valerie Confections is still baking and shipping products, but she’s concerned about the stability of the larger restaurant industry.  

“We have these small locations that are easier to run and easier to flip, and we don’t have backers. It’s us deciding whether we’re open or closed. With the bigger restaurants, it’s not up to the chef most of the time, it’s up to the people backing it,” Gordon says.

Jessica Koslow. Courtesy of Jessica Koslow. 

Jessica Koslow is the chef/owner of Onda and Sqirl . Both are closed now. 

For Sqirl, Koslow rolled out a pick-up and delivery model prior to COVID-19. However, the physical and mental health of her staff eventually took precedence. 

“The bigger issue came to play with our staff: the feeling of safety, the feeling of health security, working during a time of COVID. It was all a little too much.”

Koslow points out that some delivery drivers who picked up orders were not following public safety directives, and that brought fear to her staff. 

In the meantime, she’s providing meals to other restaurant employees who are furloughed or out of work. 

Those still working at Sqirl are receiving hazard pay, while those furloughed are still receiving health care benefits.

— Written by Danielle Chiriguayo and Amy Ta, produced by Rosalie Atkinson