Is there anything to be grateful for this year? Skeptical diners may ask, and like a punch to the gut, point taken. For everyone who truly loves all things dining, it’s been a rough year in San Francisco. Bay Area restaurants have reinvented their business models for takeout and delivery, invested thousands in outdoor dining spaces, and canceled reservations for indoor dining again and again. They’ve cooked through a world health crisis, social justice movement, and wildfire smoke. Landlords still want rent, and without relief in sight, the closures just keep coming.
But the thing about restaurants is that even against impossible odds — they really love to feed people. So call it a big Thanksgiving cheeseball, but we do have some thank you notes to share. Because even in San Francisco in 2020, chefs still have things they are grateful for.
I am endlessly grateful for our customers. Both our farmers’ market goers and our local base. When all cafes and restaurants closed, our local patrons showed up with massive support at the bakery. — Thomas “Mac” McConnell, sourdough baker, the Midwife and the Baker
We’re eternally grateful to the customers who’ve been patient with us during the past nine months. Not only have we been dealing with a global pandemic, we’ve gone from an enthusiastic but small farmers’ market operation to two retail outlets, and had to learn to scale up in the world’s smallest commercial kitchen at the same time. We’ve stumbled a couple of times, and certainly we struggled to keep the store supplied enough to keep our customers happy the first few months. I literally go days without sleeping every week, so believe us, we’re doing what we can. So thank you all for bearing with us! — Ha Do, cake baker, Hahdough
I’m grateful to be able to keep the business going. It’s been a good reception, with people enjoying what we do, even with flipping the space [from a sit-down restaurant, to a guest chef, to an epicerie, in less than a year]. With the brioche feuilletee and sweet stuff, I knew that people would like it. But with the paté, I was not so sure how people would receive it. … I’m thankful that people would give it a try, and be willing to try something new. — Nicolas Delaroque, Michelin-starred chef, Maison Nico
Our staff has worked so hard throughout. Pushing through when we knew so little about this virus and protocols were evolving. We’re working so well as a team and baking some beautiful stuff. — Thomas “Mac” McConnell, sourdough baker, the Midwife and the Baker
I’m grateful for my family and that everyone is healthy, during a time when everyone is not. Even my family at home in France, where it was hit badly. Even when we were not able to make it over there to see them. — Nicolas Delaroque, Michelin-starred chef, Maison Nico
With the perspective of the pandemic, I see a lot to be thankful for this year; so I want to take this moment to give some love to all the countless people who were affected by the record number of wildfires in 2020. I can’t imagine having the added stress of losing your home or loved ones during what is already a difficult time. The hardships Cellarmaker has encountered seem small in comparison. To all of you affected by the fires, stay strong. — Tim Sciascia, head brewer, Cellarmaker
Coronatimes has been a bittersweet reminder about why I’m in the coffee business in the first place. Coffee is important to people, human connection is important to people, and I’m really thankful for the oasis that our cafe community has been. We never had to close our cafes and though we moved from inside to serving on the sidewalk, we still get to have nice cafe times together. — Nicholas Cho, head barista, Wrecking Ball
I’m thankful for our farmers market associations (California Farmers’ Market association and Urban Village). They kept markets safe and advocated for those outlets of safe food. — Thomas “Mac” McConnell, sourdough baker, the Midwife and the Baker
Within the restaurant industry, the way restaurants and related organizations have created not just a local but national network, sharing resources and news and just generally holding tight to each other, has been incredibly moving. It has been a chance for us to see each other in a new way, not just through the daily grind but down deep, as the pandemic forces us to grapple with issues — some new, some very ingrained — felt in every facet of our industry. As hard as this has been, it has presented opportunities for us to grow — together — in profound ways. — Lana Porcello, owner, Outerlands
Despite all the shit going on, we at Elda are definitely grateful about our community. … We started doing collabs with other restaurants … Ramen Shop, Flour and Water, Mister Jiu’s. That’s my community, those are my homies. We’re all in it together, we’re going through the same thing. This has been so equalizing, for every restaurant, bar, bottle shop, everyone in the business. And then we started doing pop-ups with out-of-work chefs, sous chefs, and line cooks. It’s been amazing to see that up-and-coming talent popping up at Elda, and seeing the creativity, talent, drive, and tenacity. We’re really grateful to be able to host them in our space. — Eric Ochoa, bartender, Elda