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Restaurants 20/21: The Year In Review + The Year To Come

Zagat Stories presents Restaurants 20/21, a collection of interviews with leading voices in hospitality, food, media, tech, politics, design, and more. Each story takes the turning of the calendar as an inflection point to consider what happened in 2020, or what’s likely to happen in 2021, in the world of restaurants and hospitality.

The past year clearly illustrates that the simple, universal, and communal act of eating together in public is intricately woven into every part of our lived experience, from the coronavirus pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement to perhaps the most important election in generations. These events reverberated through the restaurant industry, and its people and stories, more immediately and deeply than almost any other part of our society.

And the actions and reactions of 2020 will shape 2021, as well as the years to come. That dynamic is certainly not unique to restaurants. But these threats and pressures also present moments for examining and revising traditional assumptions, facing up to problems ignored for too long, and offering opportunities to make and accelerate positive change. These are stories about acknowledging, understanding, and listening to the past in order to create the future. Explore the Restaurants 20/21 storytellers below.

Eric Ripert On Preserving The Fine Dining Experience

“Most of the concerns of my friends who have restaurants are about being sustainable financially. Can we open with the limited capacity? Are we going to break even, or at least and generate some money to pay employees and purveyors? Some of my friends decided to do some takeout. Some have a terrace for outdoor dining. …. So our businesses are different, but ultimately it’s always the same topic among my friends. What can we do to not only survive, but thrive during the crisis?”
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Stephanie Izard’s Sauce And Spice Retirement Plan

“My wish for 2021 is that we are able to function a little bit more like we used to and have comfort among our staff. I hope that we’re able to help all of our staff members get through the next few months, and that in 2021 we can reopen with all the people that we’ve loved to work with over these years.”
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Congressman Earl Blumenauer: We Must Pass The RESTAURANTS Act

“Independent restaurants anchor neighborhoods. They supply the meeting space for friends, where families come together, and where business is conducted. They are essential for a safe and rapid economic recovery.”
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Ruth Reichl Wants To Fix The Food Landscape

“What is being made very clear is how terribly broken our food system is. We have privileged efficiency over resilience since the end of World War II. It has created terrible problems. The truth is, you can think of COVID as a food pandemic. Americans eat food that basically doesn’t have much nutrition in it anymore. One of the things that’s going to come out of this pandemic is a real sense of how do we get nutrition back into our food? How do we start growing vegetables that actually give us something? How do we do better than the industrialized food that we’re now eating?”
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Nina Compton On Cultivating A Sense Of Ease In Crisis

“I tell myself every morning to name five things that I’m thankful for. I have my health, my family, an occupation where I can create and make people happy, my dogs—little things like that. Between COVID and racism, I try not to watch the news. It doesn’t really do anything good for my heart. It gives me serious anxiety.”
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A Call For Uncomfortable Conversation With Mashama Bailey And Johno Morisano

“We need more inclusion—having more people in the room, having different opinions about the state of the country, recognizing the history of all of us. We all had a major part in building this country—at least our ancestors did—and recognizing our places in that and including us in the conversation is really the next step.”
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David Rockwell On The New Rituals Of Public Space

“I’d been writing a book that comes out in May about the relationship of theater and architecture. One of the main points I was exploring is that theater without an audience or without cast members is inert. It’s an inert form. And I really think cities and buildings are the same way.”
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Alpana Singh: Dismantle The Court Of Master Sommeliers

“Our code is to do what’s best for the guest—to serve with humility, integrity, honor, and excellence. We are here to serve candidates, not ourselves, and I can’t be part of an organization that has failed to live up to its own code.”
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Goldbelly’s Joe Ariel On Unlocking Restaurants’ Omnichannel Potential

“Now more than ever, people recognize the emotional power that food brings. And it’s something we’ve always believed in, but I think now, in this new state of the world, people appreciate food and their food experiences, and the restaurants and chefs that have brought those experiences to them over the years.”
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Kristen Kish On Finding Strength In Identity And Community

“I also have this thing, on a very personal level, that my expectations on myself, for the majority of my life, are incredibly, incredibly high. I’m never going to reach that expectation. And when those expectations aren’t met, I get mad at myself. I think less of myself. And then I go into this spiraling self-worth issue, which I manage every single day, to this day. I go into this weird depression, and then I get anxious, because I can’t figure it out.”
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Alfred Portale Looks Back At Moving On From Gotham, Then Opening And Reopening His Namesake Restaurant

“When I left and they radically changed things, then the handwriting was on the wall. They lost their entire customer base. The way I look at it, I was at Gotham for 30-plus years. They were very, very good years, very rewarding on just about every level. … After 35 years, some things have to come to an end.”
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Taylor Lorenz On The Stress And Strangeness Of Pandemic Dining Out

“I really miss it snowing outside and running into a cute Italian place on the Lower East Side, and just being cozy. It’s going to take a really long time for me to mentally feel okay eating at a place like that again, even if I know it’s fine. … But now I remember every restaurant meal so much more than I did before. I’m like, ‘Oh, my God! Those tacos! I’ll never forget them.'”
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