SELF: How did the closure affect you and your colleagues?
R.G-L .: We are considering all kinds of motions. Many of us have already applied for unemployment and we share information on relief funds, whatever we can find.
One of the most frustrating things is that others don’t understand that we don’t have a safety net. We are not able to work for the home restaurant. PTO and sick leave – many people who work in this field do not. People are just shit by luck.
Being in limbo before our official closure was the most difficult. But my restaurant was super great. The day we decided to close, I was not scheduled to work, but our chef donated all the food that was going to be wasted to the staff. He was very transparent about everything that was going on and shared resources, such as how to apply for unemployment. They have given their support, which is great.
SELF: How did you come up with the idea of teaching virtual cooking lessons?
R.G-L .: I always wanted to help people in the kitchen. I love teaching people about food, talking about food – it’s something that excites me a lot. I was talking to my dad and I was like, “What if I just teach people what they want to know over the phone?” This is the push I needed.
One thing I had to adapt to when I started blogging is that I would have readers with different skills. Not everyone is on the same level. So my lessons are free for everyone, everything that customers want to learn, everything they want to do. It’s not related to everything I have on the blog. I have a client who wants to make fresh pasta, so we are planning that.
My first client was a nurse and I taught her how to make mashed potatoes with green bean sauce and chicken. She doesn’t do a lot of cooking at home and once burned a pan of water. It was really sweet. It was the funniest part about it, seeing how excited she was.
SELF: There are so many people cooking and cooking stress right now. Is cooking always a source of comfort for you too?
R.G-L .: The first week of uncertainty, I was cooking stress, that’s for sure. But once we heard from the job and had some semblance of what was going on, everything went back to normal. I have roommates, so I cook for everyone, which is really nice. I made bread without kneading the other day, I made cookies. I’m dumping my blog, which is a solid distraction. It was a great way for me to sign out of the news, because the first few days I was just glued to my phone.
In addition to cooking, I ordered potting soil and pots to repot my plants. I have a herb garden starter kit that arrived today. My mom has an amazing green thumb, so she gives me advice, and I’m super excited about the herbs. People panicked buying from the store, so I thought to myself, “I’ll grow mine.”
SELF: How are you managing the purchase of food right now?
R.G.-L .: I mainly work on the food I had before the pandemic. I keep a pantry very well stocked given my education and knowledge acquired in culinary school. (I actually shared a list of my pantry staples and favorite recipes focused on the pantry on my blog.) I grew up in a working class family and we often ate what people would consider “hard meals” because we didn’t have much money. My mom taught me how to cook with what I have at home and how to make the most of it.