A chef’s COVID-19 lessons
The ability to pivot and change quickly as things change is the lesson that COVID-19 is teaching Jamall Petty.
Petty, a chef and proprietor of FoodPlay Pasta Truck, said from a culinary operations standpoint, the good thing that came out of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for him was the opportunity to refine his offerings during a time when he saw business dwindle.
It was a business he had also just introduced to the island. Petty threw open the window to his food truck business two-and-a-half months before the first case of the new coronavirus was confirmed in-country on March 15, and before the nation went into shutdown.
Like all non-essential businesses, Petty had to close the window to his fledgling food truck.
“When he (Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis) said they were closing roadside vendors, my belly broke down – twice,” he recalled.
But he said he regrouped quickly. He’s since reopened after curbside delivery was instituted, offering delivery until further notice via the Kraven App, The Delivery Guy or by calling 477-1509. He remains closed on weekends due to the lockdown, in place through the end of May as the country fights to contain the spread of the virus.
He said the lessons he learned, he won’t soon forget.
“COVID-19 gave me the opportunity to refine the offerings that I had. During this time, especially due to the fact that there was even less business, I was able to tweak and adjust a lot of the dishes. I found that there was little access to get some of the products that I had before, but it pushed me in a direction to be innovative, which resulted in me having a better and a more refined product. And it’s just from having to pivot from the traditional, commercial way that I was able to do things. I was forced into having to adjust.”
One of the first things he did was move his menu from a breakfast and lunch menu to lunch only, to accommodate for the shortened hours he had in which to work. That allowed him to broaden his lunch offerings.
“Since the [breakfast] menu would have been slower moving than lunch, it was only wise then to focus on the things that got the most volume and, in doing so, I was able to make more options available and refine the options that were available during lunch as opposed to spreading myself thin covering both services,” he said.
“Again, it cut back on wastage, it cut back on the amount of supplies that I needed and the amount of refrigerator storage I needed. But again, even though the menu was less items, it was better, because what was offered, then, was a bit more focused and a bit more refined than pre-COVID.”
Like many people when the shutdown occurred, he was of the mindset the country would hopefully be back to business as usual by this month, which has turned out to not be the case.
It has now been two months of weekday curfews and weekend lockdowns.
“I’ve learned that you have to be able to pivot quickly as things change. A part of being able to continue to be successful, especially if things start out well, is being able to adjust whatever it is that you do, what you serve, what you sell and adjust to the way the climate around you continually changes,” he said.
The country is going through a gradual reopening process, except for the island of Bimini which is now considered a COVID-19 hotspot with 13 confirmed cases. As a result, the prime minister ordered Bimini, home to approximately 2,000 people, be placed under a two-week lockdown beginning Monday, through the end of the month.
The Bahamas has 96 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 74 on New Providence, eight on Grand Bahama and one on Cat Cay.
There have been 11 deaths, 42 recovered cases, seven hospitalized cases and 43 active cases; and 1,814 tests have been completed.
According to the Ministry of Health, as of May 16, there are 4, 596,304 confirmed cases and 309,685 deaths worldwide.