As the Coronavirus crisis continues to keep us in confinement, restaurants and caterers are among the hardest-hit businesses. Here, we bring you the first-hand account of local Chef Theodora Hauzer, owner of United Flavours of Food Catering & Events in Villeneuve-Loubet. Originally from Singapore and classically trained in French cuisine, Chef Hauzer brings a unique Eurasian flavour to the Riviera and she was in high demand for private events. At the start of 2020, she closed her restaurant to focus on private catering. Then Covid happened. She shares with Riviera Insider her experience of the Coronavirus crisis, how she faces the continued uncertainty and the most important thing to get us through this year.
Taking the pandemic with a grain of salt
Let me tell you about my 6-month roller coaster ride. At the beginning of 2020, I decided to exclusively devote myself as a private chef and caterer to high-end events by popular demand.
After the big decision to permanently close the doors of my restaurant “Flora” after New Year’s Eve, orders steadily started coming in for March, April, June and onwards—confirmed bookings for at least 3 months to come. I was over the moon!
There were the big events like Mipim, the Film Festival, Cannes Lions and also private events in a more intimate setting in which we excel.
Then March 17th happened and it became 'Black Tuesday.'
Emails, phone calls... a complete loss of all bookings and negotiations in just 12 hours.
What to do besides pulling out your hair, banging your head against the wall and pacing up and down your living room while in lockdown, trying to get a grip on the situation and not going under in a panic.
During confinement, it became clear that there were many people in need of meals, not being able to shop, cook or order food.
I got authorisation to deliver meals within the boundaries of Villeneuve-Loubet, while respecting all precautions, of course. This was an unforgettable experience. We encountered people who were very lonely and helpless as well as DIY home chefs who dabbled in making pizzas, pasta and cookies but eventually longed for real food. The response was really heart-warming.
My concept was preparing fresh meals in mason jars that were easy to warm up in the microwave or oven but could also be stored in the fridge for up to seven days. Later on, we made ready to cook meals having to be roasted or grilled at home like a whole free-range chicken cooked at low temperature for 6 hours for maximum flavour and tenderness. Or a whole fresh caught marinated sea bass for two, ready for grilling.
After one month of confinement, I proposed virtual travelling with our “Bocaux Gourmets,” taking customer’s palates on a voyage to Asia, South America or the Caribbean. We created flavours from all over the world, delivered in a glass jar. While fun, it was not so simple as supplies were limited.
We were not making money but we were still alive.
In retrospect, the worst came after confinement. More restrictions, more event cancellations and borders remained closed. It caused confusion, uncertainty and a total feeling of helplessness and frustration.
But the show must go on!
What about the future?
Nothing will be as before Covid-19. For those who are still struggling, it’s important to remember the most important thing: your life. Jack Ma Yun, founder of Alibaba.com said:
“For people in business, 2020 is really just a year for staying alive. Do not even talk about your dreams or plans. Just make sure you stay alive. If you can stay alive, then you have made a profit already.”
The key to crises is to respond to the new developments and adjust as much as possible. Now more than ever, it is crucial to group together our forces to be able to overcome this time of uncertainty and frustration. It WILL get better. WHEN we will be in the clear, nobody knows, but it will happen.
Until then, be kind, be safe and be happy to be alive.
- Theadora Hauzer
If you would like to order from United Flavours of food, they offer ready-made meals and private event catering post-confinement:
UFF Bocaux Gourmets – Delicious dishes in mason jars for any venue: at home, at work, for a meeting, or even a picnic out somewhere special. Everything is in individual portions so social distancing and other health precautions are fully respected.
United Flavours of Food Traiteur – Tailor-made culinary services for corporate and private events at any venue of your choice, for a day, week or longer period of time. We offer live cooking, special tasting sessions, sit down dinners and culinary workshops.
*This article is adapted from our summer 2020 issue.