Seattle is with covid-19 following Italy. It is one of the hardest hurt cites in the USA. “In a state that has seen more deaths from the coronavirus than any other, the stress has started to multiply. Jobs lost. Kids underfoot. Parents at risk.” wrote the New York Times. And there they are, Perfecte and Aila, a couple I fell in love with, because of their honesty, passion and perseverance. They run Tarsan i Jane, the hottest restaurant in Seattle and here they share their story of life changes due to the virus:
How did your city change because of coronavirus?
Seattle changed a lot, I don’t think anyone was expecting anything like that to happen so fast. From one day to another the rules changed and many people lost their jobs. I think the worst affected are the workers and small businesses, we will need lots of help to recover from this.
Terrible moments like these, on the other side, inspire creativity. We believe if you get creative and remain positive about the situation, you can see the light and find a solution to get through this, together. We believe this is an incredibly challenging situation that humans need to pass to be more united as a global community around the world and focus more on the necessary things important in life: family, nature, respect for the animals and appreciating what you have in the moment you have it.
What was your first thought when coronavirus appeared and what do you think now?
When we saw the news of what’s happening in China we thought, “Oh shit that’s bad…” but after I saw Italy, I really started to worry because we realised that maybe this virus can spread everywhere… and actually we started to deal with it now. Also, when you have a child, you get more paranoid.
How are you spending these days?
We love being together the three of us as a family. We are sad for what we had to do as a business. We temporarily closed and we don’t know what is going to happen next. The only thing I love in this moment is to be with my wife, Alia, and my daughter, Zayna. Also, we are doing an IGTV video series on our Instagram @tarsanijane – cooking simply at home and we are calling it Melting Pot: Cooking at Home with Perfecte and Alia! You can go to our Instagram to take a look. We also contacted the farmers we love and who we supported over the years. They too are suffering a lot in this moment. We said we want to help them: if they send some produce to us, we will help them to sale directly to people’s homes and we got a great response! Let’s hope this will work and we can work all together from our houses so coronavirus can become a thing of the past.
We had to close our restaurant. And that is for us very difficult because we don’t have investors. We thought to start selling takeaway orders before we closed, like some restaurants here are doing, but we realised that if we spent the little money needed to completely change our operations and then those orders didn’t take off we would need to close the restaurant for good. We decided to wait until we are able to come back.
The reality is we don’t know what we will do when we come back, it’s difficult to think about it. The only thing we said to Eater Seattle is that we need guests to make reservations in advance using the reservation system, Tock. If they start to make reservations in advance in the middle of May and June or for the rest of the year, that is going to help us to come back to work. Also, we try to sell gift cards, and if you buy this in advance this is also going to help us to come back to work as well. Guests can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase a gift card. We hope this happens… For now, we have some people emailing us to buy gift cards and make reservations, but we need more. We are grateful to people like you who are conducting these interviews – this will help us a lot! I wish we can spread this interview everywhere so people can see what we need at this moment. We will be celebrating our fourth birthday on this 5th of May. We hope to celebrate many more years with our wonderful guests!
This is a hard time for all working in and around hospitality – not only the chefs and restaurant staff but also the suppliers of restaurants, farmers, those who offer services to the restaurants. What should we do to support each other and survive also economically?
We are doing Instagram series of cooking at home with our family. We are calling it Melting Pot and viewers can tune into it by following us on Instagram @tarsanijane. We asked our farmers and vendors if they want to help with that and they said yes in a second! This way everyone will have the same opportunity to buy the amazing product we buy at Tarsan i Jane and have it shipped to their house. I hope this will help some people who can’t go out to buy food to get some good things delivered straight to their front door.
I think in this moment we need to reinvent ourselves and think outside of the box and look for a good and healthy opportunity that works perfect for you and everyone around you. I believe this is a good moment to be stronger together!
What are you doing to stay positive?
We are staying home and keeping busy with our daughter, we love spending time with her. We are also trying to stay positive and come up with ideas all the time. We are also exercising at home, dancing, playing football, doing yoga, lifting a few weights. Physical strength leads to mental strength and vice versa. I also like teaching my daughter to play football – she is doing very well for only being one and a half years old 🙂
How do you see life after coronavirus?
It is very difficult to predict what is going to happen. I hope people will come back to eat at the restaurants and that they will return to their jobs. I think people will change and be more vulnerable. In all these years of rushing we lost the essence of what life is about. We have the opportunity to think about this now. I hope we will be more compassionate towards each other.
This time “at home” is also a time for reflections. Do you think it will create some change in how we work and live our future?
This time at home will be good for everyone to understand ourselves better. It is a time to meditate, reflect, read, analyse and think about everything we want in life and understand what we really need. We can choose to be happier with things that are really important.
What would be your personal message for your colleagues and other hospitality people around the world?
Be positive, whatever happens is what needs to happen. Do not feel guilty about anything and help anyone you can now and in the future, because at the end we are social beings. We need to put a priority on our community. Be happy and enjoy your family because this is what matters most.