Covid-19 times – reflections with Antonia Klugmann

Chefs who own the restaurants were between the first to feel the consequences of covid-19. Restaurants are places of social gatherings, so most of them needed to close, with the owners and employees remaining not only wtihout what they love doing but also without their income. I am daily interviewing chefs to get an insight into their reflections in these times.

Today I was talking to Antonia Klugmann of L’Argine a Vencò:

How did your village change because of the virus?

I live in the countryside of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia in the North East of Italy. Half of my family lives close, in Trieste, while my father lives in Milano. As you know, Italy is under lockdown. So at this moment I am living completely alone. Outside there are very few people. Only farmers are going out to work in the fields.
One of the worst things, besides the doubts about the future, is “not sharing“. I am a cook so I love seeing people coming to our restaurant to visit us during this season. I try to stay positive thinking that every challenge teaches us something. In this occasion, we are pushed to run our imagination wild.

What was your first thought when coronavirus appeared and how do you see it now?

When the virus spread started, we weren’t able to understand completely what it would mean for all of us. We have been waiting for a while. Today I have realised more than ever how much we are all connected and how important is health. In some way, I was thinking health was granted especially in a country like mine where healthcare is accessible to everyone without distinctions. Today I understand how much it should always be a priority.

Eel apple cider and spinach. Photo: Mattia Mionetto

How are you spending these days?

I am emptying all the fridges of the restaurant, for now, not buying anything for my own consumption. My vegetable shop is the kitchen-garden and, as it’s the beginning of the spring, I’m also foraging. I’m doing some maintenance works in the restaurant and at home and taking care of the garden. Right now I am the only one authorized to enter the restaurant.

Quite some chefs have now, when restaurants are closed or empty, started offering their food as a take-away.  What about you?

Vencò, the village where my restaurant is located, counts 21 inhabitants and all the cities of the region are quite far. So the transformation of the restaurant wasn’t an option. My employees are safe at home. This is the most important thing right now. We expect that the lockdown to last for another month. We are analyzing our strengths and weaknesses trying to understand what we can improve.

This is a hard time for all working in hospitality – also for the suppliers of restaurants, farmers, those who offer services to the restaurants. What should we do to support each other and survive also economically?

I think that there are people who are facing a harder time than us. I am thinking particularly of healthcare workers that are risking their lives fighting each day for our future. In the hospitality, of course, we are facing some difficulties, but “we are all on the same boat”. We have discussed a lot with our suppliers in the last weeks. We are all searching and offering collaborations to win this challenge together. I think it’s the only possible way. Our clients are supporting us. This is great. Many of them are postponing their visit for the time after the lockdown instead of just cancelling it.

Wholemeal shortcrust veal liver paté and kiwi. Photo: Mattia Mionetto

What are you doing to remain positive?

First of all, I am enjoying spending some time at home, which is usually something that I can’t do. I’m spending time with my cats. I’m doing workout and reading. I’m lucky to live in the countryside because I can spend time in the garden, do some foraging and spring is wonderful in Collio.

How do you see life after coronavirus?

I have more questions than answers about the future. It’s really difficult to imagine how our life will change. Nothing like this happened before.

This “staying at home” time can be also a great time for reflection. Do you think it will provoke some change in your life and work?

Also before the Coronavirus, I think some new trends have started. There was already more consciousness about climate changes, people were starting to live and travel in different ways. I hope that this emergency will encourage more and more people to act in this direction.

Do you have any message for other chefs around the world?

The emergency should be our priority now. When we’ll be all safe there will be time for all the rest.

Andreja Lajh

One thought on “Covid-19 times – reflections with Antonia Klugmann

  1. Hi Antonia from lockdown in Sydney Australia. Good to hear that you can find some positives out of this extraordinary tragedy- hope you continue to find peace in nature – and that you stay safe and healthy best wishes Kerry Snelgrove (klugmann cousin xx)

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