During Covid, We Ate Comfort Food. We’ve Become a Lot More Adventurous.
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During Covid, We Ate Comfort Food. We’ve Become a Lot More Adventurous.

Whether dining in or dining out, the pandemic taught us that food has meaning that goes well beyond calories and comfort

By ADRIENNE CHEATHAM
Mon, Dec 19, 2022 9:09amGrey Clock 4 min

The world of food got a lot bigger this past year.

If the previous two years were defined by the word “pivot,” 2022 was the year that we could finally stop pivoting and stand still to take stock of the landscape that now surrounded us. That was true in so many areas—and the dining landscape was no exception. We spent time evaluating what is most important in our lives, and emerged with a hunger for deeper meaning and deeper connection.

Before Covid, restaurants that were serving an unfamiliar cuisine were primarily patronised by people from the culture the restaurant represented. Neighbours would pass by that local Senegalese restaurant, or the Laotian place they heard good things about, and think to themselves that they should go one day. But they kept putting it off, instead settling for that familiar place, that familiar food.

Then lockdown snatched those options from us, and our worlds got smaller.

Today’s the day

Once restrictions began to lift, we entered back into the world of dining with a new mind-set, and a desire for experiences that spoke to us in a new way. “We should go one day” became “We will go today.”

Between rising prices and knowing too well that tomorrow isn’t promised, the value of our time and money became front and centre. Life is too short to miss that chance to try something new, and spending money on mediocre food became a source of discontent after finding out during the pandemic that we can cook just fine for ourselves. There was no more putting off going to the restaurants we had wondered about.

Maybe it’s because most of us were unable to travel for almost two years and missed the humbling and beautiful feeling of surrounding ourselves in a culture that isn’t our own and the personal growth that comes from it. But people seemed more open than ever to new perspectives and dining experiences, caring more about substance than superficial trends.

So people began seeking out restaurants that provided not only delicious food, but a window into the heart of another culture. Or they sought out a familiar cuisine that introduced them to the flavours as they were intended to be served, rather than the watered-down version they were comfortable with before lockdown.

Before 2020, chefs trying to open restaurants that wanted to serve “ethnic” food, no matter how modern, were brushed off by potential investors. They were seen as only small neighbourhood restaurants that needed to be surrounded by a community of people from that culture, and the food needed to be cheap. Chefs, like myself, had been trying to break this paradigm for years, and kept running up against the same version of “no” from potential investors before eventually shifting to pop-ups or bootstrapping a bricks-and-mortar to prove their point of view.

By the beginning of this year things had started to change. Chefs putting forth a new perspective on deeply personal and cultural cuisine were being sought out as the appetite for new dining experiences grew.

Restaurants like Kann in Portland, Ore., serving delicious, modern Haitian food by chef Gregory Gourdet opened to a packed house every night and critical acclaim. Tatiana by Kwame Onwuachi opened in a prime Lincoln Center location in New York serving swoon-inducing dishes with Afro-Caribbean flavours and Bronx flair that would be at home on any fine-dining table. Yangban Society, by chefs Katianna Hong and John Hong in Los Angeles, began dishing out inventive and delicious Korean-meets-Jewish deli fare to eager patrons. And Chintan Pandya and Roni Mazumdar from a self-proclaimed “unapologetic Indian” restaurant named Dhamaka, serving lesser-known regional dishes of the subcontinent bathed in their unabashedly bold flavors, took home the coveted Best Chef New York honors at this year’s James Beard Awards.

Home connections

But these types of experiences aren’t the only ways we are satisfying our need for deeper meaning and connection. During the dark days of the pandemic most of us were cooking at home more than we had in a long time, or ever had. Whether we liked it or not, people learned what they are capable of executing in their own kitchens, and the beauty of sharing it with loved ones. So while there are great restaurants and experiences to seek out, we learned that that feeling of intimacy and connection can also be found at our own tables.

Having sampled that intimacy, we’ve begun to crave it and have made space in our homes and routines for these more meaningful dining experiences. There is a level of intimacy that comes with a dinner party that is hard to replicate in public when people’s attention is often divided between their group and the surroundings. Whether it’s bringing wine, witty commentary, a side dish, entree or dessert, or helping with the dishes, everyone contributes a piece of themselves. And although people have largely allowed their sourdough starters to die a slow death, you may even see a fresh loaf baked by a friend who is yet unwilling to let go of the connection they formed with their starter, and the meaning it provided during hard times.

More recently, people or groups with more discretionary money may hire a local chef to execute the food for a dinner party so they and their guests can focus on the playlist and one another. And while this used to be reserved for the wealthier among us, there is currently a larger market and larger talent pool available than ever, making it slightly more accessible. Several chefs across the country left restaurants during Covid (willingly or unwillingly), and many have found a new path in the private sector cooking for birthdays, anniversaries or a group of friends gathering on a Friday night.

Still, while this is becoming more common for special gatherings, it is far from the everyday norm. More commonly, experienced hosts will divide the meal among guests, allowing everyone a chance to show off the skills they honed at home and provide something delicious for one another.

Our worlds have grown again, but this time we’re being more deliberate in designing the landscape, and building worlds that are rich with substance and meaning, more varied and beautiful than before. Of all the places to find what satisfies our souls, there’s no better place than across the table from people we care about, with food that also satisfies our hunger for more.



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A ‘cheeky’ seat takes out the top prize at Australia’s Next Top Designers Awards

A cash prize from Kanebridge Quarterly magazine, offered for the first time this year, drew a record number of entries for the design competition

By KANEBRIDGE NEWS
Mon, Jun 17, 2024 2 min

A versatile stool with a sense of fun took out the top prize at the Australia’s Next Top Designers awards at Design Show Australia last week.

The ‘Cheeky’ stool designed by Maryam Moghadam was the unanimous winner among the judging panel, which included Kanebridge Quarterly magazine Editor in Chief, Robyn Willis, Workshopped Creative Director Olaf Sialkowski, Design Show event organiser, Andrew Vaughan and Creative Director at Flexmirror Australia, Matt Angus.

Designed as an occasional stool or side table, the Cheeky stool comes in a range of skin tones. The judges applauded its commercial applications, its flexibility to work in a range of environments, and its sense of play.

In accepting the $10,000 prize, designer Maryam Moghadam quipped she was pleased to see ‘other people find bums as funny as I do’. A finalist at last year’s awards, Moghadam will put the prize money towards bringing her product to market.

Winner Maryam Moghadam said the $10,000 prize money would be put towards developing her product further for market.

Australia’s Next Top Designers is in its fourth year, but this is the first year a cash prize has been offered. Kanebridge Quarterly magazine has put up the prize money to support the next generation of emerging industrial design talent in Australia.

Editor in Chief Robyn Willis said the cash prize offered the winner the opportunity to put the money towards whatever aspect of their business it would most benefit.

“That might be prototyping their product further, spending on marketing, or simply paying for travel or even childcare expenses to allow the designer to focus on their work and take it to the next stage,” she said. “We’re thrilled to be supporting this design program and nurturing emerging design in a very practical way.”

The Coralescence lamps from the Tide Pool series by Suzy Syme and Andrew Costa had strong commercial applications, the judges said.
The Mass lamp by Dirk Du Toit is crafted from FSC-certified oak or walnut.

Two finalists were also awarded ‘highly commended’ by the judges — Mass lamp by Dirk Du Toit and the Coralescence lights from Suzy Syme and Andrew Costa at Tide Pool Designs. The judges agreed both products were beautifully resolved from a design perspective, as well as having strong commercial applications in residential and hospitality design. 

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