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Essential Cuisine

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Chefs moving forward ft. Jon Harvey-Barnes, Senior Development Chef

12th November 2020

Well, what a year it has been? Or possibly not been? My story starts back in March, when we started the first lockdown. The pain we were feeling for our chef friends and customers as many of them had to close their doors, often finding ingenious ways to diversify their businesses.

The team at Essential Cuisine continued to support sectors that were as busy as ever, including care homes, hospitals, and of course pubs and restaurants that were offering a takeaway menu by creating recipes to inspire and offering some much needed support and encouragement.

Then the day came, the 22nd of April, 3 days before my birthday, it was the F-word! Around 40% of the company were asked to take part in the job retention scheme, to safeguard our jobs and of those continuing to work full time. It was a mixture of emotions, as on one hand I wanted to take one for the team, but it was so hard not to feel like your services were not required, although in the short term, I knew it made good business sense.

My time on furlough lasted around 4 months, with amazing support from the company, the managers and colleagues alike. We were not able to take part in any work related activity, which is very difficult when I have lived and breathed Essential Cuisine for over 9 years. It was great to keep in touch with my workmates who were in the same position as me and those who weren’t, on personal phones of course. I kept an eye on social media, but resisted the temptation to get involved with my work Twitter account @Essential_Jon (that was tough!)

I spent my time as productively as possible, doing those jobs in the house that kept being put off! Along the way, I found a few more to put off for longer!!! I walked my dog, Marlowe, across the fields, read books, did power walks into town along the river, opposite the silent Royal Shakespeare Theatre and fed the swans. I was averaging around 11,000 steps per day on my health app from my also silent gym.

Each day (similar to when I am working) revolved around food! Menu planning was challenging, as I limited my main shop to once a week, finding the right time and day in the week when the queues were shortest.

I started back to work on August the 17th, it was almost like an induction for the first 2 weeks, as I learnt how we had to work smart moving forward. It was great to see the guys again, even though it was on Zoom/ Microsoft teams and Skype. When I am so used to meeting, working and socialising with my colleagues, I realised very quickly the world I left in April was very different to the new one! Every week would normally involve shows, demonstrations and presentations, so we have developed the use of resources to deliver these in a remote way, a massive learning curve, but well worth it.

Todays news is about a vaccine which is 90% effective, it has got to be the only way to get back to normality. I am looking forward to the day when I can shake my customers and colleagues by the hand without anti-bacterial hand gel!!! And maybe reinvent the man hug!
Jonathan Harvey-Barnes
Senior Development Chef, Essential Cuisine

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