COVID-19 has certainly made an impact on every industry across the U.S., and the culinary industry is no exception. Spikes and surges in cases have led to mass shutdowns and the closure of restaurants and bars. This has caused a ripple effect, through which even food production has slowed. Even with restaurants opening back up, some consumers are still nervous to venture out to eat. Karen V Davison for one has been watching the effects of the pandemic on the cooking industry very closely.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Karen V Davison is an experienced professional chef and culinary blogger. Her passion for cooking started at a young age when she helped her parents and grandparents in the kitchen. When she graduated high school, there was no question in her mind that she would pursue a career in the culinary industry.
Karen V Davison attended the Culinary School of Fort Worth and upon graduating started working at a seafood restaurant in Dallas. While it wasn’t her dream job, she learned a lot about selecting the freshest ingredients and working with seafood, which can be unforgiving if it isn’t cooked correctly, in some cases even more so that beef or poultry.
Now residing in Plano, Texas, Karen V Davison worked her way up the ladder, serving as an associate chef, a sous chef, and most recently, as a head chef at some of the finest dining establishments in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She is also a successful culinary blogger, who shares recipes and cooking tips on her website and social media.
What is your favorite thing about working in the culinary industry?
I see the industry as an art form. When you’re cooking, it’s not just about making food that is edible. It is about cooking it to perfection, perfect plating, and creating a dish in which every component works together to create something beautiful. In that process, it is exciting. Being able to hit that balance makes the difference between a cook and a chef. And for me, striving for that balance is what keeps me going.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get started in the culinary industry?
Learn how to train your palate. Know the difference between the different kinds of tastes, including sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and savory. And how do you train your palate? You need to expand your horizons. Try every kind of food at least once. Even if you don’t like it, the key to success in the industry is knowing the different tastes and having a strong palate so that you know what works together and what doesn’t.
What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?
My tablet and the stand for the tablet. When you’re making a recipe right down to the perfect amount of ingredients, a tablet and stand is a great alternative to a book or looking at something on your phone or even a laptop.
Who is your biggest role model in the culinary industry?
I’d have to say there are two. First is Gordon Ramsay, who has proven that he knows food. He has a hard exterior and you see it on television, but what it really comes down to is his passion for cooking. He cooks with passion and tries to get that passion out of others to help them succeed in the industry. As well, Julia Child is one of the strongest female role models of all time for me. She transformed the industry, making gourmet cooking accessible to all, regardless of skill level. I really admire her for everything she’s done.
What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
When you fail, try, try, and try again. No one respects or trusts a quitter. You’re allowed to make mistakes and learning from those mistakes is key to being successful in any industry.
How has the pandemic affected the culinary industry?
The pandemic has affected the industry in so many ways, mostly for the worse, but some for the better. Obviously, the initial closure of restaurants was a hit to the industry, leaving many chefs out of work. Some restaurants were able to pivot to a takeout only model, but it still required less cooks in the kitchens and mass layoffs. It’s unfortunate because some restaurants realized that they didn’t need to hire back more workers, even when restaurants were allowed to reopen for dining. The restaurant owners realized they could make due with the staff they were left with. And many people are still afraid to return to restaurants, which is even worse for the economy and the industry. But, I would argue that there is some good that is coming out of the pandemic. Many people that have never even used a stove before were forced to adapt and cook at home. This has presented opportunities for some restaurants to transform into meal kit services, which are becoming more popular every day. In addition, in my opinion, the pandemic is creating new chefs. People that didn’t know they were skilled in the kitchen are quickly learning that they do have cooking abilities and perhaps will consider becoming chefs themselves. And to me, that’s a positive.
How do you think your industry could be permanently affected by the pandemic?
Unfortunately, I believe a lot of restaurant owners will close their restaurants and never reopen due to the economic blow the pandemic has caused. I’ve already seen in Texas and I know it is happening all over the country and even the world. A restaurant is a hard enough investment in the first place and once you throw a pandemic into the mix, it’s a problem. This will cause a loss of variety in the restaurant space. I also think we can say goodbye to buffet-style dining forever as I don’t think it will ever recover. A lot of restaurants will also have to look at different strategies that are “pandemic proof” in the future. Restaurant owners will always look back on this time and realize that dine-in only models will not work. They will need to put just as much effort into takeout in order to survive. Maybe they will offer alcoholic beverages for takeout purposes forever or there will be special deals for takeout customers. They will need to continue to adapt.
What advice do you have for those wary of going to restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I would say if you are nervous, call around or scope out restaurants in your area to see what precautions they have in place and take a look at the atmosphere. Does a restaurant have high ceilings to ensure better ventilation? Are tables and customers spaced out appropriately? Are servers and other staff members wearing masks? Look at these aspects and decide where you would like to dine. Not all restaurants are adapting in the same way.
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