At the beginning of the pandemic, as restaurants were forced to choose between remaining open for takeout and delivery — at the risk of employees getting sick — and closing completely — at the risk of losing everything — Rob Petrone, host of the Restaurant Hunter TV series, started doing Zoom interviews with industry movers and shakers with hopes of capturing things in real time. In a way, he was creating a sort of time capsule to track how COVID’s impact on the restaurant industry would evolve.
“What was compelling about the story was that it felt like the ultimate lose-lose,” says Petrone, a six-time Emmy award winner. “It wasn’t like the government came and bailed these restaurants out; they were just kind of left on their own.”
With two videographers and two editors on staff, these interviews with big-name chefs, executives, mom-and-pop business owners, and more are to become a video documentary, but in the meantime, they’ll be released through Petrone’s podcast Hot Takes On A Plate under the subseries title, 86’d: How a Global Pandemic Rocked the World’s Culinary Capital.
The first episode has just been made available for streaming, and additional episodes will be released intermittently in the months to come. In the first episode, “Ground Zero,” Petrone speaks with a slew of Westchester’s favorite restaurateurs and food purveyors, including: Dale Talde of Goosefeather, about the challenges of being a new business owner in the COVID era; Ellen Sledge of Penny Lick Ice Cream, about her own personal story of the virus; and Jerry Dejesus of the North End Tavern about being located in the containment zone of New Rochelle.
“You could feel people trying to figure out what to do next. It was a really dark place we were in when we think back to this time last year because there was so much unknown. I’m not gonna sit here and put words in other people’s mouths and say things are better, they’re hard but the unknown is sometimes scarier than the known,” Petrone says.
He notes that raw emotion, frustration, and despair were consistent across every interview he conducted over the span of six months, and many questions remain: “What’s next? How many restaurants are we gonna lose? What are we gonna lose? What’s it gonna mean to everything?”