Chef Tracey Lister opened Brunswick Kitchen in late 2019 with its core aim to be a cooking school. All that changed with the pandemic, so we checked in to see what’s been happening in her world.
When I opened Brunswick Kitchen in November last year (now, that seems a long time ago!), the plan was for it to be primarily a cooking school for the general public with classes run by myself and guest chefs. Take-home meals were in the plan but I anticipated those to only be a small part of the overall business.
Well, that changed pretty quickly. Since the onset of the Covid-19 restrictions, we had to stop offering classes and solely rely on our take-home meals.
On a positive note, this has not only enabled me keep the doors open, but also to engage more with the local community. People are dropping in to pick up meals and having chat (masked-up and socially distanced, of course), and I really enjoy connecting with my broader neighborhood in this way.
I have learnt that we are far more resilient and able to adapt to this new reality than initially thought. Who would have predicted twelve months ago that we would be unable to leave our suburbs, had to wear masks and not have guests in our house, but we have mostly adjusted well.
The hospitality industry in particular has been very community-minded throughout this whether it be on a larger scale delivering meals to the flats in strict lockdown or smaller businesses providing meals and coffee to people in need within their community. This is a great effort by an industry that has been hit hard by this crisis and I am extremely proud to be part of it.
And finally, I have also learnt that there is an extraordinary number of vegans in Brunswick! Who would have thought? I make sure to cater for them with dishes that don’t just feel like they’re poor imitations of meat dishes. My Vietnamese jackfruit and eggplant with sticky rice is an example of a fantastic vegan dish and has proved very popular.
Like most Melbournians I am finding the second lockdown harder than the first. But I know, that I am fortunate. We are coping well, we are healthy, managing home schooling and have good people around us that we can connect with through various technologies.
I mostly work by myself but do have some support when needed. For example Emma MacKay does incredible vegan desserts that have been hugely popular, and a KOTO Hanoi alumni, Nhat, who I know from my time there and who now lives around the corner from Brunswick Kitchen Hanoi comes in and helps with the Vietnamese dinners.