Just before 1pm on Tuesday, a young man sat on the curb near Rise + Roam in Carmel, staring glumly at his phone. Todd Fisher, the executive chef of the restaurant group that includes Seventh & Dolores, Folktale Winery and the newly opened Rise + Roam gestures toward him.
The young man started work two days earlier. Now Fisher was sending him and much of his crew home.
“You have people who are so excited to go to work,” the chef says. “It’s crazy.”
Starting a restaurant is always difficult. But establishments opening in the midst of a global pandemic have it particularly tough. Fisher had intended to keep all three establishments open for business as usual. But he says that he received several “how dare you” calls and made the decision to close temporarily—something that may hit Rise + Roam the hardest. The kitchen had nailed their pizza dough recipe after several tweaks and service was now clicking.
Nearby, Executive Chef Federico Rusciano spent the morning cleaning, putting things away and trying to save as much of his walk-in cooler stock as possible. The Pocket—his new spot—had glided through its soft opening and was on schedule for a Wednesday grand opening. Now Rusciano was turning out the lights for the duration, inspired by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call on Monday for dining rooms across the state to close.
“Honestly it’s surreal,” Rusciano says of the stunted opening. “We’ll just try to ride the storm.”
Rusciano is considering the option of curbside pick-up, but wants to see if it is financially feasible. To keep the kitchen open means planning for a certain number of customers and ordering the right amount of product. “If it’s 10 meals a day there’s no point,” he adds.
Fisher is keeping the kitchens going, offering delivery and curbside takeout at Folktale, Seventh & Dolores and Rise + Roam—and there is some demand. On Tuesday two girls sat outside the latter, eating pizza.
In downtown Monterey, the recently opened Sazón Express was operating as usual for the time being at lunchtime, as well as providing curbside pick-up service. Manager Marcos Maravilla reports that they had solid traffic over the weekend. But since the restaurant is not open on Mondays, he had no idea what to expect.
“We’ll have to see how this week goes,” Maravilla says.
Within two hours, Monterey County health officials announced a shelter-in-place order will take effect at midnight on Wednesday morning.
In the meantime, Maravilla had already limited staffing and was watching food orders closely, just in case.
Rusciano sums up the situation, saying, “We want to give service to our guests, but we don’t know what to do.”