The South West food and drink industry has been severely hit by lockdown as restaurants have closed and producers have lost their customers. Yet some businesses are experiencing an unprecedented boom, while others are pivoting in new and creative directions.
We spoke to foodies on the frontline about what’s been going down
Whenever an exciting new food and drink project drops in Bristol, there’s a good chance that chef Josh Eggleton is involved in some way. The Bristol born chef co-founded Michelin starred The Pony and Trap in Chew Magna with his sister Holly in 2006, and has since launched a string of other independent eateries in city as well as Eat Drink Bristol Fashion festival.
How has lockdown affected your business?
I’m involved with six or seven businesses in and around Bristol and every one of them has closed and the staff been furloughed. Now it’s a case of creating a strategy to open those businesses again. In a couple of weeks we’ll open Salt & Malt on Wapping Wharf – it’s a takeaway fish and chip shop so it makes sense to start there.
While the restaurants are closed, I’ve been involved with the launch of Bristol Food Union and continued working with Caring in Bristol to feed homeless people, so I haven’t really stopped. In fact, I’ve been busier than ever.
How did Bristol Food Union (BFU) come about?
The community movement was a reaction to the current crisis, but something that Aine Morris [BFU co-founder] and I had been talking about for a while. I’d already established a network of chefs and producers in the area through Eat Drink Bristol Fashion and was running events such as Sunday Sessions.
Through BFU we’ve come together with this community to support each other while, at the same time, providing meals for NHS frontline staff and vulnerable people during lockdown. We’ve got an army of chefs cooking in ten restaurant kitchens across the city, which allows us to pay them a small amount per meal which covers ingredients and creates a small amount of income for their businesses.
This is all funded by donations. We have two JustGiving pages: one raising money to provide meals, the other raising money to help local food and drink producers going forward.
I’ve also been working with Caring in Bristol to deliver 1,200 meals a day to homeless people in the city. Shona Graham [of Emmeline] and Dominic Borel [of Pasta Loco] have also been massively involved and we’ve been buying fresh ingredients from local suppliers to give them an income too. The most important thing is making healthy and delicious meals available for vulnerable people – everyone is entitled to that.
How will you change the way you run your businesses post-lockdown?
I had a roadmap in my head of what the next ten years would look like and this pandemic has slammed the breaks on it. It’s given me a moment of clarity to re-evaluate.
The Pony and Trap will re-open, though not only as a restaurant but as an educational and community hub. I want to teach people how to grow and cook food and make it accessible to everyone.
I feel this crisis has made it obvious that we need to create stronger support systems in our society – the world as we knew it fell apart in one week. Unfortunately, we only undertake systematic change when we’re in the face of disaster.