Former Coya chef Jake Finn was just about to open his first restaurant, Lila, when the pandemic hit. He sets the scene for 2020.
It was March when I was finally ready to sign for the space. It was supposed to be the payoff from years of sweat and tears in kitchens and months of spreadsheets. Then this whole nightmare happened.
At first I sat at home doing puzzles. Then my girlfriend told me to just go and cook something, anything, for family or for friends. I bought catering trays online and started making things like shredded roast chicken with sticky caramelised onions and fluffy meatballs with tomato compote. The kind of food that feels like someone giving you a hug. Soon I was driving to each compass point of the capital three times a week to deliver to hungry Londoners.
We all became obsessed with food in lockdown. It’s one of those things that takes your mind off everything else. I found comfort in healthy, tasty things like a really nice pasta with prawns or roasted cauliflower salad, mixed up with tahini and slipped into a pita bread with a fried egg.
I’ve learned that you just have to stay fluid and ready to adapt. I’m doing catering and private dining and I just ran my first ever supper club. And I’ve started looking for a space again: small, easy to manage. Maybe my restaurant is still on its way…