Palate Films, the video company helmed by Austin filmmaker Christian Remde, has released a short documentary series, Reopen, that showcases how local restaurants are adapting to COVID-19. The series is available for free online, with new episodes released each Tuesday.
The series features short episodes of approximately 10 minutes, where Austin chefs talk about their experiences during the period in in late May when Texas restaurants were allowed to reopen for dine-in service amid the pandemic. In between glamorous shots of dishes, these chefs explained the stress of shutting down, how they are dealing with new policies while maintaining a sense of hospitality, and the struggles of rent, landlords, and sales.
The first episode, released last week, centers on live-fire restaurant Hestia and James Beard semifinalist chef Kevin Fink. Watch the first episode below. Future episodes will focus on Italian restaurant L’Oca d’Oro, Asian-Southern restaurant The Peached Tortilla, Mexican restaurant Suerte, modern Chinese restaurant Wu Chow, barbecue spot Franklin Barbecue, and others.
Remde, whose films often focus on the food industry, chose to work with restaurants that he already had relationships with, due to the emotional nature of the time period. “Emotions are running high and there’s a real sense that every service could be the last one,” he told Eater.
After filming the series, Remde’s biggest takeaway was that restaurant workers “aren’t paid nearly enough,” as the lack of guidance in reopening has often put these employees in charge of enforcing mask policies and social distancing. Given that some patrons have had an abusive response to these policies, Remde feels it’s not fair to ask restaurant workers, who are themselves at risk, to bear this burden.
Remde hopes this documentary shows how all small businesses are being affected by the pandemic. “Everyone is hurting and frustrated, but their job is to put on a happy face when you come in to eat or stop by to pick up curbside,” he explained. “My hope is that people will watch this and see what’s happening behind the scenes and maybe have more empathy for the people who are feeding them.”
- Reopen [Official]