(CNN) — Every morning, when I arrive at my 50-seat restaurant Annette in Aurora, Colorado, the first thing I do is stick a thermometer in my ear. Then I wash my hands with surgical soap, strap on a mask and gloves, sanitize my station, and get to work preparing breakfast tacos for local healthcare workers or chicken dinners for neighborhood families that are delivered — with no physical contact — to drive-up guests in our parking lot out front.
For me, as for so many restauranteurs across the country, this new and strange way of life hit like a thunderclap about a month ago. In the days after the City of Aurora ordered Annette to close to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, we laid off all of our hourly staff, scrambled to defer rent payments and other bills, and racked our brains for a takeout and delivery model that would help slow the financial bleeding while keeping us and our guests safe.
Chef and owner of Annette outside of Denver, CO has laid off staff and pivoted to takeout to stay afloat.
Courtesy Jonny Marlow
Since then, I'm immensely proud of what we've achieved: We've kept our salaried workers employed and insured, we've kept our neighborhood regulars and heroic healthcare workers fed, and we've helped keep our local ecosystem of farmers, ranchers, butchers and bakers afloat.
Yet there is no sugarcoating the fact that we — like the rest of America's independent restaurants — are in crisis, and it's a crisis that will require smart and sustained aid from the federal government to survive.
The makeup of the task force is no surprise to me. President Trump, a fast food fanatic who reportedly likes his steaks well-done, has never shown much interest in the restaurant industry. Yet any federal response that stands a chance of reviving the American economy must acknowledge the economic clout and extraordinary diversity of America's independent restaurants, which employ more than 11 million people in the US and anchor a supply chain that employs millions more in businesses from farms to packing plants to linen suppliers.
Make no mistake: The four independent operators in the group — Thomas Keller, Wolfgang Puck, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Daniel Boulud — are pioneering chefs responsible for training many of America's finest cooks.
Yet their presence on the committee ignores the fact that fine dining restaurants are increasingly out of reach for many Americans, and increasingly out of touch with their wants and needs. It also fails to acknowledge the fact that most restaurant owners are not operating restaurants on four continents like Vongerichten, hosting reality TV shows like Boulud, teaching online Master Classes like Keller or selling lines of canned soup and cookware like Puck.
Chefs at Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chefs 2019 pose for a photo.
courtesy Ramona Rosales
Most chefs are like me — on the line every single day, flipping burgers and roasting chickens and making salads, working our butts off to feed people. We are small business owners and community anchors. We are women, immigrants and people of color, not globetrotting celebrities. Saving the American economy means saving us.
A presidential advisory council that truly reflected the diversity of American dining would include chefs like these. It would honor the fact that, to quote former "Food & Wine" restaurant editor Jordana Rothman, America's current restaurant scene is, "...more thrilling, more radical, and more inclusive," than the euro-centric, male dominated industry of the past, and because of that, it's also "infinitely more delicious."
As white men in positions of power, Keller, Vongerichten, Boulud and Puck should recognize their own limited perspectives and demand more diversity on President Trump's "economic revival" industry group.
Caroline Glover, chef and owner of Annette, says most chefs are like her — on the line every single day, flipping burgers and roasting chickens and making salads, working their butts off to feed people.
Courtesy Jonny Marlow
After all, who on Trump's task force is representing restaurateurs like me, who today must juggle executing a new business model, navigating insurance claims and government loans, and keeping their guests and employees safe while enduring a sharp drop in sales in the midst of a pandemic?
Who is representing the interests of my Guatemalan dishwasher, my Mexican American Prep cook, or my 22-year-old line cook saddled with student loan debt? What about my server who works full time as a high school English teacher, but because of her paltry public salary needs restaurant income to survive?
The composition of President Trump's "economic revival" group points to an enduring truth: As ever, Mr. Trump seems primarily interested in helping himself and his wealthy, white friends at the expense of those who actually make this economy run. Until the chefs advising the president look more like America itself, the American restaurant industry stands little chance of achieving the recovery it so desperately needs.