Notes & Essays

Gourmet Gypsy, the First Restaurant Casualty of the New COVID-19 Economy

Restaurants are scraping by in the new normal.
IMAGE FACEBOOK/Waya Araos-Wijangco
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It wasn't really the sink.

"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o'erwrought heart and bids it break," wrote William Shakespeare in Macbeth.

I need to say something out loud to make it real to me. And to be able to share my grief that has been eating me up the past couple of weeks.

Gourmet Gypsy Roces will be permanently closed.

Photo by FACEBOOK/Waya Araos-Wijangco.
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We made the decision a couple of weeks ago that we cannot afford to carry the burden of two branches on the brink of closing in an uncertain economy. The logical choice was to save the Maginhawa branch since Open Hand School is housed there, too. We had to redundate some of our staff to streamline our expenses and start to transition our menu to delivery mode.

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All those decisions and actions were logical and sound. They made perfect sense and my accountants and lawyers approved.

However, my mind wrestles with why logical and sound are not necessarily moral and humane. I grieve for all the staff who came and grew with us, became our family. All our special needs workers who grew in confidence and grace knowing they were valued and loved.

My hands remember every surface I painted, scrubbed, and cleaned. The dishes I created, the garden I grew.

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My heart remembers how lovingly and painstakingly we built Gourmet Gypsy to what it is today. How this was where I felt I became a chef. I sought to create a restaurant that served delicious and interesting food in a welcoming, democratic setting. People come in as they are, dressed up or down did not matter. How this built a community of foodies, ragtag artists, musicians, theater workers, community workers, academics, intellectuals, and advocates who frequented our restaurant and called it home.

Photo by FACEBOOK/Waya Araos-Wijangco.
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Photo by FACEBOOK/Waya Araos-Wijangco.

Not to disrespect anyone who's lost a loved one, but losing Gourmet Gypsy Roces feels to me like a death of a loved one by COVID. No goodbyes, no last walwalan. Just a diagnosis and a sentence. Then it was called.

Gourmet Gypsy in Maginhawa will still fight to survive. We will continue to uphold the values of inclusivity and keep working for a more hopeful and just society. And of course, still deliver delicious food.

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Thank you, everyone, who supported Gourmet Gypsy Roces through the past five years. It has been a wild and wonderful ride.

Chef Waya Araos-Wijangco founded Open Hand, a school for people with special needs. She designed Gourmet Gypsy to help transition her students for work and employment. Over a third of Gourmet Gypsy's staff have special needs. This post was originally written on her Facebook page 

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Waya Araos-Wijangco
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