There’s the BC (Before Covid) era and the post-BC era. In Australia that transition occurred in March, when the world as we knew it changed. Midway through the month we suddenly all understood, deep in our guts, that Covid-19 would alter all our lives dramatically.
At Broadsheet, our attention immediately snapped to the restaurants, cafes and bars we’ve spent the past decade eating and drinking at – and writing about. How would they survive such a monumental blow?
We reckon some of our best stories this year documented the ramifications of the pandemic, so you’ll find plenty of those in this round-up. But there are also features on how we entertained ourselves during lockdown, as well as profiles and photo essays. Together, these stories create a time capsule of a tumultuous, historic year – but they’re also just bloody enjoyable reads.
I Went to Mona Foma and Now I Want Every Flight to Begin With a Drag Queen Spritzing My Face
Back when we had no problem squeezing into rooms with thousands of other people, Sydney editor Che-Marie Trigg went to “Tasmania’s second-weirdest festival”. This is what happened.
Dan Hong: Stop Fearing the Coronavirus and Start Supporting Chinese Restaurants Again
Australian Chinatowns were the canary in the coal mine, so to speak. In this opinion piece Dan Hong, one of Australia’s most influential chefs, wonders the cause for the drastic downturn in trade. “I live in [Sydney’s] Chinatown, so I know how busy the restaurants usually are in my area,” wrote Hong, “I don’t know if it’s xenophobia, but that’s the only reason I can think of to explain why these restaurants are so quiet – especially after Chinese New Year, when it should still be busy.”
“Apocalypse Now”: A Special Feature on How Coronavirus Is Affecting Restaurants Around the Country
On March 13, Broadsheet sent out a 10-question survey – titled “How Has the Coronavirus Impacted Your Business?” – to several thousand owners of restaurants, cafes and bars around the country. We wanted to understand the pressure they were under and how they were dealing with it. We received 363 anonymous responses, and they foretold a bleak picture for the immediate future of hospitality.
“I thought we were holding on okay,” wrote one proprietor. “Business was down a little, but the minute they closed our borders, things changed dramatically. It’s almost like people realised, ‘This is bad’. The phone didn’t stop ringing with cancellations. Sunday March 15, business dropped by 50 per cent with that announcement.”
“They’re Letting Us Bleed”: Scenes From the Frontlines of Sydney’s Collapsing Restaurant Industry
Just days later, things were looking even more bleak. “If the government truly locked everyone out of our restaurants, that would be a better scenario than doing this. They’re letting us bleed,” said Sydney restaurateur Brent Savage.
“A Slow Death”: Scenes From the Frontlines of Adelaide’s Collapsing Restaurant Industry
Meanwhile, in South Australia: “The coronavirus pandemic is rousing all sorts of emotions, but none so vivid as uncertainty.”
“It’s a Huge Weight”: Australia’s Migrant Workers Left to Survive Without Covid-19 Safety Net
They didn’t qualify for Centrelink, and in most cases weren’t covered by the government’s stimulus measures: Broadsheet contributor Matt Shea wrote about the plight of Australia’s visa workers, who form a crucial part of the hospitality industry. Months later, with many returned to their home countries, the industry is still reeling.
Gallery: Eerie Peace – 100 Photos of Australia Captured in the Time of Lockdown
We sent six Broadsheet photographers out to document how Australia’s streetscapes had been transformed by the lockdown. The photos were equal parts upsetting and fascinating.
I Can’t Isolate Without: These Addictive, Twisted Italian Breadsticks
And then iso life became a thing and some of us (okay, those of us without little kids) realised we had ... time. A whole bunch of time. Melbourne editor Tomas Telegramma formed a filthy pack-a-day habit for Italian breadsticks called taralli. “These edible swizzle sticks require no preparation or accompaniment. You could say they’re best served in isolation (get it?).” Yeah, we got it.
The Restaurant of the Future: Predictions for a Post-Pandemic World
Broadsheet’s Ellen Fraser asked more than 60 industry leaders to share their forecasts. Would robot waiters be a thing? Would perspex barriers and digital menus become the norm? And were we at risk of losing those subtle-but-sublime moments that come with great service?
Gallery: Moments From Adelaide’s Black Lives Matter Rally
George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis shook the world and forced Australians to take a closer look at Indigenous deaths in custody, police brutality and systemic inequality on home soil. When protestors took to the streets in Adelaide, we were there to document it.
How a Spreadsheet Saved Season’s, a 38-Year-Old Chinatown Grocer
A beautiful story by Broadsheet contributor Pilar Mitchell about how Irene and Chi Ching Fu pulled together a plan to save their decades-old business in Sydney’s Chinatown. “The spreadsheet was super manual,” the couple’s daughter-in-law Jen Ng told us in June. “The first column had the item, the second column the price, and people just added a column for themselves, tacking their orders onto the list. People loved it. They loved looking at what others were ordering and the sheet went viral.”
Five Gateway “Hard Pants” to Soften Your Re-Entry to the Workplace
It had to happen eventually – that agonising moment where the lockdown trakkies came off and the “real” clothes come on. “I wore tight jeans for the first time in months recently,” wrote Broadsheet’s Stephanie Vigilante. “Had I missed the jig required to pull them into place? No. The way they tighten around my knees when I bend, or sit, or stretch? Not really. But did I feel a sense of achievement? You betcha.”
Flex Mami Is One of the Most Charismatic Australians on the Internet
Broadsheet subeditor Elissa Goldstein took a deep dive into the career and philosophy of one of Australia’s most fabulous humans, Flex Mami (aka Lillian Ahenkan), and made us fall in love with the prolific DJ, TV presenter, podcaster, designer and entrepreneur a little bit more.
Opinion: This Is What It Feels Like to Live in Melbourne Right Now
Victoria’s second lockdown was long and it was tough. Freelance writer Kate Lancaster captured the mood.
After Being Diagnosed With Breast Cancer, Shannon Martinez Is Fighting Back – And Writing a Cookbook for Fellow Chemo Patients
If you’re a chef and you get cancer, you worry about dying, sure, but you also worry about your tastebuds. “My palate has changed completely,” Shannon Martinez, owner and chef of Fitzroy vegan restaurants Smith & Daughters and Smith & Deli told Dani Valent after she was diagnosed with one of the hardest-to-treat breast cancers. “My mouth feels like it’s burnt and everything tastes different, metallic,” she says. “Wine is disgusting, which is a shame. Chocolate tastes horrible, almost rancid.” Martinez is now writing a cookbook for others going through chemo.
Pillow Forts, Selfies and Naked Chores: Being Single and Living Alone in Lockdown 2.0
Directory editor Callum McDermott thought he could breeze through Victoria’s second lockdown: “‘This will be fine’,” I told myself. ‘You’ve been locked down before, this will be a piece of cake’.” He had a nude stint (“not in a naughty way, more in a sophisticated European because-I-can way”), immediately followed by a “getting dressed with as much panache as possible” run, which involved taking photos every day in a different outfit and position. “‘At the very least,’ I remember thinking, ‘you’ll come out of this with some good photos for the dating apps.’ That was very wrong … I have no idea what I was thinking.” It was a wild ride – and clearly something many other single Melburnians could relate to. Let’s just say McDermott received a lot of DMs from others also feeling the lockdown blues.
In Photos: The Day Melbourne Sprang Gloriously Back Into Action
It was a brilliantly sunny day when photographer Pete Dillon walked the streets capturing Melbourne as it emerged from lockdown 2.0. “It’s been a long, gruelling winter,” begins his commentary. But, he concludes, “We made it. We did the hard yards, and now as a community we’re going to sit in the fresh air and the sunshine and revel in the glory with a drink. Or five.”
The A–Z of 2020: Panic Buying, Side Hustles, Bunnings Snags, Karens, QR Codes and More
Read on for a recap of our annus horribilis, letter by letter. From comfy pants to Tiger King, these 26 entries define the highs, the lows and the – yep, you guessed it – even lower lows of 2020.
The Good, the Babka and the Ugly-Delicious: The Food Trends That Defined 2020
Often the discussion revolves around how food trends shaped the year. This is one of those rare occasions where the year shaped the trends. It’s when carb-loading became the unofficial sport, the party came to suburbia and delivery stopped being a dirty word. And we all ate way too much lasagne.