Turning Tables: An Inside Look At How Restaurants Are Recovering After Hurricanes Michael, Irma

Posted: Oct 28, 2018

Blanchards in Anguilla is reopening after a year shut due to Irma, and we speak with restaurateurs in Florida affected by Hurricane Michael. Plus, a Los Angeles opening from chef Daniel Patterson

Blanchards Reopens Over a Year After Hurricane Irma

"When we first saw the damage, we were speechless," Blanchards chef and owner Melinda Blanchard recalls of Hurricane Irma's impact on the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner in Anguilla in September 2017. After being closed for over a year, the restaurant will reopen Nov. 5.

Repairs to the restaurant were put on hold for a few months after the disaster as the space became a relief center for hurricane victims; the team also raised $750,000 for the island's recovery efforts. Focus soon turned to the renovation of the restaurant, including the development of a new food menu and the construction of a new patio. The wine cellar was unscathed and Blanchards will maintain its 440-selection list, with strengths in California and France.

"Once we started rebuilding, we used as many of our team members as possible," Blanchard said, stressing the need to keep people employed. "Restaurant managers, cooks and servers turned into carpenters and painters. We rotated some of the staff to cook lunch for the construction crew. Everyone worked hard and made it all come together."—B.G.

How Are Florida Restaurants Coping After Hurricane Michael?

Just over a year after Hurricane Irma tore through the Caribbean and Florida, the state is once again recovering from a devastating blow. Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Fla., Oct. 10 as a category 4; it was the strongest recorded hurricane to hit the Panhandle. Many victims are still without food, power or water; the death toll has reached at least 39 overall—29 in Florida—with dozens still missing.

"I have honestly never seen anything quite like the destruction and havoc that ensued there," Cuvee Kitchen + Wine Bar general manager Zach Bingham said of Panama City, one of the hardest hit areas, and where he traveled to the week of the hurricane.

Bingham's restaurant was one of many in the area that aided those in need. Cuvee Kitchen + Wine Bar became a collection point for donations, from toothbrushes and soap to food and clothing. Capt. Anderson's Restaurant & Waterfront Market in Panama City Beach dispensed several thousand cases of water and ice in the week following the storm.

Jim Shirley, owner of Great Southern Café, the Bay and 45 Central Square in Santa Rosa Beach, set up a mobile kitchen in Port St. Joe. Volunteers and local eateries like Stinky's Fish Camp and Bud and Ally's have helped Shirley's team feed 1,500 people per day—"just a drop in the bucket," he said.

Even restaurateurs whose businesses were severely damaged are looking for ways to help, like Dave Trepanier, owner of Firefly in Panama City Beach. The restaurant's roof fell through during the hurricane, flooding the space with about 2 inches of water. Many of its staff members live in Panama City; several of them lost everything, and Trepanier still hasn't heard from some.

"When you see it happen in your own neighborhood, to your own friends and your own family, it's pretty devastating," Trepanier told Wine Spectator. While his priority is helping his 60 employees get back on their feet, Trepanier has also been contributing to relief efforts. Immediately after the storm, he donated meals made from the $40,000's worth of food left in the restaurant.

"It's going to be what it's going to be for a while," said Trepanier of his restaurant, which will be closed for at least two months for repairs. "So it's about how can I help other people."

Restaurants west of Panama City missed the brunt of the storm and generally went untouched. Restaurant Award winners Skopelos at New World and McGuire's Irish Pub in Pensacola, Bijoux in Miramar Beach, Cuvee 30A in Inlet Beach and Edward's in Rosemary Beach all reopened within a week after Hurricane Michael made landfall.—J.H.

By Julie Harans, Brianne Garrett
October 25, 2018
Source and complete article: Winespectator.com

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