Covid-NYC: Eric Bolyard of Compagnie

By Eric Bolyard

By

Eric Bolyard
Chef Eric Bolyard of Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
Chef Eric Bolyard of Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels

FRUSTRATIONS OF A CHEF/OWNER

The food program at Compagnie is very minimal right now. As a chef and business owner, the business side has obviously been the priority, but it’s been frustrating not being able to represent the food program that we’ve been working on for five years.

CHANGING THINGS UP

Moving forward, we need to come up with creative ways to utilize some of the funds/loans. We don't have [an outlet or meaningful way to transition to the takeout/delivery model]. That’s not the perception of Compagnie. It’s not why people come here. So this an opportunity to remarket and get more into pickling, fermenting, and trying to sell seasonal [packaged items]. It won’t make or break us, but it would be a cool way to capitalize on seasonality. People have been cooped up and want to get outside. We can introduce picnic-style offerings, like cheese and charcuterie, and also do some super classic, frozen French-style to-go meals, so people get a sense and reminder of the French/European vibe of Compagnie. 

RESOURCES: HUMANS 

We have to see who on our staff is ready, able, and willing to shy away from unemployment to come back and help us pull this off. There’s just not a whole lot of kitchen work to be done right now. We’re digging deep to figure out the best way to utilize people. 

MAKING CONNECTIONS

Our day to day is more invested in wine deliveries. The effort our core management team has put forth to stay connected to the community is amazing: teaching virtual wine classes, rebooting our wine bootcamp, curating packs, sending email updates... Caleb [Ganzer] and I have been dividing and conquering the wine deliveries. I have a car, so the best value I can offer is taking these fun, curated wine packs and getting them out to people who love and support us. Extending this part of what we do into homes, reminds customers of the integrity of our wine program, and that's the best we can do at the moment. It allows us to still be able to celebrate winemakers as rockstars and to tell their stories. It keeps us connected to our community. For me, it’s really special. I’m finally getting to meet the people that I’ve never gotten to meet before because I was always in the kitchen and not on the guest-facing side. 

DIFFERENT VIBE

During these past couple months, I’ve been doing things I’d normally outsource. This has been a reminder that we can be self-sustained when we need to be. We’ve been stripped of conveniences, and it has forced people to ground themselves and figure things out that they would normally not need to. It’s a beautiful thing, and something I find to be a bit of a silver lining. But it’s also a concern for the restaurant industry, because so many people have realized they can sustain themselves at home, and find some actual recreation and closeness through cooking with their families. Who’s just going to go back to ‘normal,’ and who will continue to follow this road they didn't see before? Everyone can make sourdough now. They have a level of confidence they didn't have before. It’s a weird juxtaposition of being excited for humankind, but also concerned about how this might limit potential business as we transition back. Going out to eat in NYC can be so much about vibe. How much of that dynamic energy can exist in a half-full dining room while maintaining the sterile environment we need to be safe? For cooks, what about the primal nature of working with your hands? How are we going to taste food? It’s the first thing I teach a cook: taste the food three or four times before it goes to the guest (not with the same spoon, obviously). But that’s now going to be a huge challenge. It’s the quality control I’m concerned about. We’re going to hit a bunch of walls as we move through this maze. But we will come out the other side. It’s just going to be a different vibe. 

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