Matt Kettmann, Santa Barbara’s most respected food and wine writer, has transformed his beat amid the coronavirus to cover the brutal economic impacts of the crisis on the local restaurant scene and hospitality and tourism industries.
Along with chronicling the toll on the hundreds of restaurants and bars, dozens of tasting rooms and thousands of culinary employees in the city and region, he’s also found some glimmers of hope — from the distilled spirits operation that now makes hand sanitizer to his recent terrific cover story, “Network of Nutrition,” which details how restaurateurs have partnered with nonprofits to feed those in need while keeping their workers employed and maintaining the requisite supply chains to keep their businesses alive.
The Indy’s senior editor, who’s been with the paper for two decades, checked in via Zoom to talk about his reporting, conversations and interviews with business owners, vintners, grocery workers, brewers, distillers, and others in the scene, including nonprofit leaders working to provide food for the homeless, vets, and hungry kids, as everyone struggles to navigate and survive the sweeping effects of the pandemic on the community.
Offering a preview of next week’s cover story — working title “Restaurant Reopening Reality Check” — Kettmann also offers his take on Governor Newsom’s new guidelines for letting restaurants reopen, and for foodies and connoisseurs to resume their sensory and palette explorations. He said that many restaurant owners, especially those who applied for and received a small business loan under one of the federal rescue packages, are hanging on hopefully for the opportunity to reopen — while greatly fearing the potential repercussions if a next wave of COVID-19 forces them to close a second time.
A second wave “would be the death knell,” for much of the Santa Barbara dining scene, he said.