Chef Curtis Stone says anyone who professes to know all the answers in these times is a bit of a fool. And yet, he's determined to be amongst those who survive "the brutal challenges" of the global pandemic, adopting a positive outlook and embracing the "COVID-pivot".
Speaking from Los Angeles, where he has two restaurants, Michelin-starred Maude and Gwen Butcher Shop and Restaurant, Stone relays how he's coped.
"Sure I've pivoted. I've got a Michelin-starred restaurant where the chefs used to stand around with little tweezers in their hands, putting elaborate garnishes and intricate plating details into the food. Now, they're making chicken pot pies and spaghetti bolognese to send to people's homes – because that's what people want."
They also want picnics, if his other ventures are anything to go by.
Last month, Stone opened Picnic Society (a pop-up casual eatery, offering French-style charcuterie, salads, sandwiches, lobster rolls and burgers) at shopping district The Grove in Los Angeles. The former bakery boasts a massive outdoor terrace and provides picnic blankets in case you forget to bring yours.
"The whole purpose of Picnic Society was to encourage people to slow down, sit with people they love and enjoy delicious food and wine. It's perfect for these times, since it's al fresco."
Closer to home, Curtis Stone Events Australia launched just before the pandemic took hold. The catering group is set up to feed the masses at major events and festivals (its first foray into that space in Australia was on site at last year's President's Cup in Melbourne) or create exceptional fare for premieres, festivals, launches or milestone occasions. Currently, it's devising menus for a range of just-launched gourmet picnic hampers.
Included in the Curtis Stone Events home delivery options are the Picnic hamper and the Spring Racing hamper, with charcuterie, panzanella salad, roasted peppers, smoked salmon with salsa verde and pistachio cannoli
Putting together the ideal picnic hamper had Stone reflecting on the joys of picnicking. "My tip is to include foods that are eaten at room temperature for the most part. You don't want to have to rush to eat it all. The whole idea of a picnic is you should be able to graze."
When it comes to picnics - don't forget the cheese. Photo: Supplied
And his picnic must-haves? "Cheese for sure, it's the ultimate picnic food. Also, great breads, charcuterie and delicious dips."
Most importantly, he suggests, bring a magazine or a book and some music. "Plan on it being an all-day affair."
As for 2020 and the significant challenges it presents, Victorian-born Stone often thinks of his Aussie mates, doing it tough and being forced into a new norm, but he's convinced there's a resilience and adaptability that will get everyone through.
"People don't realise how fragile the restaurant business is to begin with. But we're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
"There's a real grit to people working in hospitality and a nurturing quality we all have. We want to take care of people and hope we can do that again soon."
Curtis Stone Events hampers are available online from curtisstoneevents.com (Victoria only).