London-based Max Rocha shares an insight into his life during this coronavirus pandemic-induced lockdown
While we’ve been covering the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of people working within the creative industry – from fashion designers, to artists, photographers and filmmakers – those working within the hospitality industry have been equally affected, if not more so, with the closure of cafes, pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants up and down the country; all until further notice.
For London-based chef Max Rocha, these closures have brought about an abrupt halt to what has been his job – and great passion in life – for the last five years. A chef for Spring, St John Bread and Wine and The River Café in London, Rocha likens his love of cooking to an addiction, so passionate is he about his career.
But while the restaurants may be closed, he has continued to make food: in addition to trying to make the most of the slower pace of life (a stark contrast to the normal pace of life for a chef), he reports to have been spending time cooking the food that he himself wants to cook, as well as supporting local food suppliers, such as butchers and bakers.
Here, exclusively for AnOthermag.com, Rocha shares a series of photos that he has taken of these shopkeepers, and reflects on what the past ten weeks have been like for him.
“Ten weeks ago, as with most of the UK workforce, my normal day-to-day life changed overnight. I received an email from my head chef to say that they were closing until further notice due to Covid-19.
“Since I started cooking professionally five years ago, I haven’t stopped. My journey began by baking in the basement of an amazing French baker, Alex, for free, to working at some of my favourite restaurants in London. It’s been an incredible journey so far, but all-consuming in every aspect of my life. I’ve missed birthdays, gatherings, holidays, fishing trips with my dad, New Year’s Eve parties. I’ve had relationships fail due to my commitment to the kitchen and had many mental breakdowns after and during services, but it’s all been worth it as I’ve found a job that I’m passionate about. Even when I quit a job in a kitchen due to exhaustion, I can’t really relax for a few weeks as I just want to be back in the kitchen. It’s like a drug, I’m addicted to it. I even take paid holiday days to do supper clubs with my friend Tim, which is twice as much work than my day job but we get so much satisfaction from it so we keep pushing on.
“Now however, due to the current crisis, I’ve had no choice but to take some time out. For all chefs lucky enough to get the furlough scheme, it’s been a chance for us to either relax, do ‘pop up’ delivery projects or just gain some contact back with friends and family over the phone. Chefs are a certain breed I find. Extremely different but I fit right in. I’ve tried to use this free time as well as I can. I do suffer from depression, as with so many chefs I’ve realised, so keeping somewhat busy is what I need to do. The smaller things like cleaning my flat, cooking what I really want to cook, running, drawing, supporting local independent businesses like my local butcher and baker and picking up roast duck from the only place still doing it in Chinatown to drop at my dad’s step at least once a week have all kept me sane.
“In the first week of lockdown, I came across a camera I got for Christmas 13 years ago and asked Eoin, my sister’s partner ,about some of the functions because I forgot how to use it. I’ve shot lots of pictures of all those special people risking their lives to serve the community and keep their food businesses afloat. Even just to talk to a shopkeeper helped my mental health during this episode as I’m solo during the lockdown period. If there is one thing I’ve taken from this time off it’s that it’s important to take a step back every now and again and take a bit of time for yourself, especially living and working in a city as busy and competitive as London.”