Martina Kömpel: cooking and cooperating!
Strengthening links and solidarity.
Covid-19: Interview with Martina Kömpel, owner and Chef of Les Contes de Bruyères, a hotel and restaurant in Servières-le-Château en Corrèze, in south-west France and host of a cooking show on German television.
Martina Kömpel, when we published an article on you in November 2018 in the Les vergers Boiron newsletter, you had already opened your restaurant and were launching your hotel, Les Contes de Bruyères in Servières-le-Château en Corrèze, in south-west France and, on top of that, you were hosting a cooking show on German television, while working as a Consultant for Les vergers Boiron. With the Covid-19 crisis, you were heavily affected since all your activities came to a standstill or were greatly reduced. How did you manage to get through all of this?
To begin with, it’s not in my nature to feel sorry about myself. No one was spared during this pandemic and many more people suffered more than I did, whether we are talking about health issues or economic difficulties. As I tend to say, “we were all embroiled in this crisis” in a different way. The closure of the restaurant was obviously a harsh blow, from a business standpoint, but above all it was a cultural shock since our restaurant was a place for people to get together and enjoy themselves in our small town. I told myself, without any hesitation, that we had to get on with it, to find practical and human solutions. The first thing we did, quite naturally, was to deliver meals to people in their homes. That’s something we were already doing, as part of our work with the town authorities, to serve meals to elderly or isolated people. We thus extended this service to a wider area and this allowed us to maintain a link with our local customers. On top of that, a Parisian family of eight people, who took refuge in Servières, asked us to deliver a full meal to their homes twice a week, which was obviously a great boost for our business, but also a great gesture of solidarity on their part and the beginning of a new relationship between us.
Do you have any other examples of how your relationship to those around you changed?
Yes, indeed. In the town center, we have very good French-fry and fast-food takeout managed by a Belgian colleague. We provided him with daily dishes from our kichens so that he could extend his offer during lockdown. We became closer and I discovered that he was passionate about cooking. In the future, when I go to Germany to host my TV show, he will take over my restaurant kitchen and will thus be able to cook the way he has always dreamed of and continue to serve our customers, without interruption in our business.
You also have an apprentice. How has this situation affected him?
He completed his training course during the lockdown, but given the limitations, he couldn’t do the hands-on part of his final training and I’m concerned that the people who get their cooking degrees in 2020 will be penalized. We thus decided to keep him on as an apprentice for another year so he can complete his training in a real working environment.
And the future?
We are gradually getting back to business as usual. We’re currently opening our restaurant, we have quite a lot of reservations for our six hotel rooms for this summer and I will begin to do my cooking show, ARD Buffet on July 7th in Germany. This period, despite the difficulties, gave me the opportunity to think, to question my assumptions, to create new stronger relations with people, to become more integrated in my community. We’ve now understood that solidarity is more important than consuming. We will come out of this stronger and more human.