Chef Michael Gulotta faces tough choices in reopening his New Orleans restaurants. Photo by Denny Culbert
When the COVID-19 crisis hit New Orleans, star chef Michael Gulotta chose to simply close his places down.
The four-time James Beard Award nominee wanted to protect the health of his staff, and avoid the uncertainty of relying on carry out and delivery at his restaurants, Maypop in New Orleans’ Central Business District, and MoPho, which sits near City Park.
Now, Louisiana is allowing restaurants to re-open, with a variety of restrictions, including limits on the number of guests they can serve at one time, and it is requiring personal protective equipment for front of house and kitchen staff.
However, Gulotta says Maypop will stay closed for now, even though he is a finalist for a Beard Award as Best Chef-South for its upscale Asian fusion menu.
Instead, he is re-opening MoPho for carry out only, and he will serve additional items from a walk up window at Rum & the Lash, which is attached to a nearby Irish bar.
His MoPho outpost at New Orleans International Airport, which opened last fall, is likely to stay closed for at least six to eight more months, he believes.
For Gulotta, frequently seen on the Today Show, the moves mirror the same agonizing decisions that chefs across the United States, and around the world face as they deal with the aftermath of COVID-19.
“It’s going to affect a lot of chefs,” Gulotta says.
Back in business
Gulotta says he is able to restart because he received a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the Small Business Administration.
Owners are allowed to use the money to pay outstanding rent and utilities. After that, the fund are meant to help supplement employee salaries, until businesses are up and running.
“We kind of feel like we have to get moving,” Gulotta says.
MoPho, a casual place with a moderately priced menu, is opening first “because that’s the one that will bring us money,” he says.