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Restaurants In France Are Reopening After Coronavirus Lockdown


In France, restaurants are beginning to reopen this week. They've been closed for more than two months because of the coronavirus. This is a country, of course, where food is central to the culture, and so this moment could not have come soon enough. Here's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley from Paris.



ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Since restaurants in Paris were allowed to reopen with outdoor seating, it seems every sidewalk cafe here is filled with diners relishing their newfound freedom. Tom Demettre had joined a group of friends for dinner under the red awning of his neighborhood restaurant, Le Gourmand.

TOM DEMETTRE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "We've been waiting for this," Demettre says. "We had to stay away for two months." He adds that, for Parisians who don't have yards or gardens, outdoor cafes are essential. When French restaurants were forced to close on March 15, some switched to takeout. That was easy enough for those serving burgers or crepes. But if you're a Michelin-star chef?

(Speaking French).

GUY SAVOY: Ah, thank you, OK.

BEARDSLEY: Guy Savoy has a three Michelin stars and is among the world's most celebrated chefs. But on this day, he's wearing a face mask instead of a chef's hat. Savoy's four Paris restaurants are still empty because he has no outdoor seating. But his kitchens are starting to hum again.

SAVOY: (Through interpreter) I was in a total malaise and felt so helpless. I knew I had to get it back into action.

BEARDSLEY: When France came out of lockdown on May 11, Savoy says he did the unthinkable. He began preparing takeout orders. While it's not profitable, it has at least let him bring back part of his staff, reassure his suppliers and most importantly, keep a link with his customers.


BEARDSLEY: Virginie de Beauchamp is one of those customers. She was thrilled to be able to serve Savoy's signature artichoke soup with truffles at her husband's birthday dinner at home. But it wasn't the same as eating at Savoy's restaurant, which she calls a festive, special moment.



BEARDSLEY: Prime Minister Edouard Philippe gave the go-ahead for French restaurants to open, as long as tables are kept 3 feet apart. And if you get up from your table, you must put on a face mask.



PHILLIPE ETCHEBEST: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Another star chef, Philippe Etchebest, told an interviewer that the continued ban on inside dining in Paris unfairly penalizes restaurants with no outdoor seating. And, he said, having to keep tables a meter apart will push many tiny bistros out of business. Some analysts estimate a quarter of the country's 160,000 restaurants will not make it. But Guy Savoy says many will adapt and survive.

SAVOY: (Through interpreter) It's here in France that the art of living around the table was born - from the neighborhood bistro, to the outdoor cafe, to the gastronomic temple where you celebrate an important occasion.

BEARDSLEY: All that will come back just the way it was, says Savoy, as soon as this virus disappears. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.