Chef Aldo Mehmeti: Making The Best Out Of Social Distancing Restrictions
Aldo Mehmeti is the Chef at Marina Bay Luxury Resort & Spa in Vlora, as well as an in-business instructor for the students of the Commercial School in Vlora. For the following interview, we asked him several questions to understand his point of view concerning the pandemic situation.
Q: Chef Aldo, Hospitality and Tourism are not going through the best period. How are you coping with it?
A: At the beginning of the quarantine, we were closed for the first 15 days. We then opened the hotel and over the weekends we had a considerable influx of customers. In Vlora there have been people going to the beach during this time. The restaurant remains closed but we are working with the home delivery service and are receiving orders continuously. To provide the best service, the waiters are delivering the orders. Meanwhile, to entertain guests staying at the hotel, we have organized concerts on the roofs of the villas nearby, with DJs or traditional songs. This has created a pleasant atmosphere for our guests watching the concerts from their room balconies.
Q: How do you see the tourism in Albania this summer?
A: So far, I see it with optimism. We still do not know when the borders will reopen; Italy said it would open its borders in June. However, I think that if paid proper attention to domestic tourism, it will succeed. I compare the current situation with the past before visa liberalization for Albania. Domestic tourism was well-developed at that time and as many restaurants as there were, there was quite the influx of customers. The situation has changed, in recent years many Albanians go abroad on vacation. If the borders remain closed, we Albanians will help each other through domestic tourism. Given that we Albanians spend, consume, and are devoted to pleasure, I think this will work well.
Q: You are an in-business instructor for the students of the Hospitality -Tourism direction of the Commercial School in Vlora. How are the apprenticeships being carried out under such conditions?
A: We are currently holding a cooking contest among the students of the Commercial School, ‘House Kitchen’, which is being broadcasted by a local television station. Students choose the cooking recipes in consultation with the school instructor and myself. Students enter the contest in pairs and at the end of the contest, the winner for the best recipe is announced. This has encouraged students to be optimistic and during this period I have seen many of them being curious about new recipes and demanding towards themselves. Their parents have also played an important role, as the students cook for their families. This contest has made students search online for new recipes, watch cooking shows and constantly ask for my opinion on the dishes they prepare.
Q: Where do you find optimism in this difficult time we are going through?
A: Despite the initial perturbance when this situation started, over time I have become more positive. I have read more during this time, which has been almost impossible for a man like me who never stops working. However, it is necessary to return to normality as soon as possible. Social distancing is the chief enemy for the restaurants, as we have one of the most social jobs. Restaurants can only survive through contacts with people, customers compliments and their satisfaction.