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Out-of-work chef brings strangers together to cook beautiful meals on Zoom | Until Further Notice

CBC Docs CBC Docs

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Published 8 months ago

With his industry on lockdown and no end in sight, Toronto chef Luke Donato tries to keep his culinary passion alive during the COVID-19 pandemic — even if it means teaching a group of misfits online. #CBCShortDocs #UntilFurtherNotice

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It’s Friday at 4:50 p.m., five months into lockdown. “Zoom” has become a verb, as millions continue to socially distance and self-isolate. Unemployed top Toronto chef Luke Donato logs into Zoom 10 minutes early to prepare for the weekly interactive cooking class he teaches.

When a state of emergency was declared in Ontario in March 2020, non-essential businesses started locking up — and that included dine-in restaurants. Across Canada, an estimated 800,000 food service jobs were lost or had their hours reduced to zero between March and April 2020. More than 300,000 of those jobs were in Ontario alone. And around 50 per cent of independent restaurants don't expect to survive the COVID-19 pandemic if they don’t receive continued government assistance .

For over 18 years Donato’s identity has been shaped by the bustling restaurant industry. But what happens when what you know and identify with is suddenly taken away? Who are you then? With all the uncertainty, layoffs and the possibility of half of Canada’s restaurant industry disappearing, he questions where and how to find meaning again.

Until Further Notice is a story about identity, purpose and the power of our collective experience, told by Donato and his amateur chefs — friends, family and strangers from different time zones and cultural backgrounds. Some have never used a whisk before, and others still don’t know how to mute themselves on Zoom. But many are there to find a sense of normalcy, a routine and connection.

Through Chef Luke’s love for cooking, we explore the memories elicited by food and the solace it brings us during this time. Until Further Notice documents a unique moment, when we are collectively experiencing a sense of loss. And yet, though his students are following the same recipe at the same time, taught by the same chef, each dish comes out slightly different.

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