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Chef and owner of ADDA, Shachi Mehra, talks about her life during the pandemic.

Shachi Mehra, chef-owner of ADYA, on her 'new normal'

The fast-casual Indian restaurant with two locations in Southern California is operating only one unit now

As part of our Stories from the Front Lines series, Restaurant Hospitality reached out to restaurateurs to share their experiences during the coronavirus crisis. Here, Shachi Mehra, chef and owner of ADYA in Orange, Calif., shares her story.

It’s 8 a.m. on a recent Monday morning and the Pop-Up Market in Orange, Calif. is already buzzing with our new customers —diners looking for their next shelter-at-home breakfast, lunch or dinner meal.

They snap up bread, pastries, olive oil, sandwiches, stews, coffee, jams and my curries.

I am one of several small business owners who have set up ‘shop’ Monday through Friday at OC Baking Company, an artisan wholesale bread company that, prior to COVID-19, supplied hundreds of independent restaurants in Southern California.

Bakery owner Dean Kim generously opened the Pop-Up Market so friends and colleagues could sell food to the public after dine-in operations ceased. He, like us, is concerned for his own business and the welfare of what’s left of his team.

We spend our time trying to survive, applying for loans, finding grants, thinking outside the box, being positive and hustling. 

ADYA-Chef-Shachi.jpgThis is our new normal.

When the pandemic erupted, I had to close one of my two ADYA locations. It is inside a food hall in Anaheim, Calif.  I had to sit with our team and tell them they should go home and apply for unemployment immediately.

We will be temporarily closed. We still don’t know when we will reopen. 

We focus our energies on our second location in Irvine, Calif.  — pushing take-out and delivery. Luckily, we were already set up for this. We created a Family Meal option that serves four. We are blessed to have amazing loyal guests and we’re now welcoming new ones. 

Selling pre-made curries at the Pop-Up Market supplements our sales at Irvine and helps with morale.

For me, personally, the camaraderie, the feeling of support and real ‘in this together’-ness is important. 

shachi.jpgWe don’t know what the other side of this looks like. There are going to be a lot of changes.  Changes in the way we eat, in the way we shop.  I am trying to think of ways we can have our product in people’s homes without them having to come to the restaurant — packaged sauces and curries.

We, at the pop-up, are adapting as we go, looking to add vendors, sell produce — create a real market. 

The most important thing right now — more important than making money — is to survive and to make it to the other side.

This is part of our Stories from the Front Lines series.

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