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The novel coronavirus pandemic created white space with the golden opportunity for chefs to make radical changes that will positively impact their futures. Two weeks ago, I shared a profound story of death, opportunity, and the dawn of a new age which closely parallels our present-day novel coronavirus pandemic. It’s a story about massive upheaval that generated white space and ushered in radical change. The story is pulled from the Chaos Imperative and I think it’s important for chefs so they can understand the impact COVID-19 coronavirus will have on their lives and careers. 

I’m not being grim, chef. Hear me please: You (and your brother and sister chefs) are standing in a world-wide white space unseen in our lifetimes. And NOW is your time.

What is white space and how can chefs harnessed this time to for radical change?

White space is an opening in time that, while often triggered by tragic circumstances, ushers in massive changes and opportunities. White space opens up when so much chaos occurs that nothing is as it once was, and the radical shift clears an open spot for wonderful new things to happen.

white space leads to radical change and opportunity

I am not an historian. This is a general retelling of an example outlined in the Chaos Imperative. The authors set the stage for a perfect white space. They defined three unique, simultaneous, and seemingly unrelated circumstances of the 14th century that created an opportunity for radical change.

  • First – paper was a scarce and expensive commodity.
  • Second – the written word was passed on by priests who worked as scribes and handwrote books which were available only to the most fortunate in society.
  • Third – the Black Death was spreading across Europe and killed upwards of 200 million people.

These three factors seem unrelated, but they are not. As illness spread and the death toll mounted opportunity unfolded because a white space emerged. 

  • Massive amounts of clothing – rags – were left behind from the deceased and these were used to create paper in large quantities. The availability and affordability of paper drastically increased.
  • At the same time the numbers of literate priest scribes plummeted. This is owed to the fact that priests ministered spiritual support and last rights to the general populace making this once-venerated occupation a deadly one. Compared to the approximate 30% fatality rate of the general population, the Black Death killed nearly 60% of the priests!

How does white space create an opportunity for chefs to build their own personal chef business during social distancing from novel coronavirus?  

White space creates a blank canvas for innovation, readiness, and opportunity. According to the authors of the Chaos Imperative, something critical happens in white space: people and lives shift. Their willingness to adopt new things rapidly expands. In the 14th century something that was considered foolish before the Black Death suddenly became ingenious and possible. It was the creation of the printing press. Maybe the stars aligned: paper was plentiful, scribes were not, and a certain inventor was ready to change the world.

Here we are today, in the 21st century, and a few unique, simultaneous, and seemingly unrelated circumstances are unfolding.

Coronavirus creates white space for opportunity for those that are ready
  • First – technology has reshaped our world. In just a few decades it’s changed the way we connect, buy, and live. Technology is reshaping the food and beverage industry, grocery supply chains, food delivery (e.g. Grubhub), and mise en place services (e.g. Hello Fresh).
  • Second – restaurants (and the chefs who work within them) are essentially operating the same way they have for centuries (restaurants are arguably one of human civilization’s oldest social structures falling only behind prostitution and insurance in its various nefarious forms). 
  • Third – the presence and threat of the novel coronavirus is here, and it is radically interrupting the regular routines of every person in the world.

Paying attention yet? New technology + old-school restaurants + widespread virus = white space. These three factors may SEEM unrelated, but they’re NOT. Here’s what’s unfolding in the white space of opportunity as the virus disrupts everything and the world hunkers down in their homes.

  • The advancements and availability of technology is surging. Businesses need to keep running so they are pivoting to create an at-home workforce.
  • Restaurants are struggling to recalibrate. For the immediate future and until social distancing and shelter-in-place restrictions imposed by this pandemic are lifted, dining out remains a threat and close contact with strangers a major health concern. Business as usual is dead.
  • The number of chefs in the world who are employed has plummeted. Restaurants are either closed or have limited operations and the largest number of chefs in history have time on their hands and unemployment checks in their pockets. Conditions could never be more favorable!
Use white space as an invitation to start a private chef business

Chef, this white space is an invitation to create your private chef business. 

These changes, on a global scale, have created an opening for something new for you, chef. That is what white space does. Something once viewed as crazy (what, a printing press?!) is embraced by society and becomes the new norm when chaos shifts the status quo and those who are ready step up.

Chef, your time is now. Radical change is happening now. The worlds of technology, old restaurant models, and the coronavirus are colliding NOW and a great white space is opening up in the world for you.

What three steps can chefs take during novel coronavirus social distancing?

Here’s my prediction. When social distancing restrictions are lifted it will take some time before people are comfortable gathering with strangers. In the meantime, most families are quickly tiring of their limited food repertoire and the task of cooking for themselves. TV dinners aren’t going to cut it. Personal chefs and private chefs have the opportunity to fill that void!

See? I told you I’m not a doomsayer. I’m pointing out a fantastic opportunity for every chef across the nation.

A fantastic opportunity is waiting for chefs

You can wait for your restaurant job to re-emerge. But between now and then a great number of chefs will move back home with their parents, go broke, or file for bankruptcy. Things will not go back to normal.

Instead, chefs who use this down time NOW to pivot and apply their culinary talents to new, exciting, and revolutionary opportunities will be the forerunners of a new culinary world.

Exciting, right?

Do these three things right now:

  1. Map Your Business and get it up and running NOW.
  2. Position yourself as an authority to your ideal clients who want and need the personal services you can provide.
  3. Be ready when the smoke clears, because your career is going to SOAR!

There will be a whole new world when the smoke clears. Chef, will you be ready?

There’s a little more to the story about Black Death. It wasn’t just that the printing press conveniently replaced a dearth of priests and used up an abundance of cloth. Oh no. The printing press revolutionized society in two major ways:

  1. Literacy rates among common citizens soared. That’s right, a bounty of affordable books meant commoners could learn to read!
  2. Vast numbers of books needed to be housed. Not long after books become more widely available a new institution was born. It’s called a library. What?! I know. Totally cool.

Our world was transformed in the white space that  up by chaos. The preparedness and readiness of an inventor changed society as we know it today. That’s why I’m practically screaming at the top of my lungs right now so chefs will step into action and craft a new future and world for themselves and those they serve. One thing won’t change: a human’s desire for the time and convenience they gain when chefs cook for them. Perhaps your personal chef model will be drop-off meals, weekly services, or meal kits. Maybe your private chef model will be in-home dinner parties.

Create a new private chef business during the down time from coronavirus

Whatever it is, you’re standing in the white space of tremendous opportunity for radical change. Start building it now. Don’t wait to see what will happen. Make it happen, chef. Your time is now!