Flamant is the type of place where one can, as Thoreau puts it, “live deep and suck all the marrow out of life” … quite literally, in fact. So when a worldwide pandemic shuts down the entire restaurant scene, what is a chef to do? Chef Frederik de Pue of Flamant decided that for him, living deeply during this time meant taking care of his team, feeding the community, and getting creative with his options for guests.
Flamant opened in West Annapolis in 2017, as Chef de Pue says, very deliberately away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Annapolis. His philosophy for Flamant is simple: “We cook what we want to eat ourselves.” The contemporary bistro works with local farmers, starting with the very finest ingredients, then elevating them to something exceptional. Every item on the menu, from sauces to pastries, is made in-house.
When the Pandemic Hit
Chef de Pue’s first thought when the pandemic hit was, “Maybe I’ll have a really long vacation, something I haven’t done in 20 years.” But even a pandemic can’t keep a good chef down. One week after restaurants were ordered to close, Chef de Pue returned to work and started formulating a plan for catering options he could offer.
Part of his plan involved delivering meals, and he floated the idea by emailing 20 of his catering clients. Within an hour, 19 of them responded enthusiastically with their orders.
From there, the options and enthusiasm continued to grow. In April, their croissant sales gained a cult-like following, with lines around the block for the 8 AM sale time. In May, Wednesday Family Pop Ups began, offering a special menu every week for family-shareable take-out options.
From the very beginning of the pandemic, Chef de Pue and Flamant have shown their dedication to the community with donation efforts. In April, they set aside 10% of their sales one week to go towards meals for healthcare workers. Starting in May, they donated hundreds of meals to the West Annapolis Pop Up Pantry. In November, they donated turkeys to Tyler Heights Elementary School for local families. Flamant continues to find ways to support the community, as well as their own team.
Supporting the Team
Anyone who has ever been a server knows the income of the job, largely reliant on tips, is not known for its stability. However, since Flamant re-opened this summer, a 22% service fee (which replaces tipping) allows Flamant to pay their employees competitive, above-market wages. Chef de Pue has noticed guests’ generosity above and beyond: “It’s amazing to see how many people give extra.” He says, “By imposing that gratuity, I might not have as many covers, but there is enough money around to bring all 5 of my waiters and 3 bussers back. They’re all happy to be able to have money when they go home. You can see that they want to work. They prefer to work. We are an industry where people want to come to work.”
Other offerings like the meal deliveries and Wednesday Night Pop Ups are all designed to give his staff the opportunity to work, stay busy, and keep making a living. No delivery service is used—all meal deliveries are made by Flamant team members.
How can we help?
Restaurants recently received an extension and are allowed to remain open for dining indoors at 25%, and outdoors at 50% capacity (if they so choose) through December 28th. While it is everyone’s preference to enjoy the sights, sounds, and socialization of in-person dining (especially Flamant’s gorgeous new covered patio space), there are still ways to support your favorite restaurants! Spend whatever you would spend in the restaurant on carryout. Get carryout to celebrate a special occasion (or just to get through hump day!) Add a cocktail or bottle of wine to your order. And don’t forget to tip as generously as you are able!
Chef De Pue’s advice for those wanting to support restaurants right now is, “Try it all. Do our Pop Up once. Do our delivery once. Go if the restaurant is able to be open. Every single thing matters. Every single bit helps. Just come and help and support, not just us, but all the restaurants around.”