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Features & Profiles

17 Sep 2020
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For more than a half-century, Lord Fletcher’s has stood as a landmark on Highway 111—so it was with great sadness that we learned in August that the restaurant would not reopen. It was especially sad for me—because I worked there, and I had grown rather fond of the place. Lord Fletcher’s had always closed for summer, but COVID-19 meant the closure happened extra-early this year, in March. The scheduled reopening in September seemed more and more unlikely the closer it got, but the expectation was still when rather than if. Michael Fletcher, the owner, reached out to the staff a few days before the story hit the news. Around the restaurant, we’d heard quiet rumors that the family was open to offers. That made sense; Michael is in his 60s, and there was no apparent succession in place. He did mention a couple of factors privately, but I’ll just say…
19 Aug 2020
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COVID-19 has created a great deal of pessimism in the restaurant industry, for good reason—but Andie Hubka has a positive attitude, and is finding a purpose for every proverbial lemon that life gives. Hubka has opened four food concepts since 2008, conveniently divided between two sets of adjoining units, in La Quinta and Indio. It started with Cooking With Class, a recreational cooking school, before expanding to Cork and Fork, Heirloom Craft Kitchen, and Tu Madres Cantina and Grill. All of her concepts center around fresh, local ingredients with modern, creative flair. They’ve established Hubka as one the valley’s most reputable and recognizable chefs. She’s been going virtually non-stop for 12 years, and Hubka planned to take a break after opening Tu Madres in December. Unfortunately, COVID-19 had other ideas. She limited her restaurants to takeout a week before the governor’s official orders. “Some restaurants had to close suddenly, then…
10 Jul 2020
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In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the creation of the Great Plates Delivered program, which had two goals in the midst of the COVID-19 shut-down order: feeding local seniors in need, and keeping restaurant workers employed. Since then, the program has done both of those things. According to Riverside County spokesman Jose Arballo Jr., as of July 9, some 2,899 people have received 302,046 meals—three per day, seven days per week—from 51 restaurants employing 897 staffers countywide (not counting the cities of Perris, Moreno Valley and Rancho Mirage, which are administering the program themselves). In the Coachella Valley (except for Rancho Mirage), Arballo said, 859 participants have received meals from 19 restaurants. In Rancho Mirage, 168 seniors from at least nine restaurants were receiving meals as of June 10, according to the city. For Willie Rhine, the co-owner of Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, participating in the program was a no-brainer,…
27 Apr 2020
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Selling takeout meals—with a side of hand sanitizer. Cooking for the health-care professionals who are fighting COVID-19. Or just hunkering down and waiting for it to be over. These are a few of the strategies being employed by Coachella Valley restaurateurs since March 19, when Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the stay-at-home order that has shut down all but the most essential businesses in the state of California. Before Kurt Gardner’s Rancho Mirage bar and restaurant, Dringk, was shuttered for in-house service, Gardner had 33 employees. Today, he’s down to four. They, along with Gardner and his wife, are running a skeleton takeout business six days a week. Gardner says he and his wife are at Dringk “literally 18 hours a day,” assembling what he calls “family-style large-format meals.” Dringk’s poké rice bowls and chicken-and-peach pizzas have been replaced by disposable foil pans of comfort food: beef Stroganoff, pasta bakes and…

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