In trying times, it can feel like the silver lining is nowhere to be seen, and in 2020 that feeling became a reality at times. This year we have all faced extreme challenges, from being separated from our loved ones, financial stresses and job insecurities and a general sense of uncertainty for what is to come.

On the flipside, 2020 has also taught us some great lessons, sparked newfound appreciations (not just for the value of toilet paper and a good bottle of hand sanitiser) and highlighted opportunities for personal growth. So, just in time for Thanksgiving, we asked our team to share the silver linings that they are thankful for…

Syed Asim Hussain – Founder, Black Sheep Restaurants

At the start of the year, if you had asked me what the worst thing that could happen to me would be, I would have said getting COVID-19…and then the worst became a reality. I experienced a loss in my family that forced me to travel and upon my return to Hong Kong, I tested positive and was taken straight to the hospital. I can honestly say that, while it has been really difficult and I am still feeling the aftereffects, being stuck in hospital was the first real break I have had in more than eight years. When you are not all-consumed by work, like many of us Hong Kongers are, you are forced to look inside, take stock and figure out what truly matters – I know it is not time I would have given myself ordinarily. I am thankful that sometimes when the worst happens, while it is not what you want, it can be exactly what you need.

Chef Josh Stumbaugh – Associazione Chianti

I am thankful that this year has shown me that I can grow as a leader and build a stronger core team through the struggles and adversity we were forced to face together, a true silver lining I did not expect from 2020. I am grateful to have a community who show up to fight the good fight, day in and day out. The support we have shown each other has brought us together in a way that wouldn’t be possible outside of this year. Even when things seemed at their worst, we were able to get through it by having each other’s backs and for that I am grateful. Most of all, I am thankful that I was able to be a pillar of support for people when they felt overwhelmed because who of us didn’t?

Chef Karys Logue – Butter

For me, COVID-19 meant more home cooking than ever before. I enjoyed having the time to cook with my partner, exploring new alternative ingredients, and teaching ourselves to craft new dishes from scratch that we hadn’t endeavoured upon before. 2020 has seen us wrapping dumplings by hand, marinating and baking tofu, stir-frying colourful Pad Thai, simmering fragrant curries, folding rice paper rolls, and tossing together a rainbow of salads. It has been a joy to expand our list of ‘usual’ dinners and learn new techniques along the way, ones that we will take forward with us.

Chef Jowett Yu – Ho Lee Fook

While it was sad to close the doors early at Ho Lee Fook, the silver lining for me was that, for the first time in a very long time, I made it home to tuck my son into bed and read him a bedtime story. Once Otto was down, my wife and I chatted over dinner and a bottle of wine on the couch before getting an early night – we got to do “normal” home-life adult things. As a chef, I have never had so much sleep in my life, and gosh I needed it!

Chef Billy Otis – Taqueria Super Macho

This year has taught me so much about life and myself. As people in the restaurant business, we struggle with downtime, it’s tough to know what to do with yourself when you’re always full steam ahead. When regulations got tight, we used the time to educate ourselves, delve into the stories and origins of our cuisines and reignite that inspiration all over again. As a result, we now have exciting new ceviches, seasonal seafood tacos and kick-ass tostadas popping up on our weekly specials menu at Taqueria Super Macho, a delicious silver lining if you ask me.

Jonathan Leung – Black Sheep Restaurants

This year, the biggest lesson I learned was the importance of a strong support network. They say a problem shared is a problem halved, and even if you’re not naturally a sharer (which I am definitely not!), having that network has helped me cope with a tenuous year like this one. I have never been more thankful to be part of a resilient team.

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