Bombana in quarantine: do like here in Hong Kong and the crisis will soon be over

The chef self-isolated in England, after visiting his Val Seriana. «In Asia we’re "used" to epidemics. Everyone immediately took the right precautions, so the virus lost its strength...»

01-04-2020
Umberto Bombana at Identità Golose 2017. The gr

Umberto Bombana at Identità Golose 2017. The great chef, originally from Val Seriana – one of the Italian hotspots of the virus – is now in voluntary quarantine in the UK with his children; he’ll soon return to Asia where he lives and works. He shares some words of hope and encouragement for Italy 

Initially published in Italian on March 17th 2020

Umberto Bombana, born in Bergamo in 1963, a total of seven Michelin stars in as many restaurants what with Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Macao – including the famous Otto e Mezzo Bombana in HK, the only Italian tri-starred restaurant abroad – is now self-isolating in his son’s home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in England. He had returned from Asia to his homeland – the Alta Val Seriana – in mid-February, soon before the first case of Coronavirus exploded in our country with the famous patient one in Codogno. An ironic destiny for this great chef whose career and life joins two of the countries hit the hardest at the moment – Italy and China – and who therefore wants to share his point of view on what is happening.

«In Hong Kong all our restaurants are working normally, with the necessary precautions. Authorities never ordered a stop – he explains. – Last week we opened again in Shanghai and Beijing where we had to close for almost two months».

Lots of people, all wearing masks, in the streets of Hong Kong, which had already experienced an epidemic emergency in the days of Sars and now looks like it will soon leave the Coronavirus one behind

Lots of people, all wearing masks, in the streets of Hong Kong, which had already experienced an epidemic emergency in the days of Sars and now looks like it will soon leave the Coronavirus one behind

So the hardest days seem to be left behind: what is the explanation Bombana gives himself? «In China we had already experienced something similar in the past. In a way, we are used to this. People remember well the Sars epidemic of those days, so everyone knows what to do. Citizens immediately started to use masks and sanitizers, they showed an aware collective behaviour which allowed to limit damages greatly», in Hong Kong there were 149 people positive to Coronavirus, in this moment less than 60 are in hospital, «and it’s all people who come from abroad, there are no further cases in town. And we’re speaking of a metropolis of almost 10 million inhabitants... Everyone took the right steps, so almost nobody took even the smallest cold, a proof of how important it is to use the smallest precautions, safeguarding yourself to safeguard others. Hence having masks and sanitizers always with you, wash your hands regularly, keep them in your pockets, don’t touch your face, don’t rub eyes and nose, pay attention to what you touch... Things you already know, but which must be done with attention. Based on what we have experienced in Asia recently this is what I feel recommending».

As we said Bombana had arrived in Italy in mid-February «to take a short break, because as you can imagine we had been through a difficult month. There was also less work than usual, at Otto e Mezzo with a -25%». When the emergency was about to explode in Italy, he moved to Cheltenham, «where my children go to school, Emma is 15 and goes to college, Bartolomeo is 19 and studies at university». Once I landed in the UK from Milan, now two weeks ago, «at the airport they asked me to call a phone number and they told me to stay at home. So this is what I’m doing, waiting to return to Hong Kong once the quarantine is over. In the meantime, I cook for my children, I just got some beautiful soles for dinner. I’m stuck here for many days, I don’t think I have any healthy issues, but I don’t want to take any risk because I want to safeguard those around me, and especially the most vulnerable people».

Bombana describes the situation in England: «it’s calmer than what I saw in Italy. They are safeguarding people over 70, then you all know what Boris Johnson said [we spoke with the chef only hours before the Prime Minister announced a change of strategy]... Nobody was wearing a mask, and I find it a little strange. Bart continues to attend his classes at university, while the private school my daughter attends closed at the end of last week».

 

«I’m originally from Valle Seriana, one of the hotspots of the epidemic. People from my town are experiencing very hard moments. I want to send my thoughts to all the sick people and the old people who are risking their lives. And I want to pay a homage to doctors, nurses, and all the medic and paramedic personnel»

The mind goes to the places that are now going through some dramatic days: «I come from the Alta Valle Seriana – I’m from Clusone, I own a house in Castione della Presolana – and the valley, to the south, close to Nembro and Albino, is one of the hotspots of the crisis. People from my town are experiencing very hard moments. I want to send my thoughts to all the sick people and the old people who are risking their lives. And I want to pay a homage to doctors, nurses, and all the medic and paramedic personnel: they’re doing an incredible and very dangerous job, non-stop. They’re modern heroes. They risk their lives every day: many doctors in China died because of this virus and the threat is always around the corner. They are to be admired and thanked».

Finally, a little optimism: «You moved the Identità Golose congress to July. Well done. You’ll make it. I’m sure that in two-three weeks’ time the epidemics in Italy will start to decrease and already in April a way out will appear in Italy, and then it will all be over. Of course, I’m no expert, but I say so based on my experience in China, and also in Hong Kong where once the first warm pre-spring days arrived the virus lots most of its strength. I am convinced of this, perhaps I’m mistaken but I’d like to send you a message of hope».

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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