For nutritionist Themis Chryssidis and cooking identity Callum Hann, letting go of the majority of their workforce — about 30 staff — was the most difficult moment of their careers since founding Sprout Cooking School in 2011.
When Coronavirus restrictions came into effect, Sprout’s catering service, corporate training and health studio were brought to a standstill.
“Ninety-nine per cent of our business became non-existent overnight,” Chryssidis says.
Sprout had recently become accredited to train businesses in dietary requirements, in addition to hosting dinners, providing nutrition services, and running cooking demonstrations at major events.
“These are not just employees, but people who have built the business with us,” Chryssidis says of the team. “We were able to offer JobKeeper to some who were eligible, but to have to say to them ‘sorry’ was just the hardest thing ever.
“It’s not something I ever want to have to do again.”
In the meantime, Sprout has pivoted to create a virtual platform of cooking classes, allowing budding home cooks to follow along in their own kitchen as Chryssidis and Hann deliver step-by-step videos of more than 40 different recipes.
In the first month of Sprout at Home, almost 400 people cooked an online recipe.
“We wanted people to get cooking, and it’s worked,” Chryssidis says.
“Our team has come together and taken an idea to reality in a matter of two or three weeks. With online instructional videos that are quite user-friendly and good value for the consumer, they’ve done a really good job.”
Classes start from $5 and ingredients can be purchased for as little as $8 per serving. Participants can purchase the recipe videos and save them to watch again as many times as they like. Sprout at Home will soon release another 50 tutorial videos for winter.
The online classes are split into four categories: Kids, Apprentice, Sous Chef and Head Chef. Apprentice dishes for less-experienced cooks include curries and pasta, while those more confident can tackle Head Chef dishes such as Spanish chargrilled octopus.
“We hope to help inspire many more South Australians to get in the kitchen and prepare fresh, seasonal recipes for their friends and family and we hope to spread the word around the country, too,” Chryssidis says.
“I have viewed this as a necessary step backward and now we will be taking two steps forwards.”
As social distancing restrictions ease, the business will re-hire its staff and is looking to increase its workforce.
Sprout has also released webinars designed to help people with advice for overcoming the challenges of isolation and working from home. With his qualifications in psychology, fitness and nutrition, and dietetics, Chryssidis is passionate about helping people to stay physically and mentally healthy during the pandemic.
“A strong focus on eating lots of fresh, seasonal produce, making sure you drink lots of water, making sure you sleep, get exercise and keep communicating with people, is really important.”
Going forward, clear dates and guidelines surrounding the lifting of restrictions are key for small and medium businesses in the hospitality industry.
“If we have a plan that’s really clear and well-communicated, business owners can plan for their staff and strategise business goals — that’s really important for this next phase,” Chryssidis says.
Help our journalists uncover the facts
In times like these InDaily provides valuable, local independent journalism in South Australia. As a news organisation it offers an alternative to The Advertiser, a different voice and a closer look at what is happening in our city and state for free. Any contribution to help fund our work is appreciated. Please click below to donate to InDaily.