A Chef Who Can’t Smell? Covid Forces Some Creative Solutions


The first thing Tom Ramsey tasted after temporarily losing his ability to taste and smell was a tray of hospital food. For the New Orleans-based executive chef and certified sommelier, who contracted Covid in late January, the dish was sublime.

“I still couldn’t smell anything,” said Mr. Ramsey, who is 55. “But man, the food tasted delicious, fantastic. It was a pork stew with rice,” he recalls. “It gave me a new appreciation of taste.”

Consider that Mr. Ramsey usually taste tests dishes daily, such as duck confit crepinette (“orange zest, local exotic mushrooms, citrus gremolata in a roasted red pepper vinaigrette”), an appetizer at Atchafalaya, a white-tablecloth restaurant where he is chef and often recommends accompanying wines. He was optimistic. But after release from the hospital, his palate again diminished.

Mr. Ramsey wasn’t ready to give up. The concept of “hell” for chefs and sommeliers is taste and smell loss. Palate-deprivation for them is akin to a musician losing his hearing.

Some chefs and sommeliers who found their taste and smell diminished from Covid are developing their own creative workarounds and coming up with ideas to resuscitate their senses.

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