Chef Dan Wecker has seen a lot in the 30+ years he's been the executive chef and co-owner of the Elkridge Furnace Inn.
But this pandemic may be the most surprising and hardest of them all.
"It’s been a challenge, probably the biggest challenge of my career," he said.
Wecker said they've made adjustments at the restaurant to make customers and staff feel as safe as possible, from masks and PPE to creating a large, enclosed outdoor dining area. He says they've slowly seen more customers coming back and he's hoping the first Maryland Restaurant Week will bring in even more diners.
"We want to participate because we want people to see what it is we’re doing, how we are dealing with COVID and how we are staying local with what we’re doing," Wecker said.
Normally counties and Baltimore City hold their own bi-yearly restaurant week events. But the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a major toll financially on the bar and restaurant industry so the Restaurant Association of Maryland (RAM) decided to hold a statewide restaurant week to drum up support.
Marshall Weston, the president and CEO of RAM, said he's concerned about what is going to happen as the weather turns cooler and outdoor dining is no longer a viable option, especially if restaurants are still under capacity limits.
"The model can vary but most restaurants really struggle with a less than 50 percent capacity," said Weston, "So that’s why it’s so important moving forward that restaurants are able to increase their capacity in order to make it to the end of this year, not close permanently and hopefully get on the other side of this pandemic."
Maryland Restaurant Week not only benefits bars and restaurants but the farmers and watermen who supply them with locally sourced food.
Mark Powell, the chief of marketing for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, says the agriculture and seafood industries have felt the ripple effects of restaurants initially shutting down and now being limited in capacity. Powell said it's one reason why the department is sponsoring Maryland Restaurant Week.
"As consumers in this environment, the more we can think about fellow Marylanders and buy local, the better off they are," he said. "Anything we can do to support the restaurants in the state of Maryland is going to help our seafood industry and our agriculture."
Maryland Restaurant Week runs from September 18-27. Go to the website to see the participating restaurants, search by county and see the specials some are offering during the event.