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Tired and ready for his Christmas break, 1921’s Zack Deakins looks back on a ‘phenomenal’ year in more ways than one and celebrates the people behind him

My word, I’m exhausted.

This is my last column of 2021, which inevitably makes me feel like trying to sum up the last 12 months and that was the first thing that came to mind.

The first five months were in lockdown bringing with it all new fears and stresses which I rambled on about at the time, and then since we opened, we have had the busiest period the restaurant has ever seen.

Zack Deakins, chef patron of 1921 Angel Hill (53585139)
Zack Deakins, chef patron of 1921 Angel Hill (53585139)

I would say we are 30-40 per cent busier than we were pre-lockdowns. It has been truly phenomenal. I can’t remember the last time we had a quiet service. Tuesday nights, Thursday lunches. . . you name the shift, they are all buzzing. What I am most pleased with though is how we have got that much busier, but we haven’t sacrificed any quality. If anything, I would say our standards have risen – which, when I think of all the things we have been up against, is absolutely incredible.

The changing and evolving Covid restrictions we have had to deal with are one thing, but there have been a lot more challenges going on behind the scenes as well.

Supplies have been anything but consistent. Many producers took a while to ramp up production post lockdown, this combined with issues with imports has meant we have had to be prepared to change the menu and come up with something new often a couple hours before service starts.

Wine in particular has been a challenge. While a change in wine doesn’t require us to come up with a new dish or do any different mis en place, it does mean you have to be constantly on your toes to know what we do and don’t have or what we can substitute someone’s favourite for if it is unavailable for six weeks.

It’s not just food or wine we have struggled to get a hold of. I needed a new counter fridge for the kitchen. I finally got it this week, I have been trying to source it since July!

We have dealt with all of this and so many other issues while constantly being short staffed. The fact that we have been through a period where we are constantly rushed off our feet but we are doing it with a smaller team than ever before says a lot for the amazing team here at 1921, and really when I think about how to some up 2021, I think how incredibly proud I am of them all.

Big James, Jamie, Aonghas, Little James, Sam, Mel, Riley, Ben and Mark (Mark’s name is actually James, but I couldn’t deal with the confusion of there being another James in the building so I had to rename him. Mark has stuck so well that he now doesn’t realise people are talking to him when they call him James out of work). I am so grateful to you guys for your commitment, passion, hard work and loyalty. I love working alongside you all and your energy gives me the desire to keep pushing even on those days where all I can think is “my word I am exhausted”. Thank you!

There is one more unsung hero that deserves a mention, my wonderful wife Annie. Although she probably won’t want to accept any recognition, she does so much to keep us all going. Whether it’s picking something up from the shop, covering someone’s shift on a Saturday night, making everyone a sausage sandwich, or making people jump (I think this may actually be Annie’s favourite pastime – lying in wait to jump out on one of us when we are least expecting. The other day she made Big James jump so hard he fell off his chair!) She just gives us all that little lift we need sometimes.

That’s how I feel 2021 has been – we have two more exceptionally busy weeks, we will find another gear and push for the finish line. We close for a well-earned break on December 23 for two weeks to recharge, take deep breaths, relax and come back even stronger.

So finally, thank you to all the amazing guests who have come through our doors this year. It really has been a pleasure looking after you and and we hope to see you again in 2022.

All that’s left to say is “2021. . . that’s a wrap.”

Zack Deakins is chef patron of 1921 Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds

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