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'A sinking ship': Guy Fieri's new documentary shines light on struggling restaurants

"Restaurant Hustle 2020: All on the Line" follows four chefs and restaurant owners through the pandemic.
/ Source: TODAY

As the coronavirus pandemic continues across the country, the restaurant industry is being hit particularly hard: Thousands of establishments have shut their doors, leaving employees out of a job and dashing plenty of dreams.

Amid the devastation, some notable names are trying to keep workers and establishments afloat. Guy Fieri worked with the Food Network and culinary colleagues like Marcus Samuelsson to create "Restaurant Hustle 2020: All on the Line," a documentary aimed at shining a light on the struggles the restaurant industry faces.

The documentary follows four chefs and business owners who describe the impact of the pandemic in their own words. One chef, Antonia Lofaso, said that she spent a decade building her career only to see it all disappear.

Antonia Lofaso and her restaurant team are among those featured in the documentary. The Food Network

"It's taken me ten years to build these three restaurants, and it took a matter of a week for it all to be torn down," Lofaso says in the documentary.

Fieri compared the situation to being on a "sinking ship" and said that it had been extremely hard to produce the documentary.

"It was a very trying time to listen to your friends that you love and respect and see them go through this, up and down, that you couldn't do anything about," he told NBC's Joe Fryer.

Samuelsson, a chef who works with World Central Kitchen to help struggling restaurants, said that the team "figured out how to tell a raw, authentic, honest story," and told Fryer that he wanted to take part of the documentary to support his community.

"We needed to share this," he said. " … If we all collectively need something this year, it's to come together. If we, as chefs together with Guy's team, can kind of show, as a country, 'Let's come together, it's not about being a Republican, it's not about being a Democrat, stop,' we're going to get out of this. We have to heal, and we need each other."

Samuelsson added that, despite the promise of a vaccine, restaurants will still face a long road to recovery.

"It's going to be, 'How do we rebuild?'" he said. "We don't know what a restaurant (in) 2021, 2022, is going to look like. We know that we want to be social, we know we need engagement. We all need a huge and we need to be loved … but many habits from our customers have already changed, so the model of restaurant has to also change."

Samuelsson distributes meals during the pandemic.The Food Network

Maneet Chauhan, another chef featured in the documentary, says in the film that the situation is "frightening," but she has hope for a better future.

"I hope we get out of this stronger," she says, through tears. "I keep convincing myself that we will."

Fieri, who has raised millions of dollars for workers in the restaurant industry, said he hopes the industry can come together to create that future.

"We will beat these situations and we will prevail through them, unified," he said. "Divided, we don't. We don't. The efficiency goes down, not by 50%, but exponentially. Unification, supporting one another, tackling issues head-on, resolving them: That's what we need to be doing."

"Restaurant Hustle 2020: All on the Line" will premiere on the Food Network on Dec. 27 at 9:00 p.m. EST.

Joshua Janiak contributed.