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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Cloud Kitchens: Divesh Aswani, Commis Station

Wine & Dine

Textual content and Images by Mallika Chandra.

Divesh Aswani, 33
Commis Station
Location: Mahim
Speciality: Baked items, kitchen staples, condiments, confectionery, ice lotions

What led you to start out Commis Station?
I used to be 70 per cent down the road with my analysis and improvement for a restaurant when COVID-19 hit. The one factor that had been left to do was to discover a area. So, a yr after the lockdown, I sort of simply broke the menu down into its fundamental parts and determined to take off. The one mannequin that appeared to work on the time was the supply mannequin.

What was the idea of the unique restaurant?
It was going to be a really informal area with no particular theme. A spot the place you can get a very good bowl of pasta, a pleasant noodle soup, roast hen or sandwich.

And was that the sort of meals that you simply had been making even earlier than you ventured out by yourself?
I left Mumbai once I was 17 and I had the luxurious and the chance to coach at Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney. Throughout that course, I used to be working part-time. I lived in Australia for 10 years and labored at completely different cafes serving numerous cuisines. That’s the place I picked up most of my cooking type from. I additionally ate out rather a lot which sort of outlined how I cooked. Australia being a melting pot of cultures, there’s rather a lot on supply by way of meals and that simply opened me up creatively.

In order that variety of delicacies has been carried into Commis Station?
It’s mainly what cooks would now outline as trendy Australian delicacies. They’ve taken influences from completely different sorts of cuisines and put it collectively as parts on the menu. I like which you can go to a restaurant as a household of 4 the place a baby may desire a noodle soup, the mom may desire a sandwich or a salad or a recent pasta and so forth. I wished to create an area the place there’s one thing for everybody, actually.

The title Commis Station itself is a nod to skilled kitchen constructions. An attention-grabbing selection as a substitute of one thing extra associated to your product. What was the thought there?
There was a variety of thought behind the title. Primarily, a commis is probably the most junior particular person within the kitchen hierarchy. The primary position which you can apply for within the kitchen is that of a commis and then you definately climb up the ranks.

Following that hierarchy, the thought was to inform our shoppers and company that we’re your commis cooks. Everybody was cooking throughout COVID-19, however they didn’t essentially need to make recent noodles or baos or gyoza wrappers. We wished to be the place the place folks would attain out and say, “I really feel like consuming burgers tonight, what are you able to do for me?” And we’d say, “We are able to ship you the buns, the BBQ sauce, the pickled cucumber, the hand-cut fries and also you simply must put it collectively.”

In our emblem, you’ll see the stripes on the lettering. The stripes resemble these on the aprons that commis cooks would put on again within the day. The commis station is the place all of the mise en place will get accomplished. So mainly, the commis station by no means stops. Even throughout service, they’re doing last-minute prep jobs and ensuring that the kitchen is totally able to serve.

Why supply simplified gourmand? What gaps are you filling?
The thought could be very easy. We use our talent set and supply one thing that can’t be simply achieved at residence. Folks realized rather a lot about cooking throughout COVID-19, however even then, they wanted to get staples and condiments. For those who have a look at our sauce vary, we began with one thing acquainted — a Sichuan sauce. One in all our top-selling dips is the Lebanese garlic unfold, which is basically a toum however we add confit garlic to it to present it our twist. Every thing needed to be elevated, recent and one thing that can’t be made or replicated simply at residence. It’s a fixed battle to do issues that different folks aren’t doing.

I used to be stunned to see how quick a time it took for a product to get produced from scratch and get packed within the field.
Sure, however that does backfire typically. For example, folks wish to eat bagels for breakfast. However we begin our shift at 8 am and by the point it’s prepared, it’s like 10 or 11 am and by the point it reaches them, it’s midday. However it is very important me to create a really comfy work atmosphere for the crew. It was troublesome once we began as a result of we didn’t know the way a lot we’d promote. Now we’re virtually sure that we’re going to promote X variety of sauces each week so these could be made in small batches. And we’re fairly vocal concerning the issues that we make in small batches, issues which are made-to-order, issues that want 48 hours’ discover. It tastes completely different when it’s recent. Versus any fancy restaurant within the metropolis, which can nonetheless be serving parts that didn’t promote the day earlier than.

How did you go about organising your operations and area?
Powerful! It was very powerful. I don’t even need to take into consideration these days. Every thing that would have gone incorrect went incorrect. You sort of have to only be prepared for it. We confronted a variety of points from licensing to water to the builders not exhibiting up, and we have been constructing throughout COVID-19!

I used to be scouting for offers throughout city as a result of so many locations have been shutting down. So, I used to be looking for a espresso machine from one place, selecting up somebody’s cabinets from one other a part of city, a second-hand oven from someplace else. It was simply full-on hustle mode.

Nevertheless it was a labour of affection and clearly we needed to be very cautious with what we spent. I wasn’t positive whether or not this was going to take off. Thankfully, issues labored out and Commis Station has been rising each by way of the companies we provide and the enterprise that we are able to tackle.

How do you handle to continue to grow?
It actually helps to have a really sturdy crew. My crew has supported my selections and backed me up with the lengthy hours, when wanted, or tailored to serving at catering gigs we tackle on the final minute. I attempt to lead by instance. I’m very happy with the truth that I’m all the time the primary one in and the final one out, I’m very hands-on and that’s central in maintaining the morale of the crew up.

The truth that I communicate to all my clients and take their orders additionally helps. I really feel that individuals have gotten so used to ordering on apps that they’ve forgotten the old-fashioned means of ordering meals by calling an area restaurant man and asking what was obtainable that evening. I’ve this group of choose shoppers who simply randomly decide up the telephone once they don’t actually really feel like cooking and say, “Are you able to type me out tonight?” And I feel that’s a really good a part of the enterprise. I’ve constructed very sturdy relationships with my shoppers, a few of whom have even invited me over to their properties for particular events!

It should take time to take care of these sturdy relationships. Do you’re taking out time to give attention to advertising and social media?
It’s not as properly deliberate or designed as you might assume it might be. Whenever you’re an entrepreneur and also you’re hands-on and also you’re cooking, managing a crew, doing gross sales and speaking to clients, you simply search for that five-minute hole and also you leap on Instagram and submit no matter is being accomplished. Generally, I’ll be strolling by a pile of bread and assume that it appears to be like nice. And I’ll submit that. A variety of it’s simply very spontaneous and really unplanned and I feel that’s what makes it stand out. It’s natural and never staged.

On condition that your providing is a lot about being chef-driven and elevating staples, do you’re feeling just like the enterprise is intently tied to your persona as a chef? How a lot of your self do you need to put out on social media on the subject of creating content material?
For those who have a look at my profile versus Commis Station’s, I personally have extra followers. However I’m not a chef who’s always on social media. It’s not that I’m not a social particular person. However I’m not somebody who craves Instagram likes or thinks a lot about hashtags. I comply with only a few folks. For me, being on Instagram for enterprise is sufficient.

What are a number of the challenges you face as a cloud kitchen?
The hardest half is determining how one can get the meals or the product to the shopper in the absolute best means. That’s all the time been the problem and all the time will probably be. Some days you’ll be able to pull off a dessert after which just a few months later it’s so scorching that you simply can’t serve that dessert anymore. There’s a variety of science behind cooking, however it’s very onerous to convey that to the shopper.

It is usually troublesome to remain motivated whereas doing the identical factor again and again for years. That’s why I just like the catering side of the enterprise as a result of it breaks the monotony. We exit, we prepare dinner in entrance of individuals and we work together.

Do you’re taking day without work?
I don’t. It’s primarily due to work that I journey. I’ve been working with Ishka Farms and producing a condiment vary with them that’s caper-focused. So I journey to Kochi very often as a result of I’ve to be there for the manufacturing a part of it. I really like pop-ups. I do a variety of collaborative dinners. As soon as the work is over, I spend an additional day or two for enjoyable and are available again. That’s all the time going to be the luxurious of being a chef — you’ll be able to go to any a part of the world and have a job.

How do you keep impressed?
It’s a course of in itself and it really occurs when there’s a lull. A quiet interval may really feel like one thing is incorrect however often it’s nothing to fret about. It may simply be a festive weekend or perhaps individuals are travelling. And so, each time there’s a lull, I exploit the time to create one thing new, submit about it and get eyes again onto Commis Station. An idle thoughts shouldn’t be all the time the satan’s workshop.

A few of your objects, particularly the tiramisu, have a cult following.
It does. I really bought the espresso machine for the kitchen considering that I’d be this cool man promoting espresso within the compound. That by no means occurred however due to that espresso machine, I began making tiramisu. Life works in mysterious methods. On common, we promote about 150 to 160 kilos of the dessert per thirty days.

What’s the good order from Commis Station?
It’s all the time going to be the tiramisu as a result of that by no means permits you to down and it’s within the sharing format, so everybody’s completely happy. However we are able to additionally provide help to put a meal collectively, so ordering one thing from the bakery, some sauces, some condiments, some staples, is an effective method to go. I wish to encourage folks to sort of combine and match. Every time somebody requires baos, I’ll additionally counsel ordering the kimchi and sesame. Folks don’t all the time have the knack of placing issues collectively so the right order would all the time be to take the options of the chef.

Earlier: Kartikeya Ratan and Rishabh Doshi, Kiki & Pastor
Subsequent: Anushka Malkani and Nariman Abdygapparov, Masa Bakery

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