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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Cloud Kitchens: Kartikeya Ratan and Rishabh Doshi, Kiki & Pastor

Wine & Dine

Textual content and Images by Mallika Chandra.

Kartikeya Ratan, 32 and Rishabh Doshi, 32
Kiki & Pastor
Location: Bandra
Speciality: Mexican

Kartikeya, inform me about your beginnings as a chef and the way you co-founded Kiki & Pastor.
Kartikeya Ratan (KR): For the final decade or so, I’ve labored at a variety of high-quality eating eating places in India and overseas. And I more and more felt that I needed to cook dinner extra soul meals, consolation meals — meals that really satiates. Once I returned to Mumbai from Delhi in 2019, I felt just like the pandemic had taken a giant toll on the nightlife of town. There wasn’t anywhere the place you would simply hang around and never have to sit down down and dine in. A taqueria was an effective way of bringing that vibe in. However given the circumstances of COVID-19, issues have been very unsure round 2020-2021, and but Rishabh and I stored discussing how we might do it on a small scale.

Whereas I used to be house throughout the lockdown, I began promoting taco kits and there was an excellent response. However I wasn’t blissful as a chef though the product was doing high-quality. I needed extra management. So now, we now not ship clients the elements and ask them to assemble it. We construct your taco and ship it to you. We’re additionally large on catering as a result of tacos are lots like chaat, proper? You wish to eat them recent. And but, the deliveries work as a result of we’ve an excellent radius, being in Bandra.

So much has been spoken and written about how Mexican meals simply doesn’t do effectively in Mumbai. Do you assume there’s one thing particularly that’s working for you?
KR: I believe one factor we realised fairly early on was that there’s no substituting good elements. Working in high-quality eating taught me that no dish could be higher than the elements utilized in it. And I believe that with Mexican meals, that could be very true. You may’t simply make a mole (sauce) out of a Bhavnagri chilli, as an illustration. Typically, sourcing an excellent, dried chilli from Mexico is essential. Freshness additionally performs an enormous function in parts which might be virtually served uncooked, as is the case with most of our salsas and marinades. So freshness takes priority over every part else and the standard of elements can by no means be compromised.

How have you ever tried to raise or differentiate your meals from what is accessible within the metropolis?
KR: Lots of people ask us for Indianised variations of issues as a result of that’s what they’ve grown up consuming. You might have seen corn queso balls on our menu, however they gained’t style like those obtainable at New Yorker in Mumbai, as an illustration. By no means are we saying that we’re higher or dissing an expertise that we too have grown up consuming. However we’re providing a brand new expertise on the subject of consuming Mexican meals. There’s extra to Mexican meals than simply placing cheddar sauce over every part.

Inform us how you’ll be able to ship the meals as recent as attainable.
KR: Supply is a tough format. Particularly throughout the monsoons, it turns into robust for a rider to get your meals to you in excellent situation. However folks nonetheless count on to get piping-hot meals; recent meals shouldn’t get soggy, laborious or dry. One of many issues we do is that we add both a layer of chilmole or a jam that we make with salsa verde between the meat and the tortilla in order that the juices from the meat don’t make the tortillas soggy. We additionally do a double tortilla in order that even when the primary tortilla will get soggy, you’ll be able to simply slap the second over it.

Rishabh Doshi (RD): Mainly, proportions matter. So, if you happen to sauce it up an excessive amount of or too little, it’ll change your entire expertise of the taco.

KR: Completely. Once we rent a brand new chef, we will style the distinction between them and somebody who’s been making it for 4 or 5 months and has understood what these sauces do. Everybody has their very own tastes and the dish will get its character from there. So, the query that arises is how do you give it that character whereas sustaining a excessive normal? It comes from the bottom recipes, that are tried and examined for a very long time earlier than we put them on the market.

Inform us just a little extra about the way you arrange processes for the cloud kitchen mannequin.
KR: Largely, it was about conserving in thoughts the taqueria idea and the freshness of the produce. Once we mounted on a supply mannequin, the place the meals was going to be on the highway for 30 to 40 minutes, we needed to do a whole lot of assessments. Rishabh lives in Bhandup and I stay in Wadala. So, I’d ship him dishes, and we might notice how they travelled. Did it get soggy? Did we want two tortillas or further salsa? From that train we determined to ship the salsa individually, for instance.

When it comes to prep, it was very totally different from after I labored in eating places that served tasting menus. At Eleven Madison Park in New York, as an illustration, we knew that 120 folks have been going to be coming in for dinner every night time and that 14 dishes could be going out to every visitor. In a cloud kitchen, you might not get orders for, say, two hours straight, after which instantly they might are available continuous till midnight. A match would possibly imply persons are ordering in or if it’s a protracted weekend and persons are out travelling, then orders cut back. Nonetheless, there’s no method of gauging the amount of enterprise for a selected day.

We attempt to hold the prep recent, however we stability that with some back-up, which is able to final just a little longer. We’re very specific concerning the shelf lifetime of our guacamole and pico de gallo. It’s higher to make them twice a day, slightly than to serve them the day after. Whereas we make refried beans in bulk as a result of it tastes higher the following day. Like dal makhani. Our pork carnitas and lamb barbacoa are made in large batches as a result of they have to be cooked for 4 to 6 hours within the oven. So, we freeze them in batches. For the tortillas, we even have this woman coming in each day. She makes them recent for the lunch and night providers. We all know now that we’ll want about 200 tortillas from Tuesdays to Thursdays. On weekends, we want extra.

I’d’ve thought that as a chef-driven taqueria you’ll be making the tortillas in-house.
KR: At first, we tried to make the tortillas ourselves but it surely’s robust to get it proper each single time. On the identical time, we have been on the lookout for somebody to make a tiffin for our employees lunch. It struck us then that the one that makes the rotis that got here in our tiffin might maybe be skilled to make our tortillas. So, we took an opportunity and reached out to her. It took a while for her to get used to the totally different flour however she turned out to be an skilled. Even immediately, if I inform my cooks to make the tortillas, they’ll take in all probability 4 hours to do what she does in a single.

Individuals ask us, “How come your tortillas aren’t masa?” Firstly, there’s no corn obtainable in India. There are some farms which might be doing it, but it surely’s not the identical. Even the calcium that you just get in India, the chuna, it’s not the identical high quality. We tried a number of batches and there’s a protracted technique to go when it comes to sourcing and discovering the precise grinder since you want that volcanic stone. So, after we do get it proper, we’ll do it however we didn’t wish to do it half-baked.

How did you concentrate on the branding, the naming and positioning of your taqueria?
KR: Kiki was my nickname after I lived in Goa a few years in the past. We then found that Kiki additionally means “get-together”. In African-American slang, the LGBTQIA+ group calls it a “Kiki” if you’re getting collectively to gossip, drink and have enjoyable. The pastor, then again, is taken into account by some to be the best of all tacos; it’s a subject of debate in Mexico Metropolis. We simply needed to present a enjoyable title.

RD: In that very same spirit, we do a number of specials, particularly on match days. We additionally do a Taco Tuesday particular, the place you can also make your personal combos. That pushes folks to attempt new issues as a result of you may get a single piece as a substitute of ordering a full portion. It’s additionally as a result of Tuesdays are usually thought-about slower when it comes to enterprise.

KR: Plus, the guacamole is free on Tuesdays.

RD: When it comes to the design, our designer flaked on us and it was too near launch to seek out another person. The one choice was to do it ourselves. We did a number of iterations primarily based on a listing of key phrases that we needed the model to be related to, like “approachable” and “recent”. That led to the first color of the branding being a muted inexperienced. The emblem itself is hand-drawn and in it, the taco is bitten into already as a result of we wish to painting it as so good that you just overlook to take a photograph.

KR: Which is definitely seen in a whole lot of Instagram posts the place we’re tagged. We see a whole lot of bitten tacos.

RD: We’ve got a number of individuals who’ve taken a photograph of an empty plate and stated, “I forgot to click on it, but it surely was superb.” And that’s precisely what we would like.

KR: Tacos are sometimes known as “ugly scrumptious” in order that they don’t must look excellent. We don’t minimize our tortillas with a cookie cutter both as a result of we would like that natural form. That imperfection makes it approachable.

How do you utilize social media?
RD: In contrast to in a restaurant, issues aren’t taking place with us on a regular basis. We additionally don’t wish to overwhelm our followers. So, we average our social media uploads. Reels that share a glimpse of the kitchen and the behind-the-scenes actions usually do effectively so each day at midday, we submit one thing from the kitchen that asserts we’re open for orders.

KR: We do wish to put a face to this in any other case invisible operation.

RD: Our kitchen is stored spotlessly clear by the workforce. We truly had a few clients are available simply to see the kitchen. One in all them needed to do catering and certainly one of them needed to position an order. He needed to see the place that he’s ordering from.

Would you say convincing your clients to order the very best advice is your largest problem?
KR: Once you’re in a restaurant, you’ve a server who recommends dishes. And when folks name us, we do the identical. However most of our orders come by Swiggy, Zomato or our web site. So, there’s no room for suggestions. There’s no room for understanding what they’re on the lookout for. It’s also difficult to speak the scale of our parts. Individuals have every kind of expectations. It’s simpler to handle these expectations face-to-face.

Do you’re feeling like there’s stress to make use of social media and put your persona on the market?
KR: This takes me again to when Instagram began. Associates, each cooks and in any other case, advised me to submit extra. However after I was working in kitchens, we simply weren’t allowed to make use of our telephones on the job and that’s one thing that’s caught with me. So, it doesn’t come naturally to me to take a photograph and submit about one thing I cook dinner. Once I’m cooking, I’m cooking.

Rishabh has thought-about making a model out of me as a chef however for me the meals is sufficient. I’m not Mexican. I haven’t grown up round this meals. It’s one thing I’m extraordinarily captivated with. I get pleasure from consuming tacos myself. However if you happen to take a look at my private Instagram, persons are disillusioned to not discover any meals there.

I’m now okay with being in entrance of the digital camera as a result of I do realise that folks wish to see the faces behind the meals. In any other case, you’re simply one other cloud kitchen. So, after we do occasions, we be sure that not less than certainly one of us is attending. It is smart for folks to learn about you. When you realize the story behind why somebody is doing one thing, you respect it extra.

Did you anticipate that cloud kitchens would develop into a long-lasting format?
KR: I believe so as a result of even somebody like me, who was by no means an individual to order in, did so throughout the pandemic. Put up-pandemic, there are such a lot of cloud kitchens opening up, and so many shutting frequently as effectively. However there are a number of which have caught as a result of they’ve modified their product to suit the supply mannequin. A number of eating places have additionally realised {that a} chunk of their enterprise is coming from supply. The tradition has shifted drastically. There’s additionally an curiosity in making an attempt one thing new. I believe persons are going to proceed ordering in. However the product, and the best way that kitchens take into consideration their product whereas delivering it, goes to make the distinction and be the deciding consider whether or not that model succeeds or not.

RD: The notion of a ghost kitchen or a cloud kitchen earlier than the pandemic was that it have to be a small place, in all probability not very hygienic. The meals wasn’t speculated to be nice, simply low-cost. However during the last three years, folks have realised that these small kitchens are sometimes serving higher meals than established eating places. They usually’ve allowed them to return into their lives every day.

What’s the excellent order from Kiki & Pastor?
KR: My favorite buyer’s order is similar each time and he doesn’t modify something. It’s three of this, two of this, 4 of this…. And he offers us an hour’s heads-up. I really feel like that’s the proper order. It’s a giant ticket. It’s easy.

So, you’re not specific about what’s being ordered?
KR: No, order something from my menu and I’m blissful. It simply will get difficult when a buyer makes too many modifications and the meals loses its essence.

KR: Our different favorite buyer orders a burrito bowl each week and says, “No corn please and thanks,” and I like that. We’re fairly emotional about our orders.

Earlier: Rehan Mehta, East seventh Pizza & Deli
Subsequent: Divesh Aswani, Commis Station

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