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Saturday, March 2, 2024

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

Wine & Dine

Textual content and Pictures 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 quite a few tremendous eating eating places in India and overseas. And I more and more felt that I needed to prepare dinner extra soul meals, consolation meals — meals that truly satiates. After I returned to Mumbai from Delhi in 2019, I felt just like the pandemic had taken an enormous toll on the nightlife of town. There wasn’t anyplace the place you would simply hang around and never have to take a seat 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 saved discussing how we may do it on a small scale.

Whereas I used to be dwelling in the course of the lockdown, I began promoting taco kits and there was an excellent response. However I wasn’t comfortable as a chef though the product was doing tremendous. I needed extra management. So now, we not ship prospects the components 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 loads like chaat, proper? You need to eat them recent. And but, the deliveries work as a result of we’ve an excellent radius, being in Bandra.

Rather a lot has been spoken and written about how Mexican meals simply doesn’t do effectively in Mumbai. Do you suppose there’s one thing specifically that’s working for you?
KR: I believe one factor we realised fairly early on was that there’s no substituting good components. Working in tremendous eating taught me that no dish could be larger than the components 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 example. Typically, sourcing an excellent, dried chilli from Mexico is essential. Freshness additionally performs an enormous function in elements which might be virtually served uncooked, as is the case with most of our salsas and marinades. So freshness takes priority over all the things else and the standard of components can by no means be compromised.

How have you ever tried to raise or differentiate your meals from what is obtainable 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 accessible at New Yorker in Mumbai, as an example. On no account 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 relating to consuming Mexican meals. There’s extra to Mexican meals than simply placing cheddar sauce over all the things.

Inform us how you’ll be able to ship the meals as recent as potential.
KR: Supply is a troublesome format. Particularly in the course of the monsoons, it turns into powerful for a rider to get your meals to you in good situation. However folks nonetheless anticipate to get piping-hot meals; recent meals shouldn’t get soggy, arduous 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 may simply slap the second over it.

Rishabh Doshi (RD): Principally, proportions matter. So, in the event you sauce it up an excessive amount of or too little, it’ll change your complete expertise of the taco.

KR: Completely. After we rent a brand new chef, we are able to 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 persona from there. So, the query that arises is how do you give it that persona 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 a bit of extra about the way you arrange processes for the cloud kitchen mannequin.
KR: Largely, it was about preserving in thoughts the taqueria idea and the freshness of the produce. After we fastened 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 exams. Rishabh lives in Bhandup and I stay in Wadala. So, I might ship him dishes, and we’d be aware how they travelled. Did it get soggy? Did we’d like 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 completely different from once I labored in eating places that served tasting menus. At Eleven Madison Park in New York, as an example, we knew that 120 folks have been going to be coming in for dinner every evening and that 14 dishes can be going out to every visitor. In a cloud kitchen, it’s possible you’ll not get orders for, say, two hours straight, after which abruptly they could are available in continuous till midnight. A match would possibly imply individuals are ordering in or if it’s a protracted weekend and individuals are out travelling, then orders cut back. Nonetheless, there’s no method of gauging the quantity of enterprise for a specific day.

We attempt to hold the prep recent, however we steadiness that with some back-up, which is able to final a bit of longer. We’re very specific in regards to the shelf lifetime of our guacamole and pico de gallo. It’s higher to make them twice a day, quite than to serve them the day after. Whereas we make refried beans in bulk as a result of it tastes higher the subsequent 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 girl coming in each day. She makes them recent for the lunch and night providers. We all know now that we are going to want about 200 tortillas from Tuesdays to Thursdays. On weekends, we’d like extra.

I might’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 however it’s powerful to get it proper each single time. On the similar time, we have been in search of somebody to make a tiffin for our workers lunch. It struck us then that the one who makes the rotis that got here in our tiffin may maybe be educated 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 completely different flour however she turned out to be an professional. Even right this moment, if I inform my cooks to make the tortillas, they’ll take most likely 4 hours to do what she does in a single.

Folks ask us, “How come your tortillas aren’t masa?” Firstly, there’s no corn accessible in India. There are some farms which might be doing it, however it’s not the identical. Even the calcium that you simply 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 appropriate grinder since you want that volcanic stone. So, after we do get it proper, we’ll do it however we didn’t need to do it half-baked.

How did you concentrate on the branding, the naming and positioning of your taqueria?
KR: Kiki was my nickname once 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” once 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 provide a enjoyable identify.

RD: In that very same spirit, we do just a few 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 strive new issues as a result of you may get a single piece as an alternative of ordering a full portion. It’s additionally as a result of Tuesdays are usually thought of 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 search out another person. The one possibility was to do it ourselves. We did a number of iterations based mostly 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 need to painting it as so good that you simply neglect 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 just a few individuals who’ve taken a photograph of an empty plate and mentioned, “I forgot to click on it, however it was wonderful.” And that’s precisely what we would like.

KR: Tacos are sometimes known as “ugly scrumptious” in order that they don’t have to look good. We don’t reduce 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 use social media?
RD: In contrast to in a restaurant, issues aren’t taking place with us on a regular basis. We additionally don’t need 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 put up one thing from the kitchen that says we’re open for orders.

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

RD: Our kitchen is saved spotlessly clear by the group. We really had a few prospects are available in 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 prospects to order the perfect suggestion is your greatest problem?
KR: Whenever you’re in a restaurant, you will have 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 in search of. It is usually difficult to speak the dimensions of our parts. Folks have every kind of expectations. It’s simpler to handle these expectations face-to-face.

Do you are feeling like there may be strain to make use of social media and put your persona on the market?
KR: This takes me again to when Instagram began. Pals, each cooks and in any other case, advised me to put up extra. However once 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 put up about one thing I prepare dinner. After I’m cooking, I’m cooking.

Rishabh has thought of 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 keen about. I take pleasure in consuming tacos myself. However in the event you have a look at my private Instagram, individuals are disenchanted to not discover any meals there.

I’m now okay with being in entrance of the digicam as a result of I do realise that folks need to see the faces behind the meals. In any other case, you’re simply one other cloud kitchen. So, after we do occasions, we guarantee that at the very least certainly one of us is attending. It is sensible for folks to find out 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 grow to be 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 in the course of 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 just a few which have caught as a result of they’ve modified their product to suit the supply mannequin. Loads 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 individuals 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 think about 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 should be a small place, most likely not very hygienic. The meals wasn’t speculated to be nice, simply low-cost. However over the past 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 each day.

What’s the good order from Kiki & Pastor?
KR: My favorite buyer’s order is identical 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 an enormous ticket. It’s easy.

So, you’re not specific about what’s being ordered?
KR: No, order something from my menu and I’m comfortable. 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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