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 quite a lot of fantastic 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. After 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 possibly can 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 in the course of the lockdown, I began promoting taco kits and there was response. However I wasn’t joyful as a chef though the product was doing fantastic. I needed extra management. So now, we not ship prospects the substances and ask them to assemble it. We construct your taco and ship it to you. We’re additionally massive on catering as a result of tacos are rather a lot like chaat, proper? You wish to eat them contemporary. And but, the deliveries work as a result of now we have radius, being in Bandra.

Quite a bit has been spoken and written about how Mexican meals simply doesn’t do properly in Mumbai. Do you suppose there’s one thing specifically that’s working for you?
KR: I feel one factor we realised fairly early on was that there’s no substituting good substances. Working in fantastic eating taught me that no dish may be higher than the substances utilized in it. And I feel that with Mexican meals, that could be very true. You possibly can’t simply make a mole (sauce) out of a Bhavnagri chilli, as an illustration. Generally, sourcing , dried chilli from Mexico is essential. Freshness additionally performs an enormous position in parts which can be virtually served uncooked, as is the case with most of our salsas and marinades. So freshness takes priority over every little thing else and the standard of substances 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’ll have seen corn queso balls on our menu, however they gained’t style like those out there 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 with regards to consuming Mexican meals. There’s extra to Mexican meals than simply placing cheddar sauce over every little thing.

Inform us how you’ll be able to ship the meals as contemporary as doable.
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 excellent situation. However individuals nonetheless count on to get piping-hot meals; contemporary 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 possibly can simply slap the second over it.

Rishabh Doshi (RD): Mainly, proportions matter. So, should 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 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 a little bit extra about the way you arrange processes for the cloud kitchen mannequin.
KR: Largely, it was about retaining in thoughts the taqueria idea and the freshness of the produce. After 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 number of assessments. Rishabh lives in Bhandup and I reside in Wadala. So, I’d ship him dishes, and we’d word how they travelled. Did it get soggy? Did we’d like two tortillas or additional salsa? From that train we determined to ship the salsa individually, for instance.

By way of prep, it was very totally different from once I labored in eating places that served tasting menus. At Eleven Madison Park in New York, as an illustration, we knew that 120 individuals 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, it’s possible you’ll not get orders for, say, two hours straight, after which all of the sudden they could are available continuous till midnight. A match would possibly imply individuals are ordering in or if it’s an extended weekend and individuals are out travelling, then orders scale back. Nonetheless, there’s no method of gauging the quantity of enterprise for a selected day.

We attempt to maintain the prep contemporary, however we steadiness that with some back-up, which can final a little bit 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, relatively 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 massive 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 contemporary for the lunch and night companies. We all know now that we’ll want about 200 tortillas from Tuesdays to Thursdays. On weekends, we’d like extra.

I’d’ve thought that as a chef-driven taqueria you’d be making the tortillas in-house.
KR: At first, we tried to make the tortillas ourselves nevertheless it’s powerful to get it proper each single time. On the identical time, we have been searching 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 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 totally different flour however she turned out to be an skilled. Even right now, 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 out there in India. There are some farms which can be doing it, nevertheless it’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 an extended technique to go by way of sourcing and discovering the proper grinder since you want that volcanic stone. So, once 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 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+ neighborhood 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 present a enjoyable identify.

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 may make your individual combos. That pushes individuals 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 by way of enterprise.

KR: Plus, the guacamole is free on Tuesdays.

RD: By way of the design, our designer flaked on us and it was too near launch to seek out another person. The one possibility was to do it ourselves. We did a number of iterations based mostly on an inventory of key phrases that we needed the model to be related to, like “approachable” and “contemporary”. That led to the first color of the branding being a muted inexperienced. The brand 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 number of Instagram posts the place we’re tagged. We see a number of bitten tacos.

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

KR: Tacos are sometimes referred to as “ugly scrumptious” in order that they don’t must look excellent. We don’t lower 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 occurring with us on a regular basis. We additionally don’t wish to overwhelm our followers. So, we reasonable our social media uploads. Reels that share a glimpse of the kitchen and the behind-the-scenes actions usually do properly so each day at midday, we publish 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 group. We really had a few prospects are available simply to see the kitchen. Certainly one of them needed to do catering and one in every 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 most effective suggestion is your greatest problem?
KR: If you’re in a restaurant, you’ve got a server who recommends dishes. And when individuals name us, we do the identical. However most of our orders come via Swiggy, Zomato or our web site. So, there’s no room for suggestions. There’s no room for understanding what they’re searching for. Additionally it is difficult to speak the scale of our parts. Folks have all types of expectations. It’s simpler to handle these expectations face-to-face.

Do you are feeling like there’s strain 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, informed me to publish 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 publish about one thing I cook dinner. After 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 keen about. I get pleasure from consuming tacos myself. However should you have a look at my private Instagram, individuals are dissatisfied 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 individuals wish to see the faces behind the meals. In any other case, you’re simply one other cloud kitchen. So, once we do occasions, we make it possible for a minimum of one in every of us is attending. It is sensible for individuals to learn about you. When you recognize the story behind why somebody is doing one thing, you recognize it extra.

Did you anticipate that cloud kitchens would change into a long-lasting format?
KR: I feel 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. Submit-pandemic, there are such a lot of cloud kitchens opening up, and so many shutting regularly as properly. However there are a number of which have caught as a result of they’ve modified their product to suit the supply mannequin. Plenty 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 attempting one thing new. I feel individuals are going to proceed ordering in. However the product, and the way in which 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 should be a small place, most likely not very hygienic. The meals wasn’t presupposed to be nice, simply low cost. However over the past three years, individuals have realised that these small kitchens are sometimes serving higher meals than established eating places. And so they’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 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 right 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 joyful. 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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