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

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 few tremendous 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 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 the town. There wasn’t anyplace the place you might 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 had been very unsure round 2020-2021, and but Rishabh and I stored discussing how we may do it on a small scale.

Whereas I used to be house throughout the lockdown, I began promoting taco kits and there was a very good response. However I wasn’t comfortable as a chef though the product was doing tremendous. I needed extra management. So now, we now 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 so much like chaat, proper? You need to eat them recent. And but, the deliveries work as a result of we have now a very good radius, being in Bandra.

Lots has been spoken and written about how Mexican meals simply doesn’t do nicely 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 tremendous eating taught me that no dish might be better than the substances utilized in it. And I feel that with Mexican meals, that may be very true. You’ll be able to’t simply make a mole (sauce) out of a Bhavnagri chilli, for example. Generally, sourcing a very good, dried chilli from Mexico is essential. Freshness additionally performs an enormous position in elements which can 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 substances can by no means be compromised.

How have you ever tried to raise or differentiate your meals from what is offered 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 out there at New Yorker in Mumbai, for example. Under no circumstances 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 all the things.

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 good situation. However individuals nonetheless anticipate to get piping-hot meals; recent meals shouldn’t get soggy, onerous 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, 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 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 slightly 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 number of exams. Rishabh lives in Bhandup and I stay in Wadala. So, I might ship him dishes, and we might observe 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.

When it comes to prep, it was very totally different from once I labored in eating places that served tasting menus. At Eleven Madison Park in New York, for example, we knew that 120 individuals had been going to be coming in for dinner every evening 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 might are available continuous till midnight. A match may imply individuals are ordering in or if it’s a protracted weekend and individuals are out travelling, then orders scale 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 can final slightly 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, 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 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 day-after-day. She makes them recent 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 might’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 but it surely’s robust to get it proper each single time. On the similar time, we had been in search of somebody to make a tiffin for our workers lunch. It struck us then that the one that 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 totally different flour however she turned out to be an skilled. Even at the 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.

Individuals 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, 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 option to go by way of sourcing and discovering the fitting 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 consider 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” whenever 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 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 strive new issues as a result of you will 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 by way of 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 brand 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 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’ve a number of individuals who’ve taken a photograph of an empty plate and mentioned, “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” so that they don’t have to look good. 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 use social media?
RD: Not like 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 nicely so day-after-day at midday, we submit 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 stored spotlessly clear by the crew. We really had a few prospects are available simply to see the kitchen. One among them needed to do catering and one among 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 very best advice is your largest problem?
KR: While 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 by way of 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. Additionally it is difficult to speak the dimensions of our parts. Individuals have all types of expectations. It’s simpler to handle these expectations face-to-face.

Do you’re 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. Buddies, each cooks and in any other case, advised me to submit 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 submit about one thing I cook 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 captivated with. I get pleasure from consuming tacos myself. However if you happen to have a look at my private Instagram, individuals are upset 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 individuals 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 make it possible for at the very least one among us is attending. It is smart for individuals to find out about you. When the story behind why somebody is doing one thing, you admire it extra.

Did you anticipate that cloud kitchens would turn 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 throughout the pandemic. Publish-pandemic, there are such a lot of cloud kitchens opening up, and so many shutting regularly as nicely. However there are a number of which have caught as a result of they’ve modified their product to suit the supply mannequin. Numerous 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 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 imagined to be nice, simply low-cost. However during the last three years, individuals have realised that these small kitchens are sometimes serving higher meals than established eating places. They usually’ve allowed them to come back into their lives each day.

What’s the good 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 right 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 tough 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 really 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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