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 lot of high quality eating eating places in India and overseas. And I more and more felt that I wished 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 a giant toll on the nightlife of town. There wasn’t anyplace the place you could possibly simply hang around and never have to sit down down and dine in. A taqueria was a good 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 saved discussing how we may do it on a small scale.

Whereas I used to be residence 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 wished extra management. So now, we not ship prospects 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 so much like chaat, proper? You wish to eat them recent. And but, the deliveries work as a result of we’ve got an excellent radius, being in Bandra.

Quite a bit 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 may be higher than the elements utilized in it. And I believe that with Mexican meals, that may be very true. You possibly can’t simply make a mole (sauce) out of a Bhavnagri chilli, for example. Typically, sourcing an excellent, dried chilli from Mexico is essential. Freshness additionally performs an enormous function in elements which are nearly served uncooked, as is the case with most of our salsas and marinades. So freshness takes priority over every thing 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 could have seen corn queso balls on our menu, however they received’t style like those obtainable at New Yorker in Mumbai, for example. 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 in relation to consuming Mexican meals. There’s extra to Mexican meals than simply placing cheddar sauce over every thing.

Inform us how you’ll be able to ship the meals as recent as doable.
KR: Supply is a tough format. Particularly throughout the monsoons, it turns into powerful 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, 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 possibly can simply slap the second over it.

Rishabh Doshi (RD): Principally, 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. 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 holding in thoughts the taqueria idea and the freshness of the produce. Once we fastened on a supply mannequin, the place the meals was going to be on the street for 30 to 40 minutes, we needed to do a whole lot of assessments. Rishabh lives in Bhandup and I dwell 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 further salsa? From that train we determined to ship the salsa individually, for instance.

By way of prep, it was very completely 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 out of the blue 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 quantity of enterprise for a specific day.

We attempt to hold the prep recent, however we steadiness that with some back-up, which can final just a little longer. We’re very explicit in regards to the shelf lifetime of our guacamole and pico de gallo. It’s higher to make them twice a day, fairly 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 must 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 on daily basis. 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’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 but it surely’s powerful to get it proper each single time. On the similar time, we had been searching for somebody to make a tiffin for our employees lunch. It struck us then that the one who makes the rotis that got here in our tiffin may 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 completely different flour however she turned out to be an professional. Even immediately, 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 obtainable in India. There are some farms which are doing it, but it surely’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 strategy to go by way of sourcing and discovering the best 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 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” while you’re getting collectively to gossip, drink and have enjoyable. The pastor, however, is taken into account by some to be the best of all tacos; it’s a subject of debate in Mexico Metropolis. We simply wished 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 personal combos. That pushes individuals 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 typically 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 choice was to do it ourselves. We did a number of iterations based mostly on a listing of key phrases that we wished 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 wish 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 now have 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 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 good. 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 typically do effectively so on daily basis at midday, we submit one thing from the kitchen that says 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 saved spotlessly clear by the workforce. We truly had a few prospects are available simply to see the kitchen. Certainly one of them wished to do catering and one in all them wished to put an order. He wished 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: 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 searching for. It is usually 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 are feeling like there may be 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 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-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 take pleasure in consuming tacos myself. However should you take a look at my private Instagram, individuals 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 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 guarantee that at the least one in all us is attending. It is smart for individuals to find out about you. When you realize the story behind why somebody is doing one thing, you recognize 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 throughout the pandemic. Put up-pandemic, there are such a lot of cloud kitchens opening up, and so many shutting regularly 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. 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 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 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, most likely not very hygienic. The meals wasn’t purported 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 return 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 proper order. It’s a giant ticket. It’s simple.

So, you’re not explicit 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 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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