Cloud Kitchens: Kunal Makhija, Arabisque

Wine & Dine

Textual content and Pictures by Mallika Chandra.

Kunal Makhija, 27
Location: Mahim
Speciality: Center Jap

Kunal, inform me a bit of about your journey as a chef.
I developed an curiosity in cooking round 2007 due to my father’s restaurant in Dubai and after education there, I used to be fairly certain that this was what I needed to pursue. I accomplished the culinary speciality programme on the Institute of Resort Administration in Aurangabad after which interned at Taj West Finish, Bengaluru for a yr. I used to be fortunate sufficient to additionally intern at Gaggan in Bangkok (now shut) for 2 months, following which I labored at Indigo Deli in Colaba for a yr.

A batchmate, who had additionally been my roommate from school, known as me in the future and requested, “Do you need to come to Dubai?” I had been searching for a change at that time. So, I labored at a number of locations in Dubai, together with a Lebanese restaurant the place I learnt most of what I do at present. Earlier than I moved to Mumbai, the final place I labored at was a fantastic eating restaurant by the identify of London Undertaking.

How did you get into the cloud kitchen enterprise?
I had all the time needed to begin one thing of my very own. In the course of the lockdown, I had seen a number of residence kitchens developing and I assumed I’d give it a strive. It was not a really calculated transfer, to be sincere. It was a leap of religion.

How did you set collectively the idea, the menu, the identify?
I have to give credit score to my household and to my girlfriend as a result of whereas it might appear as if I’m the one one who handles the model, they’re the spine.

My grandmother let me work out of her kitchen and offered me with a base for one yr. My mother and father, who reside in Dubai, had been very supportive. A variety of my elements nonetheless come from Dubai, like za’atar powder, sumac and fava beans which we use for our falafel and it was my father who discovered the very best sources for these. My brother and sister-in-law look into the funds of the corporate. So everybody has helped me to get the place I’m at present. The identify was instructed by my brother.

Does your loved ones nonetheless play a really energetic position?
Every time I need to add one thing new on my menu, my members of the family are the primary to style it. My grandmother was my official hummus taster, and I wish to imagine that I by no means get any complaints as a result of she tasted each batch. I usually focus on future plans with my brother.

Regardless of the help, it have to be difficult to juggle each roles — of chef and proprietor?
After I was working for another person, I used to be liable for a piece. Now, I’m liable for your complete model — from sourcing of elements and prep to coaching of employees and advertising and marketing.

An enormous side of working a cloud kitchen is having a stable social media presence.
I underestimated the ability of social media. I assumed I may deal with the meals and every little thing else would fall into place. Two years in, I realised that it’s greater than 50 per cent of the sport. Personally, I’m not very energetic on social media in order that’s been one change since my journey as an entrepreneur. Getting your identify out there’s tough. That is the place my girlfriend comes into the image; she has an excellent sense of aesthetics. I’ve performed photograph shoots up to now however individuals have instructed me to begin clicking footage in actual time. I deal with that now.

Cooking the meals, alternatively, has been straightforward. That’s what I’m skilled in. However once more, we preserve updating the menu. Generally, I strive one thing on a Tuesday, get it tasted by Wednesday, and put it up as a particular by Friday for the weekend. It helps preserve me on my toes. However truthfully, that little house I’ve created wouldn’t exist with out the purchasers. They’ve been brutally sincere which I actually respect.

What sort of perception has interacting along with your viewers offered by way of the hole Arabisque fills available in the market?
I’ve performed my education in Dubai and I used to be not pleased with the Center-Jap meals that was accessible in Mumbai. I did see a giant distinction within the style and value factors in what was provided right here. There have been manufacturers that served rolls after which there have been fantastic eating Lebanese eating places. There was nothing within the center. I felt that was an excellent section for me to focus on. In order that’s the place Arabisque matches in. It’s good-quality meals at good costs.

How do you preserve requirements across the freshness of the meals?
We produce in restricted portions. We are able to serve a lot of clients if want be, however every little thing’s made to order. We make hummus 5 – 6 occasions a day. We attempt to make every little thing from scratch. Our breads — pita bread, the entire wheat pita, pide dough, manakish dough — are made in-house and to order.

Did you need to do a number of trials?
It took a number of trial and error. Although I had a recipe for the bread from my time in Dubai, I needed to tweak it to swimsuit the local weather right here. A variety of trials went into the hummus as nicely.

Does the delicacies swimsuit the supply mannequin?
For the reason that lockdown, I’ve noticed that folks have come to phrases with the truth that there’s going to be a distinction between consuming in a restaurant and having meals delivered to your house. Since I get a number of direct orders, I attempt to take into account the space that the meals has to journey. For instance, falafel, which is fried, tends to get soggy. So, if an individual is at a distance from my kitchen, I ship it half fried, if they’re okay with ending the dish at residence.

Have you ever been capable of handle a work-life steadiness?
I’m nonetheless attempting to determine a work-life steadiness. I’m not saying I’m a workaholic however work is all the time on my thoughts, which I’m not very pleased with. My work hours are pretty first rate — from midday to 10 pm. Generally it might imply that I attain late for a social dedication, however I do attempt to make it. It’s a part of the sport.

In culinary school, they let you know on day one that you simply’re going to be working when everybody’s having fun with themselves. You’ll be able to say goodbye to celebrating all of the festivals. I do miss it and my household do miss me being there, however I’m very happy to be in my kitchen or at a catering get together as a result of that’s the time that you simply get most of your corporation.

How are you occupied with the expansion and scale of your corporation sooner or later? What are your metrics for fulfillment?
I do need to make a reputation for myself. If you happen to consider Lebanese meals, I need to be among the many first 5 names that pop up in your head. In order that’s the purpose.

How are you influencing individuals’s concepts of what Lebanese meals is?
Even after we exit to eat in Dubai, I see nearly all of individuals ordering hummus and falafel, not a lot else. However there’s much more that the delicacies has to supply. What I’ve performed with Arabisque is that I’ve stored the classics however I’ve additionally tried enjoying round with them. I’ve seven totally different flavours of hummus. A few of them — the truffle hummus, for instance — will not be authentically Lebanese, however they’ve been doing nicely. Even the peri-peri hummus has appealed to individuals. Indian audiences love a little bit of fusion.

Given the present socio-political local weather in our nation, do you discover serving meals from the Gulf area to be a problem?
None of my dishes set off any spiritual or political sentiments although I’ve chosen to not serve pork or beef in my kitchen. I can do loads with rooster, lamb and seafood. Whereas I’m not a really spiritual individual, I respect the viewpoints of others and count on the identical from them. If a buyer has an issue with the meals apart from the style then I can’t actually assist them. I can’t change the origin of a dish.

What’s the good order from Arabisque?
If it’s a meal for one, I’d recommend a mezze bowl. We provide falafel, paneer, lamb and totally different preparations of rooster. It’s the optimum amount for one individual and provides you the chance to strive a number of parts just like the hummus, tabbouleh and our breads. It’s an ideal pattern of what Arabisque has to supply.

Earlier: Introduction
Subsequent: Rehan Mehta, East seventh Pizza & Deli

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