Home Mode Cloud Kitchens: Rehan Mehta, East seventh Pizza & Deli

Cloud Kitchens: Rehan Mehta, East seventh Pizza & Deli

Cloud Kitchens: Rehan Mehta, East seventh Pizza & Deli

Wine & Dine

Textual content and Images by Mallika Chandra.

Rehan Mehta, 31
East seventh Pizza & Deli
Location: Colaba
Speciality: Pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, puddings

Rehan, inform me about your journey as a chef.
The primary time I went to cooking faculty was after I completed my education in Mumbai. I had taken a niche yr in 2010 and I did a three-month course at Le Cordon Bleu London. That have truly made me not need to change into a chef so I went to a liberal arts faculty within the US, the place I graduated in psychology.

In my third yr at school, I occurred to observe a video of Anthony Bourdain (the late movie star chef and journey documentarian) and David Chang (restaurateur and tv persona) consuming at one among Chang’s New York eating places. That made me need to return to cooking. The truth is, I felt like I simply couldn’t do anything! I enrolled within the cooking faculty David Chang had been to, which was the French Culinary Institute in New York. I had found a course that will permit me to take six months off from faculty, come again and nonetheless graduate on time. I liked it there.

The best way it labored in America on the time was that I had three months to discover a job after commencement. So I utilized to a bunch of locations. Lastly, by way of Craigslist, I received a job as a pastry cook dinner at Momofuku Milk Bar in New York (now referred to as Milk Bar), though it wasn’t what I had particularly skilled in. I used to be making cookies, muffins and bread and I nonetheless assume it’s the perfect job I’ve ever had. Sadly, I needed to go away after a yr as a result of they have been unable to sponsor my work visa.

After I returned to Mumbai in 2015, I used to be given a job within the pastry division wherever I utilized due to my expertise at Momofuku Milk Bar. My first job was in Colaba on the modern-American restaurant Ellipsis (now shut), headed by Chef Kelvin Cheung. Chef Kelvin was a Milk Bar fan so he was eager to have me onboard. Sadly, he left the restaurant six months after I joined.

Then, in September 2016, I joined Masque in Mahalaxmi in Mumbai. Chef Prateek Sadhu and co-owner Aditi Dugar received in contact with me whereas the restaurant was nonetheless below development. Even on my first go to, I might inform the kitchen and the area have been going to be particular. The primary yr of Masque was actually fascinating however we have been struggling to determine our fashion or what might make it distinctive. Ultimately, Chef Prateek began digging deeper into his personal Kashmiri roots, and that’s when it actually took off. It made extra sense as a result of it was private and culturally related reasonably than simply attempting to be like many different Scandinavian-inspired tasting menu eating places. What I loved most from my time there was the truth that the cooks would serve all of the dishes and received to work together with the shoppers, who have been normally enthusiastic about meals, and that made it enjoyable. We additionally had loads of freedom to work on new dishes which saved issues fascinating.

Later, I grew disillusioned with nice eating. I used to be eager on beginning one thing that might feed much more folks. I considered opening a sandwich store. I did a couple of pop-ups and began on the lookout for places however nothing labored out. On the identical time, I heard concerning the legendary chef Rahul Akerkar opening a brand new restaurant (Qualia) and I utilized for a place within the scorching kitchen. I used to be liable for the pasta part, which was wonderful as a result of I like working with dough and the pasta turned actually widespread.

What led you to begin a cloud kitchen and the way did you plan to face out?
Quickly after I left Qualia, the pandemic struck, which rekindled the concept of a sandwich store since folks have been hungry for well-executed consolation meals. There wasn’t actually a Western-inspired sandwich tradition in Mumbai on the time however as a result of folks received into baking bread through the lockdown, a sandwich tradition was sure to observe.

My unique sandwich store concept developed to incorporate pizza. My pondering was that pizza and sandwiches go hand in hand. I had eaten loads of nice pizza throughout my time in New York, which received me obsessed — and through the pandemic I began playing around with it, making it at house for my household. It was a no brainer to begin as a cloud kitchen on the time as a result of if there had been one other lockdown, you’d be caught paying hire for a restaurant with out anybody coming in there. I discovered a spot in Colaba in December 2021.

How did you go about establishing your operations? What did you herald from previous expertise?
It took me three months to arrange the place. I used to be very finicky concerning the kitchen being a sure method. I needed to discover the proper oven. I knew I didn’t need a wood-fired oven, I needed an electrical one. In New York, most of my favorite pizza locations used electrical ovens. Wooden fireplace may be very charming, however I don’t assume it provides a lot when it comes to style. I really feel like when you have the proper electrical oven, the pizza can style simply pretty much as good and it’s much more constant, which is essential. While you’re attempting to churn the pizzas out actually quick and have 10 to fifteen orders at a time, that wood-fired oven goes to be a ache and perhaps a couple of aren’t going to be pretty much as good as the remaining as a result of it’s so arduous to take care of and management the warmth, in contrast to electrical ovens.

Having mulled over the concept of the sandwich and pizza store for therefore lengthy, what has the menu improvement course of been like?
After I began engaged on the recipes, I assumed it might take perhaps a couple of weeks or a month, nevertheless it took me 5 months simply to determine a pizza dough that I used to be pleased with. I did nearly 100 trials. I used to be simply making pizza daily and attempting to determine it out. I by no means imagined how sophisticated it might be, provided that it’s simply 4 substances that you just’re working with. However, the best way you combine these substances, the proportions, how a lot water you add, which flour you employ, how lengthy you ferment it — all these wanted to be discovered. Lastly, I settled on a dough after trial quantity 96. I needed to simplify the dough course of as a result of it’s essential for my workforce to have the ability to execute it in addition to I’d. That’s the reason I dominated out a sourdough pizza dough as a result of it has an excessive amount of margin for error. Now, we’re on pizza dough trial quantity 103. The pizza dough recipe continues to be referred to as a trial, though we’ve been open for a yr. And we maintain making changes consistent with adjustments within the climate to get that good gentle and ethereal but crispy pizza crust.

Subsequent got here the sandwich bread. We have been outsourcing the bread initially however the numbers didn’t work out. It was simpler to choose a recipe, nevertheless it nonetheless took a number of trials. We use a Vietnamese Bánh mì-style baguette. In comparison with a French baguette, it has a really skinny crust and a fluffy inside. The sandwiches received so much higher after we began making our personal bread.

The one factor I knew I had to determine was dessert. Most pizza locations serve dough balls with Nutella and stuff like that. However I needed one thing lighter. I assumed an American-style pudding would match the invoice. Our lemon cheesecake and chocolate puddings do very well. We had a strawberries-and-cream pudding and one with mango, which have been seasonal and actually widespread. We’re utilizing fancy vanilla beans, however in addition to that they’re primarily fruity, creamy and crunchy.

You set out a job opening on Instagram someday again and it communicated so much concerning the work tradition you are attempting to each desist from and construct. Was that intentional?
Most eating places I’ve labored at, the hours have been very lengthy, which has been the benchmark on this trade for ages. However I knew I didn’t need to try this. If I used to be doing that and we have been profitable and earning profits, I’d have nonetheless thought-about it a failure as a result of an overworked workforce will not be an indication of success. To me, it makes monetary sense as properly. If you happen to push folks so arduous, they’re simply going to get burnt out and go away in a couple of weeks or months, or a yr. I’d reasonably have folks stick round for the lengthy haul, be pleased, go house and never take into consideration work.

That’s why, in that hiring put up, I used to be specific that our shift lasts 10 hours solely. In actuality, it’s solely 9 hours, however I’ve accounted for some further time ought to we often want it. Now, after working this place for a yr and seeing how troublesome it’s to really make cash, I see why different restaurateurs demand such lengthy hours from their groups. If restaurant gross sales aren’t reaching their goal, the administration in some way feels that making folks work longer hours will enhance gross sales. Nonetheless, whereas gross sales may enhance within the quick time period, if targets aren’t met, it’s extra doubtless that there’s a drawback with the product or expertise.

Had been you additionally intending to provide your prospects an perception into what sort of cloud kitchen it’s and the form of folks which can be making the meals?
That’s not why I posted it and I didn’t give it some thought on the time. I used to be simply attempting to rent a very good candidate. However, in fact, if I have been to see a enterprise posting one thing like this, I’d be extra more likely to strive the meals and would attempt to order usually. Our restaurant trade doesn’t have the perfect status. So, anybody who is aware of something about what goes on behind the scenes could be pleased for issues to alter for the higher.

Who’s your typical buyer?
Sadly, most of our orders come from Swiggy and so they don’t share buyer knowledge. It’s protected to guess that the general public ordering from us are form of like pizza nerds, which appears to be each third individual these days. Most of our meals is New York-influenced. Those that’ve by no means had this sort of meals are eager to strive it. And people who have been to New York or Philadelphia and have had a cheesesteak sandwich, for instance, may even need to relive that have.

I’ve additionally deliberately not marketed East seventh Pizza & Deli so much as a result of I’m nonetheless tweaking issues. I really feel prefer it’s at all times a piece in progress and I’m form of a perfectionist; and I say that within the worst potential method. I’ll maintain procrastinating with the advertising as a result of I believe perhaps pizza dough trial 104 or 105 would be the good one after which we will actually push our advertising. Presently, advertising has primarily been by way of phrase of mouth.

Is that additionally a results of the title East seventh Pizza & Deli? Your official firm title can also be fascinating.
You might say that. Our official firm title is Very Informal Meals. I got here up with that title after leaving Masque as a result of I used to be simply so tired of nice eating. It’s humorous to say that now, since Masque is likely one of the finest eating places in India. I see myself sticking with quick informal or informal eating places with thoughtfully executed and ingredient-driven meals.

The title East seventh was impressed by the road I lived on in New York. Whereas I used to be in cooking faculty, I lived on East seventh Avenue between 1st Avenue and Avenue A, which is within the East Village. And that one avenue had a lot good meals! You might stroll down the road in 90 seconds nevertheless it had loads of nice tiny institutions. And every of them specialised in only one or two issues. There was Luke’s Lobster, which made simply seafood sandwiches. There was a Venezuelan arepas place. The constructing I lived in had an Italian sandwich store referred to as Porchetta, which simply made a roast pork sandwich. Throughout the road was this soft-serve place referred to as Large Homosexual Ice Cream, which bought actually funky tender serve. After which there was a Chinese language teahouse the place I’d sit and drink tea. That avenue actually impressed me.

How would you describe what a deli is?
Within the New York sense, it’s your native sandwich place the place you choose lunch up on a piece day nevertheless it additionally might be the place you go to get fundamental groceries, perhaps even some baked items, with out having to make a visit to the grocery store. Inside that, there are the bodega-style delis, the place the sandwiches are made merely, utilizing simply packaged substances. Then there are the old-school delis, which make all the things from scratch, like Katz’s Deli, which is legendary for pastrami. Russ & Daughters is basically well-known for his or her smoked fish. The deli tradition got here from the Jewish inhabitants of New York. However now it has change into a pattern that has unfold the world over.

How do you construct belief as a cloud kitchen?
I’m very specific about conserving the kitchen tremendous clear, and in addition about ensuring that substances are at their prime. That sense of hygiene was ingrained in me because of all my earlier work locations. Clearly, our meals security legal guidelines aren’t as strict or as strictly enforced over right here in India, as in comparison with New York, however I implement those self same requirements anyway.

How has juggling the roles of chef and enterprise proprietor been for you?
I want I might simply cook dinner and concentrate on the meals as a result of it might be a lot simpler. Half my time is spent managing folks, though I solely have a workforce of 9. Simply attempting to maintain all of them on observe and coaching them retains me considerably occupied.

I’m horrible at advertising. In order that’s one other factor that I want I’d simply not need to do. I maintain hoping that if my meals is nice sufficient, I gained’t need to do any advertising and other people will simply come anyway. And that’s clearly the dream. In New York, when you have an incredible restaurant, even when it’s a tiny one, the phrase goes to unfold so quick that you just’ll have queues down the highway. However over right here, I don’t assume that’s potential as a result of we’re providing a distinct segment product. Having stated that, I’m not essentially attempting to succeed in a large viewers. I’m simply looking for the proper individuals who need one thing scrumptious that’s made with care, consideration and good substances.

What ended up being simpler than you thought?
I don’t assume something has been simpler than I assumed. Most issues have been more durable than I assumed. Nonetheless, when somebody tries your meals, particularly if it’s a stranger, and tells you that they liked it, you are feeling good and you’re feeling prefer it’s all been value it.

What’s the good order from East seventh Pizza & Deli?
Our menu will not be very lengthy as a result of I would like each merchandise to be tremendous scrumptious. A Ray’s Cheese Pizza, our model of a margherita with further buffalo mozzarella and parmesan cheese; a Pork Stomach Bánh mì, which is meaty and spicy; and a lemon cheesecake pudding!

Earlier: Kunal Makhija, Arabisque
Subsequent: Kartikeya Ratan and Rishabh Doshi, Kiki & Pastor


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