Concept & DesignStar KitchenVol. 17

restaurants embracing OPEN KITCHENS

By January 10, 2017No Comments

Just in its first year, Hello! By Kitchen Mafia has already gotten a great buzz. It helps that the restaurant is owned by two famous television chefs but their team of chefs, innovative recipes meals and strong work ethic are what make crowds come back for more. We chat with television chefs and owners of Hello! by Kitchen Mafia’s Johnny Fua and Sherson Lian about their experience running their restaurant.

MEP: Was it an immediate decision to run an open kitchen restaurant?
HKM: The moment we walked into the space, we knew where all the cooking would be and that we wanted it out in the open. If you take a look at our space, you can’t imagine it having a closed kitchen anyway. It’s not so much the concept or how cool it would look. We took into account about our staff’s morale – imagine being confined to a small box. If it was a big kitchen, that would work but with a space like ours, we’ll lose our magic. We work with the space by having a prep kitchen upstairs. So, Mondays are strictly for the entire week’s prep unless its fresh produce.

MEP: Does a person’s attitude play a role working within this concept?
HKM: Transparency comes at a cost, a good cost. You don’t take things for granted like picking things up off the floors. It might be a tiny act but it builds good quality in the kitchen. I mean, some cooks aren’t a fan of being seen cooking out in the open; but if you’ve got nothing to hide, why worry? When you’re dealing with food, you can’t hide unless you’ve got a secret recipe. Then again, with the internet, nothing’s much of a secret. But talking about manpower, the need for work amongst the locals isn’t as presently clear as it was about five to ten years ago. And, that’s also because people have got an abundant of choices to work at. I mean, if someone doesn’t take it seriously here, he or she can just walk right next door.

MEP: Wow, so are you saying it’s tough hiring young staff these days?
HKM: This is in no way saying everyone in the current generation is like this: We see it with the coffee culture today. A lot of them pursue their studies in Australia and from their student experience over there, they show a picture to their parents; and being supportive the supportive parents that they are, they fork out the cash and, voila! There’s the young business owner today. If you decide to focus on a certain industry, it takes a while to see what you’ll become. Then, there are those who are so sure of what they want but because today’s world is fast-paced, they expect faster results too. No matter what, time and practice is what you need when you think about getting into the foodservice industry. It took us years to develop ourselves, it’s not just about cooking in a fancy restaurant.

MEP: Let’s just track back for a bit. Chow Mein and Chow Fan are on the menu, and right now you’re using the wok. Did you think about the noise?
HKM: We didn’t think it was a concern. Actually, if you do it right, there wouldn’t be much noise. Again, it’s the staffing. If they’re trained right, they’ll know what to do.

Located next to the Princess Theatre on Annerley Road, Queensland, Australia Colour Me Flavour,according to founder Nita Tailor the concept of the restaurant is to capture the authentic taste and unique flavours of traditional Gujarat dishes but present them with a dramatic twist under the ar tistic direction of head chef Eugene Lee.

cd_article3b_2MEP: What are your challenges working in an open kitchen?
EL: Open kitchens are always very interesting because being vulnerable is never a term chefs found comfort with. Chefs are to be seen as gods or generals in the kitchen and they are never to be shaken even a little bit. They should look poised and confident at all times. However, that is not always the case when it gets really busy in the kitchen. In a closed kitchen, chefs can lose their cool easily then move through the swinging doors at the butler’s pantry, change their faces and then, walk into the dining looking like nothing’s happened in the kitchen.
cd_article3b_3MEP: What has been your biggest success and greatest setback when working an open kitchen?
EL: Open kitchens are great because guests get to see what’s really going on. Dining is supposed to be multisensory and it shouldn’t just happen with the dishes but it is from the moment they walk into the space, to when they are greeted; to when they are seated and then, whilst having meals. We have numerous guests who ask to be seated at tables closest to the kitchen so that they can watch what’s going on. This sometimes leads to face-to-face compliments to the crew for the experience And most of the time after they finished their meal they would come up to the kitchen and compliment the crews for the “whole”experience.

MEP: In your opinion, what is crucial for business owners to acquire before heading into the open kitchen format direction?
NT: An amazing head chef! (laughs) Well, I think to opt for an open kitchen, business owners should at least have a clear idea about equipment and kitchen layouts. Because the kitchen is exposed therefore factors like noise, ventilation, storage, and kitchen flow, ergonomics, waste disposal, sanitation station and counter tops have to be taken into consideration. It has to fit the establishment’s concept at the same time abide with the health and safety regulations. The menu has to reflect the capacity of the kitchen and its inhabitants – the chef and cooks.