Executive chef Rajesh Shetty of GVK Lounge by TFS Performa speaks to FoodService India about the role and importance of kitchen equipment in aiding and facilitating foodservice innovations and latest trends and concepts that will shape future developments in the HoReCa sector…
Can you offer us examples of some innovative ideas that you have implemented in the kitchen and in your F&B offerings recently?
We have invested in a couple of Rational ovens this year in our kitchen at the GVK Lounge, which is operated by TFS, the travel food retail arm of our parent company K Hospitality Corp. Apart from being premium products, Rational ovens are user friendly and help chefs to save on both time and energy. Also, we can use different cooking applications at the same time. TFS is very proactive about connecting with the local suppliers to get the best raw materials so that we are able to offer local cuisine to our premium customers. We are planning currently on a 100-mile menu, which will only include items for which raw material are produced or can be procured within a 100-mile radius.
How do you think the year ahead will pan out for the food service business?
Food service is exploding in India. It is moving in the right direction as more entrepreneurs are entering the industry with larger national and global aspirations. People are investing in different types of food service business. As a result, new vendors are emerging to help source different products and equipment to support and eventually beneﬁt end users. This is an interesting time for the F&B industry as customers are open to different tastes and cuisines and appreciate good quality food.
Why is it that no Indian restaurateur has been able to manage a sizeable chain of restaurants like the foreign QSR chains?
India has the most unique demographic among all countries. Customers and clientele vary from region to region while food habits change drastically across the distances. As a result, what is loved in the north may not be liked in the south and vice versa.
As a chef, what is the kind of change that you ﬁnd in kitchen equipment at hotels today and how is the scenario different from what it was earlier?
The biggest change is that the equipment is getting more sophisticated with a lot more features available on them. The machines are able to multi-task and can be used for different cooking applications. Also, there are more options and vendors available for such equipment, which was not the case earlier. Better materials are being used to produce kitchen equipment today. Machines are getting more dynamic and importing them has also become a lot easier.
Do chefs have a role to play in the selection of kitchen equipment that gets purchased by a hotel eventually?
Chefs have a major role to play in purchase of equipment as they are going to be the end users. We see more and more chefs being hired by equipment manufacturers to get their feedback on how they can make their equipment smarter and of value for the end user.
What considerations do chefs keep in mind in the selection of kitchen equipment?
The important factors are whether the equipment can use a superior product and whether it will help to reduce production costs. The ease of using the equipment and will other colleague chefs be able to use it is also an important consideration. Then, there are the questions about the safety features of the machine and the technology itself. The servicing of the machines, spare parts availability and the time to repair the equipment are also very important factors.
How would you go about weighing the cost/ beneﬁt considerations for kitchen equipment to arrive at the ﬁnal purchasing decision?
The most important thing is the efﬁciency and reliability of the equipment and quality of the ﬁnal product. We ensure that the quality of the end product is superior and it helps us to reduce time, labour and food cost.
Why is it that manufacturing of almost all high-end kitchen equipment are by foreign companies? Foreign companies invest signiﬁcantly on research and development. They hire trained engineers, technicians and chefs to build or contribute towards developing their equipment. Labour costs are very high in foreign countries and as a result manufacturers focus on designing and developing equipment that can reduce costs for the food service establishments. Indian companies are still working on a very small scale, and they are not able to merge technologies from other sectors. They do not invest in research and development as much as their international counterparts do.
With your experience in the food service business, what do you feel are the constant challenges?
The main challenges in our business are ensuring consistency of quality and the availability of products. Unfortunately, there are no systems or programmes, which can help bring this about. We still rely on natural weather conditions for availability of produce. As a result, supply of crops and products gets affected. People are travelling abroad more than before and as a result their expectations are higher. They want the similar types and variety of items in F&B. But there are times when meeting such expectations is not possible. Products and ingredients integral to many cuisines are available in the international market but are not always available in the home market. Skilled labour is again a matter of concern as more and more people are opting out of the food service industry. Additionally, there are no national food distributors, and standardisation of food products is a big challenge.