Pulling noodles, tossing pasta or the roomali, carving a smoked prime cut or lighting up the sizzler… Live kitchens are known to tantalise the sensory glands, while whetting the hungry guests’ appetite. But what was earlier all about flamboyance has today become the patron’s benchmark for hygiene. With the Covid-19 situation easing and patrons slowly making their way back to their favourite fine dine places, these restaurants had another challenge at hand—convincing patrons that what they were eating was prepared and brought to them from hygienic surroundings.
One of the hardest-hit during the pandemic—the hospitality sector—has also been one of the fastest at adapting itself. From putting together DIY meals and even cocktail kits for their patrons, home catering exquisite dinners to hosting live sessions with chefs, they have managed to stay relevant. Now suddenly the live kitchen is where all the action is at.
Ashish Kumar Rai, General Manager, The Leela Ambience Convention Hotel, Delhi, agrees, “In the pre-pandemic days an open kitchen or live counter set-up added to both the design and entertainment aspects of a restaurant. It now plays an even more important role in allaying any concerns guests might have. An open kitchen is designed for trust, and makes visible the fact that guests’ safety is our foremost priority.” Is safety taking precedence over taste? Are people overreacting given that the virus does not transmit actively through food? Patrons want a greater sense of ownership regarding food safety in its production.
As live cooking stations take centre stage, the nature of cooking itself will probably change, believe many in the industry. Foods which are quick to assemble, easy to toss and pleasant to see will take precedence over those that require lengthy preparation times and create a trail of gravy here, a splutter of oil there or a stain of turmeric while cooking. The bottomline is that consumers want to see how the food that they are eating has been cooked. And the vision also needs to be a pleasant one.
Vikas Seth, Chef and Culinary Director, Embassy Leisure and Entertainment Projects LLP, says, “We have a live Pizzeria at Hopshaus, Botanical Brewery & Kitchen, a Taqueria at Sanchez and a Robata grill at Sriracha; these experiences help reassure customers on the already implemented safety standards. While they were curated to add gravitas to the culinary experience, in today’s scenario it is a representation of safe production.
The more transparent communication on food preparation and service, the more comfortable diners are to frequent restaurants, whether through live kitchens, showcasing safe production practices through digital channels or visual adherence to the new norms.” Highest hygiene standard is the new calling card. Chefs and restaurateurs hope that the transparency and honesty that live cooking brings to the table will add to the overall footfall.
“The Chanakya has been extremely cautious to find ways to elevate health, hygiene and safety standards, at the same time retaining the trademark culinary experience. MKT offers a distinct open kitchen view ensuring front-seat access to the safety measures in place that go into preparing each dish,” says Prashant Gaurav Gupta, Vice-President & Head, DLF Luxury Malls.
While fine dine places are going all out to spike up the footfall with such safety measures, cloud kitchens too are not far behind. For example, Delhi-NCR-based cloud kitchen startup Instapizza began live streaming of their chefs baking pizzas to ensure consumers that their food remains safe. Anil Chadha, COO, ITC Hotels, says, “Cleanliness has become the new amenity.
Health, safety and hygiene are now critical considerations for guests when deciding on a restaurant for fine dining. In the post-pandemic world, the consumer is more mindful and is consciously seeking out dining options that address concerns about safety. They are demanding an environment where there is no risk; hence they would not just want to see clean tables, but also a clean and open live kitchen.” Food-spotting anyone?