Kitchen Confidential: Let us help you design our kitchens

An anonymous exec-level chef asks to be more involved in kitchen design

Do you want to get something off your chest?
Do you want to get something off your chest?

Why is it that so many professional kitchens are designed by people who have no clue how to operationally run or even work in a kitchen?

When the kitchen has been designed and is not up to the mark, it’s the chef who is left to pick up the pieces and is expected to do some sort of Harry Potter wizardry during their time in the service.

I have worked in some incredibly well-designed kitchens. I have also worked in some really badly designed ones.

The first time I asked to help design the flow of a kitchen was in 2011. It was clear from the off that the consultant who was in charge the project was a good guy but his kitchen designer was the total opposite.

Arrogant, knew better than everyone else, had some sort of self-importance… Sounds very much like a chef, right?

So, when overseeing the plans for the kitchen, I had to really go through it with fine-tooth comb, as it would fall on my shoulders to run the operation.

Back then, I had no filter, I was direct and very straight to the point, so during our first meeting with myself, the owner, consultant, and his all-knowing kitchen designer, the meeting started like this: “So what do you think of our kitchen?” Direct as you like, my answer was: “No offence but it’s bull!”

Heated debates happened back and forth, but the kitchen took shape and I was happy with the final outcome.

After the project was completed and the operation was up and running, the consultant thanked me for my honesty and he understood why I was so blunt, as ultimately that restaurant would be on his website as a successful project.

In this region, for every new project, you have about 20 people’s input, some of whom just have no idea about anything to do with the perils of designing or running a kitchen.

I would never go into a mechanics workshop and start lecturing them on how to build an engine, but when it comes to designing kitchens, the rules seem to be different.

Consultants or designers who are reading this, ask yourself one question: Would it really hurt to ask a chef their opinion when designing a kitchen?

The kitchen is the heartbeat of any restaurant, it needs to be well maintained, well oiled, and very well designed.

I’ve witnessed first-hand how long it can take to design a kitchen, usually in a tight space due to the fact that rents are high and you need the maximum amount of footfall in order to break even in the first year or so. Then there are the 15 meetings you have just so that everyone agrees to the design, and then you are already late on submitting plans.

That’s okay if you have time and cash to waste, but let’s say you get three opinions from three established chefs.

You have a professional view on how that particular design should run, that will fit that particular concept, and instead of going back and forth 15 times, you may just have to do it three times, but ultimately the client, yourself, and the grumpy chef in the kitchen are all happy.

With 11 thousand restaurants just in Dubai, that’s a lot of projects that have had to go through this process. How many more future projects will have to see the battle of chef v consultant.

For me it shouldn’t be a battle, it should be an old school dance-off!

Do you have an industry opinion you want to air anonymously with Caterer Middle East?
Email simon.ritchie@itp.com - all information will be kept private and confidential.

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