Mowgli Street Food founder Nisha Katona says her recipes are so formulised that she can instantly tell if the cooking equipment her restaurants use is playing up just by tasting the food.
The TV chef and food writer, who gave up her career as a barrister to launch the Indian food chain seven years ago, currently oversees 11 restaurants and is due to launch a site in Bristol next.
Speaking at last week’s Ceda Virtual Conference, Ms Katona described sourcing the right kitchen equipment for her brand – which is “all about the smash and grab zing of healthy, light, virtuosic herbs and spices” – as “critically important”.
She said: “Different kinds of oven will create a different kind of skin on my angry bird – that is how anal how I am about the equipment in my kitchen. I have an army of food testers and I go to each restaurant and taste the whole menu. For instance, your bain maries, if they are too hot, your curries dry out, your chicken falls apart, your lentils turn to mush.
“I need a bain marie that is so nuanced in its ability to monitor humidity and temperature, so if I go to [a branch] and see that the green dahl has turned into a mush I look to the bain marie because you need to remember that the recipes are so formulised that I know it’s not the recipe because that part of the inconsistency we have eliminated.
“It then comes down to kit – to an extent it comes down to the humans as well but they are pretty well-trained – and so we have often spotted problems with a bain marie or an oven because I can see my butter chicken is falling apart or the angry bird is now in shreds. There are certain barometers in my menu that tell me which piece of kit in my kitchen is playing up. So yes, I am very passionate about that.”
Ms Katona, who described Mowgli as “more Volvo than Aston Martin” and revealed that the chain has managed to get through the pandemic without losing any staff members, was also asked how she selects catering equipment for her restaurant kitchens.
“When I started this journey I could only afford certain stuff and I think because I was hand-picking every piece of equipment, I have kind of been forged in the crucible of being a picky chef in that way,” she replied.
MAIN IMAGE: @NishaKatona