Food: Where Mumbai's chefs buy their kitchen equipment

May 21, 2016, 08:30 IST | Krutika Behrawala

From sushi knives to spaetzle makers and dimsum portioning scales, Mumbai markets are now a treasure trove of high-tech kitchen equipment. Here's where chefs buy their toys

When we step into Saria Stove Depot, a nondescript kitchen and cookware store squeezed between two shops in Lohar Chawl, we realise what Thomas Zacharias, executive chef at The Bombay Canteen, meant when he captioned a click on Instagram as ‘Definitely a lesson in space management to be learnt here’. The popular chef was on his quarterly visit to the store, two weeks back. While over 50 types of ladles hang from the ceiling, fondue and barbeque sets, blow torches, blenders, processors, piping bags, dimsum baskets, moulds, weighing scales, copper pots and pans, ceramic crockery and glassware vie with each other for space on the packed shelves in the tiny shop, currently managed by fourth generation owner Aliasgar Saria. “My great grandfather started the shop by stocking Petromax lamps and stoves. Today, apart from refrigerators and ovens, we sell everything that a restaurant kitchen requires, including specialty knives from Japanese and German brands. Practically, every city chef has dropped by at least once,” says Saria, while attending to a chef who’s flown down from Goa to pick up a variety of baking equipment, some of which will be procured from other merchant traders that the store works with.

A photograph of a wall lined with kitchen tools at Lohar Chawl’s Saria Stove Depot, posted by chef Thomas Zacharias on Instagram
A photograph of a wall lined with kitchen tools at Lohar Chawl’s Saria Stove Depot, posted by chef Thomas Zacharias on Instagram

“Though you may need only basic kitchen equipment to be able to cook properly, having good tools helps boost the morale of the cooks, which is ultimately crucial for putting out great food,” says Zacharias, who frequently restocks knives, strainers, bar tools, sauté pans and sheet pans from the store. “I’ve been visiting it for five years now. Quality, consistency and reliability are important when it comes to kitchen equipment and sticking with people you know well helps to ensure that,” says the chef, who also picks up baking tools from the popular shop, Arife Lamoulde, within a five-minute radius in the Crawford Market neighbourhood.

Chef Thomas Zacharias
Chef Thomas Zacharias

When local became cool
Gone are the days when chefs needed to make frequent trips abroad to pick up pasta makers, sushi knives or make do with local graters and spatulas to dole out lip-smacking eats. Today, they rely on local vendors to procure a large part of specialised tools, including smoking guns used to torch crème brulees, spaetzle makers that help churn out threads of traditional German egg noodles and even, delicate Chinese weighing scales that check portion sizes of dimsums. “Over last six years, local markets have improved, and can match flea markets of most other countries. Products on offer are high in quality, mostly imported by traders and sold at a small premium,” observes restaurateur Farrokh Khambata. If you peek into the kitchens at one of his fine dine restaurants, you’ll find only 20 per cent appliances with foreign tags. “These include molecular gastronomy tools and Korean hot stone bowls for our signature bibimbap (mixed rice). Although our taco fryers are not sourced from Mumbai, they are now available at Stec India, showing the capability of such stores in our city.”

Baked in-house, the breads at Kurla’s Craft Deli.Bistro.Bar are shaped in different moulds, sourced locally
Baked in-house, the breads at Kurla’s Craft Deli.Bistro.Bar are shaped in different moulds, sourced locally

While most restaurateurs prefer to import combi ovens from the German brand, Rational, baking breads and pizzas is simpler due to specialised tools. “Now, we get non-greasy silicon trays here, unlike aluminium tin ones that used butter paper. Knives for different kinds of meat cuts like lamb chops and crinkle-cut knives that add a criss-cross shape to carrots have added finesse to the cooking process,” informs chef Paul Kinny of Bellona Hospitality, which operates Craft Deli.Bar.Bistro and Nook nightclub at Kurla.

Products with induction heating technology have also made a headway into city markets. “There are new professional electric and induction cooking manufacturers who are making great products, like induction woks, steamers and grills, especially for places which cannot use gas. That’s something innovative,” informs Sahil Timbadia, co-owner at Jamjar Diner.

Curb the cost
The main advantages of sourcing locally include reduction of costs, possibility of customisation and most importantly, post-sales service. Case in point: A few years, when chef Rakesh Talwar, who helms the kitchens at The Playlist Pizzeria and Wok This Way, faced problems with an imported salamander (a self-contained broiler), he couldn’t find anyone to fix it. “It was a waste of money. Since then, I prefer buying local equipment. It’s cut down my costs by 50 per cent,” he informs. The chef now swears by Ashokbhai (as he calls him) of Sewree’s Janta Steel, who has also customised 12-diametre woks for single portions and five-feet long whisks, which can be used to stir large quantities of soups and sauces. “He makes a trip to China every three months and checks with me on the latest innovations doing rounds, which he can bring down,” he adds.

Syesha Kapoor, owner, Boveda Bistro, adds, “Shops at Crawford also cater to bulk orders and provide subsidised rates.” If you’re a chef and reading this, may be, it’s time to plan your visit to Lohar Chawl and its neighbourhoods. Who knows, you might just turn into a trendsetter.

What about the pastry chef?
The market for pastry tools in India is at a nascent stage, believes chef Sanjana Patel of La Folie. She imports most of her machinery, including deck ovens, bread dough kneader and planetary mixer along with silicon moulds and piping bags from overseas, including Spain, France, Germany and Sweden.

Sanjana Patel
Sanjana Patel

“It’s five or 10 times the cost, if procured locally, but I don’t mind it because of the high quality. It’s been four years and I haven’t had the need to service the machines even once,” she says, adding, “You can order baking trays and moulds on Amazon or check out eBay, a great market for pastry chefs to find unique equipments or tools, which may have been disposed off by foreign chefs.”

Stock your kitchen toolkit
>> Choose from over 100 varieties of knives ('600 to '40,000) including Japanese and German brands, smoke guns, portion scales and other equipments. At Saria Stove Depot, Kantilal M Sharma Marg, 26 Lohar Chawl, Kalbadevi. Call 22082314

A traditional dimsum portioning scale. Pic/Sameer Markande
A traditional dimsum portioning scale. Pic/Sameer Markande

>> Buy chopping boards, vegetable cutters, pots and pans, moulds, turners, pairing knives and even customised options.
At Janta Steel, Godown No 17, T.J. Road, near Sundar Tower, Sewree. Call 24111987
>> Pick from stand mixers, silicon moulds, sushi knives or sushi mats and dimsum baskets. At Stec India, Hakoba Compound, Bombay Cotton Mills Estate, 77, Kala Chowki Road. Call 32409141
>> Scout for ceramic dinner plates (Rs 280 per piece), forks and knives (Rs 450-Rs 950 for 12 pieces), beer towers (Rs 1,500 per piece) and wooden pizza plates (Rs 260-Rs 450 per piece) At Shops in Crawford market
>> If you sell mithai, go the Sweet Bengal way and opt for the steamed jacketed kettle for boiling milk or the khoya and samosa sheet-making machine from JVC Equipment in Saki Naka. “This helps us avoid handling of the products manually. We have also imported a rasgolla making machine from China and sondesh making machine from Kolkata,” says Anjan Chatterjee, owner, Speciality Restaurants.

How chefs please Insta-first-eat-later generation
>> Chef Hardik Parekh, executive chef at The Light House Café, has stocked lab and medical equipment like beakers, measuring jars, glucose bottles, syringes and test-tubes from shops along Abdul Rehman Street. “They help add creativity to cocktail presentations,” he says.

>> While Hoppipola picks up service ware from Ice Spice Export in Andheri, they have an in-house team to create unique service ware, like birdcages and wooden bowls shaped like chicken to serve chicken wings.

>> At The Bombay Canteen, you’ll find traditional copper and brass utensils with contemporary designs from Delhi-based Baarique and Rooh Afza bottles sourced from shops along Mohammed Ali Road, used to serve water. “It’s always a delight to see people’s faces light up when they recognise these bottles from their childhood,” says Zacharias.

Buying kitchen equipment? Keep in mind
>> It should fit all your needs, don’t compromise for a few thousands
>> Don’t get over excited and buy what’s best in the market, buy what’s best for you
>> Make sure the vendor is preferably close by, incase of urgent requirements, additional parts
>> Post sales service is most essential, ensure that you get up to three years warrantee and the servicing agents are prompt
>> Make sure your equipment is spread out: Get 2-3 fridges instead of one big one (if space permits) as backup.
- Syesha Kapoor, owner, Boveda Bistro

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