Posted by Kimberly Andrade
You've seen them on television cooking shows like "Top Chef" and "Chopped," but now open kitchens are becoming more common in upscale restaurants all over the world. Open kitchens are exciting for patrons who enjoy watching the chefs fry, saute and braise while sipping cocktails. Open kitchens showcase the chefs' talents while providing entertainment to your guests. Of course, if your customers can see your entire kitchen staff, then it also means your guests can see everything that is going on behind the scenes. As such, you can expect that customers will scrutinize your chefs' every action, and much of their opinions of the food you serve will be based on the quality of your kitchen.
When you have an open kitchen, you invite your patrons to judge your operation based on visual criteria. They'll want to see some fancy knifework and some flaming saute pans, but they also want to see clean uniforms, shiny pots and pristine utensils. This means that the lifespan of everything in your kitchen is going to be significantly reduced.
Staying Fresh and Pressed
As in any line of employment, appearance is important, but if you have an open kitchen, your chefs need to look neat and clean. Uniforms need to be tidy, pressed and stain-free. For most food professionals, that's an easy enough task for the beginning of a shift, but it's the rare chef that can work for hours in a busy kitchen without getting a few stains on his or her whites. So if your restaurant features an open kitchen, it may be prudent to supply your chefs and support staff with extra uniforms, so if your sous-chef spills half a gallon of marinara on her coat, the tomato-soaked employee won't have to tough out the rest of the night in stained whites.
Tarnish and Dent-Free
When your kitchen is behind closed doors, it's more important to have functional commercial kitchen equipment than pretty pots and pans. However, if you have an open kitchen, your kitchenware needs to be both attractive and functional. So if your pots are irredeemably tarnished or dented, you need to replace them even if they still make good food. Likewise, if the handle falls off your ladle, you can't just duct tape it back into place. Slapdash repairs may work in a closed kitchen, but if everything is open to public scrutiny, you need to make sure that your wares are in tip-top condition.
"Open kitchens are becoming more common in upscale restaurants all over the world."
Because of this, your pots, pans and other cooking utensils will have a much shorter lifespan, but even if you plan on using specific wares for shorter periods of time, accidents still happen. If a pan is dropped on the floor and dented, you can't just pick it up and put it back in rotation. If your patrons see the chefs cooking with dented, beat-up pots and pans, they might think that the restaurant is trying to cut corners. As such, dented cookware should be replaced immediately, even if it's still serviceable. To accommodate this necessity, it may prove helpful to maintain a fully stocked storeroom with spare cookware for quick replacement.
Clean Ranges and Tidy Prep Tables
In addition to having pristine cookware, it's also necessary to make sure that all surfaces, ovens and preparation tables are clean and in excellent condition. Charbroilers and griddles are going to get messy, but in an open kitchen, it is absolutely essential to make sure that these appliances are kept clean at all times, not just washed at the end of each shift. Chefs can help by being more cautious in the kitchen, but it may also be helpful to have cleaning supplies on hand so assistants can tidy up during slow periods. However, there may be very times when cleaning up simply isn't an option. In these instances, it is extremely helpful to have ovens, griddles and other appliances that are equipped to deal with high volumes of grease, grime and other kitchen waste, so the chefs can focus on the food instead of cleaning the appliances.
Ultimately, running a kitchen that is open to your patrons' scrutiny is going to cost more. You're going to need to replace wares more frequently, and your chefs will require replacement uniforms. However, if you have the chops to keep up appearances, your guests will take notice and spread the word about your amazing chefs and gorgeous kitchen.