Imagine if you could press a button and voila, your dinner was cooked and plated perfectly for you. Well, that has never been my dream. In part, because I love the process of cooking due to the journey the ingredients will take you on as you slice, marinate and sear.
But like most chefs, I am obsessed with organization and efficiency. There’s a term in the kitchen: mis en place, which directly translates to “everything in its place”. This is how we set up our kitchens, tools, ingredients and equipment, all organized to make food delicious and efficient.
Overcoming the Challenges of Standard Kitchens
Over the last 50 years, kitchens have evolved. But frankly, not as much as you’d think. Sure we have a small handful of new cooking methods like sous vide. And yes, equipment has improved and become more precise. A perfect example is the combi-oven: an oven that gives you the ability to control the temperature, level of convection and humidity all in one.
But for the most part, a restaurant kitchen follows a fairly standard layout: cooking stations arranged with refrigeration to keep ingredients cold, a flow that allows for meals to be assembled from the different stations and land in one place. Some kitchens are shiny and new, while others are patinaed after years of service. I’ve been in hundreds of kitchens in my career, but never have I seen anything like Spyce’s Infinite Kitchen.
The challenge to serve great food comes down to what happens in the last few minutes of preparation. For years I’ve been repeating this mantra in my time as the chef of full service restaurants:
Imagine all of the effort that goes into sourcing unique ingredients, receiving them properly into your kitchen, and prepping them with pain-staking care. Then, right before the dish is served, the pan flame is too high, causing the cook to burn the perfectly marinated fish, or a sauce is served cold instead of hot, or a key ingredient is forgotten during plating. All of the previous hard work just goes out the window.
These mistakes are all too common and all happen in the last few minutes of preparation.
Recreating the Kitchen Experience
Enter, the Infinite Kitchen. Based on the challenge I just described, we needed to balance 3 principles: timing, technique, and measurement.
When cooking and assembling a hot meal, timing is key. In our Kitchen, your perfectly seared chicken thigh takes longer to prepare than the steamed quinoa, which cooks in our superheated steamer, so the chicken starts cooking first. The components come together in the bowl at precisely the right time.
In order to sear the chicken, we cook on a double-sided plancha. Much like searing in a cast iron skillet at home, this gives us an even high-temperature-surface to achieve the perfect sear, quickly.
Any great recipe has a balance of flavors and textures. The balance is achieved through the proper ratios of components. Just the right amount of sauce on your pasta, or cheese on your salad. The Infinite Kitchen gives us this level of precision.
Traditional Prep Kitchen
In addition to our Infinite Kitchen, we have a traditional prep kitchen in the back of each restaurant. This is where we receive our produce, dairy, poultry and dry goods every day and create our base recipes from scratch. Whether it’s our lemon tahini dressing, gochujang marinated tofu or freshly prepped vegetables, our team of cooks is hard at work.
These prepped ingredients are then loaded into the refrigerated tubes of the Infinite Kitchen for lunch and dinner service. As you order your meal, each component is measured, cooked and then brought together in your bowl, exactly the way you ordered it.
The Infinite Kitchen really is a chef’s dream. We pour ourselves into the core recipes; obsessing over the marinades, sauces, and spice mixes. Then we can take a breath, assured that those last few minutes, when the meal comes together, are happening with precision.