Kitchen Anatomy

Mesubim operates two private kitchens both professionally equipped, both on islands, very different far away in nature and landscape, yet seas and nature surround both.Our old kitchen was considered excellent but our new kitchen is by far much closer to HAACP standards.

In our new test kitchen located in Mykonos Greece, we are starting to realize our dreams. It was a challenging renovation project, co-designed with k-studio Athens, a leading Greek architectural firm headed by brothers Dimitris and Konstantinos Karampatakis. The architectural design was k-studio, and the kitchen and flow of space was Mesubim.

http://www.k-studio.co.uk/projects/

The project was named Anatomy of a kitchen, based on the principles of a test kitchen made up if two interconnected spaces, a practical and theoretical space. The theoretical space is a library made up of one-thousand cook books from all over the globe.

The practical space is equipped with a Marrone kitchen equipped with the latest technology. Here chefs are invited to spend a week, enjoy the seascape, wind and sun. Here you can relax while testing new recipes, sharing ideas and new food concepts.

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To understand Mesubim better, I am the founder of Mesubim, and an avid foodie, technical and keen about food science, but I am not a cook, and I say it not to be facetious in any way. I adore food but I am not interested in trying to impress, I am interested in the process, the micro world of cuisine, e.g. the ingredients, recipes, science, and technique. That is why it is tough for a chef to cook for me.

I am not inspired to try foods, but often more inspired by a chef’s ideologies and techniques. It is similar to a classical music lover; many are interested in just listening, and some in process and making of sound.

This is not to say that all foods prepared by top chefs are excellent because many lack the very basic understanding of detail. Any restaurant chef that has a reputation of being number one in the world should have a clear and well-defined understanding of the role of process, order, and hierarchy.

To over simplify it, the use of a tomato in a three-Michelin restaurant to that of a roadside hamburger shop is not the same. They both use tomatoes but the processes and actions used are very different. Line chefs make most of what it takes to make a hamburger. The hamburger is made in minutes and often contains over cooked meat and ordinary condiments. That’s not to say you cannot find a gourmet hamburger. In fact, the modernist cuisine, or for that matter at restaurant café Daniel Boulud in New York, he single-handedly changed the US hamburger from a commonplace food to a gourmet idea. It’s all how you interpret the hamburger, or for that matter any food.

But interpretation isn’t arbitrary it must have some criterion with which we use to judge. Otherwise, McDonald’s would be the best hamburger in the plant as its loved by billions of people all over the globe. But is it a good hamburger? The answer is yes and no.

But if a chef’s credentials are based on old school fallacy, what really happens is they fall into a marketing trap. Without understanding process and hierarchy the inanity of many dishes continues to swamp us yet impress the guides and critics. That’s not to say that top chefs can easily accommodate the challenge of satisfying and impressing clients each and every night. That’s a tough one! But so many just do what they need to do to bring clients back. It’s the equivalent of gastronomic reality television – limited substance.

So many top restaurants are caught improvising dishes without any real substance or innovation. Their menus are based on a certain triviality of one’s own theory without the true understanding of what it takes to be a top class chef.

It proves that too often there is a dilution of tradition (knowledge) and consequently sound concepts are replaced with superficial ideas that are adopted without any intelligent basis. They become popular, even vulgar becoming a reality, or fail themselves before they reach the table.

Tradition still plays a key role in any food. Tradition remains a key element in cuisine, and it has been instrumental in forming some of the world’s top chefs. Great chefs of the world like Alain Chapel a former French Michelin 3 starred chef, credited with being one of the originators of Nouvelle Cuisine based. It takes a skillful, intelligent and technical chef to create a dish that makes any lasting impact. It takes a greater chef to use what we already know and re-engineer it in a way that makes sense.

Food is so basic that the Mehináku People, an indigenous people of Brazil used the same word for food and intercourse with slight variation. The meaning implied was food = life = nature, characterized by the treatment of the whole person, as they considered themselves truly as part of nature. Actually, they based their identity on analogy of symmetry to nature. This is the meaning of Totemism, which preceded mythology and is the deepest origin of Shinto and this is true also about all old cultures. So why is this important in food? The same way Mesubim is important.

The idea of tradition is important to help chef’s understand what has withheld the test of time. From that standpoint tradition can also be used as a guideline to direct chefs in the right direction. Time proves that there are just some things that you cannot change, or if you change them, they become twisted in the wrong way, and that’s nature.

In the case of molecular cuisine, tradition was best dissected and re-engineered from the ground up. That’s what is interesting about Ferran, a chef genius working on concept and techniques. He had no boundaries and his food wasn’t about filling your tank, it was about food for thought. Something some clients didn’t accept, and thought his food wasn’t food but a scientific experiment.

I remember when I was sitting with Ferran and asked him about his break through in cooking he said, “this isn’t something new”. I wasn’t sure what he meant and later began to understand that he was more interested in changing the way we eat. He didn’t invent the idea of molecular cuisine and that was his point. He simply used it as a means to help expand kitchen language.

Ferran’s cuisine isn’t trivial at all, on the contrary. His food is about an organizational product search and creative methods. His style helped unify chefs and aid them to understand how to approach ingredients, recipes and food concepts.

He challenged himself to explore beyond the commonplace recipes. He innovated in a way that hadn’t been seen on such a broad level before. It opened up a new and fresh approach to cuisine that in some ways are so impressive.

Ferran’s motto was based on developing knowledge + order = maximum efficiency. He almost had it right. I believe knowledge + process = order and helps define hierarchy. This is what helps us in understanding the difference between what we like, (personal choices) and knowledge (hierarchy) and the ability to differentiate between the two. Many people are confused between personal preferences and ignore hierarchy.

Ferran understood the concept of developing and building structure through dissecting ingredients. His preparations were structural and his way of thinking in the kitchen had not been see before. Essentially he worked out the hierarchy, embedding and ordering to help define process and technique.

Unfortunately, most chefs copy and rarely create unless the dish is new. A close friend defines it by saying, ‘Great chefs are food designers, all the rest are craftsmen or crafts-women. New dish is new design. If you repeat it, it’s craft, just as with designing a ring versus reproducing it. The world needs more food designers’ people with a true sense of how to combine knowledge, ingredients, flavors, texture, and techniques. We already have so many fantastic craftsmen or craftswoman.’

If you think about it, there are too many food choices; too much confusion and a world of artificial flavors and chemical compound substitutes. This is the dark side of science that has food caused food to become more and more artificial. The more harm than we realize we are doing to ourselves, the greater the chance we have to begin to make a change.

The new project of Mesubim is challenged by this debate and officially launches next spring 2016 after we have ironed out some of the new equipment changes. We still miss some key equipment central to flavor extraction.

During a lunch in Venice I visited the kitchen of Quadri, something I almost always do as a ritual. During this visit, I was very impressed by the quality and finishing of their kitchen. I asked the chef Silvio Giavedoni for more information and he immediately contacted the owner of Marrone, Armando Pujatti and introduced us.

Some time passed until I finally contacted Armando in the fall of 2014, and followed up with a preliminary layout including of my new kitchen idea. The challenge was to develop the function of space needed within the existing space, and move forward as quickly as possible. Without having met, the design could only be articulated by phone, and so our dialogue began with several Skype meetings.

I am not sure I ever admitted to Armando, but once I spoke to him on the phone I knew working with other suppliers would be tough. Designing a space is one thing, and designing a professional kitchen is another ballgame. In my particular case I had my own vision about the kitchen space and it included a hot section, a cold section and a pastry and bread section. Time was of the essence and I needed to establish the kitchen’s elements and their priorities in order to move forward on a timely basis.

This time I would dedicate a wok area, something I hadn’t considered in the past. At the time of designing the “Anatomy of a Kitchen”, I wasn’t totally aware of the significance of adding a dedicated wok to the hotline. I adore wok cooking but it’s a life unto itself.

The following story tells you about the development of the project and illustrates the hot section, one of the three sections in our test kitchen.

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The decision to make a dedicated wok area also had to do with a tribute to my Uncle Leo, who was Chinese and always inspired us about Cantonese cuisine. He had Asian spirit, even though he had lived outside of Asia for many years. He was still very dedicated to Asian lifestyle and his lineage was very interesting, to say the least:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silas_Aaron_Hardoon

The wok area is a kitchen unto itself, it requires plenty of studies and thought and a dedicated space. So I called on a close friend in Tokyo who organized a visit to his kitchen. A Chinese cooking experience in a one star Michelin Chinese food restaurant was something I had never tried. It was very helpful in understanding how a wok area functions. I was amazed by the high heat, the flames, the fast action of the chefs and the kitchen’s flow.

I had visited wok stations during our travels but it isn’t often you can get into a Chinese kitchen as to see them run, it seemed hectic. I discovered what it really takes is “turbo” when it comes to a professional wok, where the fire’s flames jump with an intensity the likes you’ve never seen. After discussing it with Armando he convinced me that 25kW wok would be more than enough. One of the features of my wok is the burner plate made from a heavy gauge steel weighing in at 2.5kg. It has a moon shaped half slits to help shape the flames distribution and it works perfectly.

Simply by the flick of your knee, a component incorporated by Armando on special request, the fire is tweaked and the flames roar. This is key for Chinese wok cooking because both hands are needed at all times.

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The new kitchen project started late and I needed to scramble to get the schematics completed. Usually I design my spaces and this time the challenges were greater than we expected due to the confined space we had to work with. I wasn’t willing to go outside the footprint and so we struggled to get the right flow.

It’s important to understand that Marrone is not kitchen designers, they do not normally make home kitchens. The design of a kitchen is very complex especially when it’s custom made and can become very confusing and tedious. I was determined to get it right, and in the end it we achieved a clean functional space, which is more than I expected.

I should say that anyone is lucky to have a Marrone kitchen – they are simply incredible. Since I started exchanges with Armando in January, I sent him multiple emails. Actually after some 800 emails and 80+ conversations, almost daily Skype calls that would last for 5 months it was getting all worked out.

To understand Marrone professional kitchens, you must grasp that not one part of their kitchens are modular, and designing a kitchen takes a plenty of concentration. I had to decide on each and every square millimeter of the design, and the only standard fixings are induction and gas tops. That doesn’t mean that I designed it all alone because without the tremendous know-how of Armando, it couldn’t have been so possible. He facilitated the design and realization and supported me throughout the entire process. He made our new test kitchen become a real dream. /Thank you/

The first factory visit was like a kid going into a candy shop, and I roamed freely around the factory and watched the craftsman at work. Armando asked politely not to photo one of his propitiatory machines otherwise the factory was open to all the photos I liked.

It’s important to understand that the Marrone kitchen is unlike any other kitchen I’ve ever seen and I’ve been in hundreds. It is the Ferrari of custom kitchens with no exaggeration. The workers are well dressed, diligently working, each at their respective workstation. The kitchens are mostly by handwork and look beautiful from start to finish. The noise level is surprisingly low except for a few grinders polishing edges and the factory is immaculate.

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The offices are modest and so is Armando and his co-workers. I cannot help to think that Armando was doing me a favor building my kitchen. He is busier that than a top world-class chef and his phone is ringing almost every minute. His clients require careful attention without waiting a second. You begin to understand the world of Marrone working with top Michelin chefs all over the globe.

I started to understand that Armando is working 24/7 and always reachable and always focused. It’s quite amazing to watch him work, he is like an octopus, he can do many things at once with precision. More importantly, you only need to mention a detail once and he’s on it.

I find him by phone early morning on his way to work, or on his way home after sunset. He has a travel schedule that takes him around the world and we were lucky to have him visit Mykonos during installation. Here he is pictured (center) in Mykonos during the installation.

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This Mesubim test kitchen was an important project for various reasons. For one our test kitchen was always suffering from technical issues and the local technicians were taking advantage of us. This is not uncommon in small island communities, but here it was taken to another level. The old kitchen was Electrolux (Thermaline) and at the time I purchased it, it was state of the art. The problem with Electrolux is it’s modular and the counter isn’t seamless. It is pieced together (modular) and for a top-level custom kitchen, this is not good enough.

When you start to look around there are few choices that come even close to Marrone’s quality. This isn’t to say that I didn’t try to work with other custom builders, I did. The greatest disappointment was Menu systems, a Swiss supplier who have top of the line induction systems.

I was in contact with their sales manager (Mr. Ramos) but he lost interest, stopped communicating – no more replies to my emails. They did produce a few emails with some nice 3-d schematics but I felt they weren’t thorough enough. He didn’t seem knowledgeable enough and when I asked questions he generalized. I had the feeling he just wanted to sell. This doesn’t mean that Menu systems are not a professional or serious company, but this was my experience which probably relates to the fact that they saw us as a small residential project. /see Menu Systems image below/

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I also spoke with Athanor in France on the recommendation of a Parisian chef. Athanor also had a high recommendation from a three star Michelin chef I know. But in the end, Athanor wasn’t capable of delivering the design support and I had to abandon their offer. I felt sad because they do make nice kitchens. /see Athanor image below/

Athanor

Then Electrolux offered Molteni and it never panned out and then again the local service wasn’t up to snuff. /see Electrolux image below/

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I choose to forge ahead with Armando and frankly (in hindsight) there was no way anyone competitor could have devoted the time to detail as he did, or kept up with the pace of this project. Additionally, Armando is irreplaceable, as he has at his finger tips his own factory and manages his designs with a microscope and precision of a Doctor.

His technical skill and understanding of how kitchens components work are tremendous, and if he cooked he would be a top chef. He is the most dedicated person I’ve met and he does everything in his powers to satisfy all his clients – amazing!!! /see image Marrone hot section below/

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He sits on top of his production and can easily glance from his office window into his factory. It did occur to ask him why he doesn’t have a plant manager, and he said, I like it this way, my workers are responsible for themselves. I agree with him, it fits his personality and is a good genuine philosophy.
There is no doubt Marrone is a signature product, it has no real competitor. Subcontracting is something that Marrone prefers to stay away from, except for certain finishes such as the coated painting finishes seen here.

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The equipment produced by Marrone is heavy-duty and not for home use unless you can scale it back. I had no intention of doing so, and I went full force ahead with a design that I felt would bring a level to our kitchen that is unparalleled. Considering that we are not a restaurant, and our purpose is very different. But we couldn’t compromise when working with top chefs and the design and construction had to be top-notch.

In hindsight without Armando our kitchen would never be at the level I dreamed, quite just impossible. He respected my interest and knowledge and we collaborated as if we knew each other for years. There is nothing like the challenge of designing a custom kitchen. I would compare it to a custom car except a kitchen has more than one drivers seat.

After I decided to install a wok station for testing high-temperature cooking, the decision was made to dedicate over 1000mm for a wok station it represented 25% of the hot section space. The wok decision was made from the outset, but I had to learn something new in cooking. I never admired the Chinese kitchen until I passed over the MSG fears that really are not relevant to the core of this type of cooking. There is no doubt that the sophistication of wok cooking is extraordinary.

video: https://mesubim.com/2015/04/05/wok-power-video-bao-or-chao/

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The Marrone design process simply put is incredible, I was so impressed with their work and intensive approach to get things right. Armando Pujatti is “one of a kind” in the business. After my experience with Menu systems, I heard from a hotel owner in Amalfi coast that they were bidding for their new kitchen project. I thought to myself it’s a small world, hard to believe the arrogance of some employees. However, I doubt Menu systems could have matched the rigorous design process I put Marrone through.

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I couldn’t have spent more hours discussing details down to the millimeter. That’s what it takes to get perfection, and only the owner can dedicate the appropriate time to getting it right. When we finished the design and I visited the factory when we decided to powder coat the Stainless Steel in a white finish to match the feeling of the anatomy’s space. Don’t be fooled by the white baked finish because it is heavy gauge stainless steel, tough and very durable.

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The final details of the wok design was finally accomplished by Armando’s persistence to get me the right knee lever. He installed hot water at the wok station so I can cook continually without losing the intense heat of the wok. Hot water is key to the wok work and the depression at the wok allows a good flow and easy ergonomics. The front side has a trough and the debris and excess water flows into the drain which works perfectly.

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The power fire of the wok is as much as you would want in a private residence. I showed it to Hakkasan Ling Ling head chef (Wei) and he was impressed even though the head said, “it’s not the big turbo type”. He shouldn’t talk because he works with induction. The 38cm will disappear and next season we will bring a larger sized 48cm which will be much more practical for cooking.

Left of the wok, I added a huge sink, Armando called it a pool. It’s large for a reason measuring width 490mm by 700mm and 300mm deep. You can see the large sink is a custom sink made from 3mm stainless steel, and I wanted my sink to have the feel of a heavy-duty counter.

I installed a multi purpose spring-loaded KWC swivel water hose that is very effective, efficient and useful. The decision to place the sink here has to do with efficiency in a hot section. If a pan gets dirty you can easily clean it instead of motoring over to the washing area. Also this area will double for a cold cutting station for wok preparations.

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The left side, I have my four point induction. This is something Armando told me I would love and I do. It is so practical and easy to use, no fire, limited heat and fast as lightning. I wish I had more!

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Next is one of the best design ideas I’ve seen and its so practical and something I couldn’t live without after having it. A depression with water at the push of a button. The spoon box is great for any kitchen and a chefs dream.

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This is connected to the water-tower, where I have two power receptacles and a holder for the Bamix. While I am not a Bamix fan (too little power) it comes in handy and has a clean place to sit at the counter side.

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The gas burners are tremendous, heavy as can be and cleaver. The top is fitted with a secure system so moving heavy pots is easy and safe.

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The sous vide is my life, sorry Master Chef Roshfeld, but I love it and can’t live without it. Roshfeld believes more in touch and feel, he calls it emotion in cooking. I too believe in emotion but I need cooking precision. It’s one of those tools I cannot live without and having two water baths is a chef’s dream. One for meat and the other for veggies makes it the perfect world.

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The second last appliance at the hot section is the compound Plancha, something I hardly use because I have no opportunity. But having said that, it’s a must for many chefs.

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The controller was something I saw at the factory on my second visit and asked Marrone to install it. Here you control the Plancha heat, and two heated drawers for marinating freshness.

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The Convotherm with a swivel door is magic and thanks to Xenex Athens I have an oven I learned to enjoy.

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My Giorik salamander, I choose a smaller version because I didn’t want to have an over sized salamander in my eyes all the time and space was limited and that was the reason.

To the left side, I have a plancha and a controller to both control the temperature, and the two heated drawers under the Convotherm oven.

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The water-spout are all controlled by the push of a button. I have water surrounding all cooking surfaces expect the induction because it’s perfectly flush mounted. With circulating water around the gas burners and plancha, it helps prevent foods from getting baked onto the stainless steel. This is a chefs dream come true.

The controllers’ switches of Marrone are the precision type controls. The flame of the gas is torch shaped and is very useful for grilling a pepper, or whatever. The flame power is intelligently designed thanks to Marrone. I think the single most important design aspect of the hot section is the introduction of drawers, where you can open a drawer and easily access a plate, or bowl.

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Thank you Marrone and Xenex for your support and for helping throughout the process and thank you to Dimitris (k-studio) for making the anatomy project come true.

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I shouldn’t forget my wood burning oven, life without wood isn’t a kitchen life – remember your roots.

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The new project officially launches next year after we have ironed out some of the new equipment changes. We still miss some equipment central to learning. If you are a serious chef contact us for a cooking week or a position.