Hot from the oven
SUDHISH KAMATH enters a Pizza Hut kitchen to get a hang of the mix, bake and rush routine
Photos: R. Ragu
Kitchen story Pizzas in the making
As I walk into the kitchen at Pizza Hut, Nungambakkam, I am handed a blue comfort cap. However, it’s not really for comfort; it’s a move to maintain hygiene, and ensure that strands of hair don’t get into the pizzas.
Though the 102-seater pizza diner opens to the public only by 11 a.m., the first signs of life begin around eight when the morning shift begins. Behind that kitchen door, to which the public has no access, is the section where plates are cleaned for service.
A large clock specifies the day’s target. Every hour, the sales figures are updated to motivate the team. Inside, we’re all set to see how pizza is made from flour. “This is a pack of dough blend, the secret behind our pizzas,” says Vijay Bhaskar, Home Service Area Coach, as he flashes a small silver packet. “Every time we open this, we have to make an entire batch. That’s why the restaurant managers forecast needs.”
The restaurant General Manager Singara Karthikeyan bases his forecasting on actual sales of the last six weeks.
“We generate a report that shows us sales on an hourly basis. Apart from the report, we take into account other factors… whether it is a public holiday or a social occasion…”
First, the dough mixer is cleaned with warm water and at the right temperature, the dough blend is mixed with water, then oil before the flour (maida) is mixed. Patties made from the dough are put onto the roller, stretched by hand into a round shape, pretty much like chappatis and put inside the pan. The pan has a border marked and the dough is stretched to stay well within this boundary.
“We put this pan into the proofer for 45 to 60 minutes, after setting the temperature to 32 degrees for yeast formation. When the dough touches the outside line of the pan, it is sufficiently proofed and we then put it into the freezer to retard the yeasting,” says Bhaskar, leading us to the giant freezer.
Inside the freezer, we can see vegetables, cheese and meat all neatly stored and labelled with information on when they are ready to use. The pizza base is stored here too till the order arrives.
“The base stays fresh for 15 hours, but we usually discard it after first eight hours,” he explains. Outside, a section of the kitchen crew has prepared the toppings — vegetables needed for the day are cut and ready.
There are seven departments in a pizza diner: the dough section (responsible for preparing the pizza base), the make table (the guys who put the toppings within two minutes and send it into the oven for the seven-minute baking process… each pizza is allotted nine minutes at the table after the base is taken out of the freezer), the pasta section (responsible for side orders, salads, soups and desserts … which are outsourced from exclusive suppliers), the service crew, the cashiers, the hosts and the pilots (the guys who deliver pizzas).
The energy level is high even when the morning shift ends at five. The evening shift that begins at 4 p.m. goes on till 1 a.m. Part-timers are employed during rush hour between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Interestingly, most of the crew here started out as part-timers.
At 22 rupees an hour, you may not be able to fund your college education but you may be able to get yourself a career in the hospitality sector.
Mohammed Ali, who has been around for three years and is due for a Shift Manager promotion, proudly shows off his badges. “It is a funny place to work,” he smiles. The badges indicate all departments he has been trained in. “It’s like Hotel California,” adds Singara Karthikeyan. “You can check in anytime but you can never leave.”
Psst: We just heard that they have brought back their unlimited happy hour pizzas for Rs. 99 on Tuesdays. Feel like a birthday?
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