Cooking high volumes of rice presents challenge for Mexican restaurant chain

What is the biggest challenge for a busy burrito bar in the UK? A big enough ‘dream’ rice cooker to meet demand.

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Apparently, finding the right rice cooker is the holy grail for the Mexican restaurant, Tortilla. The Food Service Equipment Journal has published an interview with the chain’s Head of Food, Martyn Clover, which revealed that finding a big enough rice cooker is a huge challenge for this successful chain. Tortilla enjoys high demand at specific times of the day and needs to be able to respond accordingly. Rice is a major ingredient in burritos and the rice they make at Tortilla is richly flavoured with tomato. Clover says that although his chefs can cook rice on a combi oven when needed, the flavours simply don’t come through quite as well as they do with a rice cooker. The Head of Food claims that finding one with both excellent capacity and quality is the challenge.

The story of Tortilla

Inspired by Mexican burrito and taco stalls in California, US couple Brandon and Jessica Stephens decided to set up a California-style Mexican restaurant and takeaway in London. The restaurant proved hugely successful and the chain now runs 35 Tortilla’s nationwide, set to increase to 40 in 2018, with 21 locations in London and 14 in the rest of the UK (as well as one in Dubai). The chain won Zagat’s #1 Mexican restaurant in London award in 2013 and has continued to go from strength to strength.

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Commercial rice cookers

Electric rice cookers were first manufactured in Japan in the 1940s, although ceramic rice cookers have been around for three thousand years. They are a popular way to cook rice fast, and for many, with better flavour and texture. Rice cookers are a key item of commercial catering equipment for all sorts of restaurants but notably those serving Mexican, Chinese, Thai and Indian cuisine. Online retailers such as sell a range of rice cookers, some with a capacity to make up to 92 servings in one go.

The UK is seeing real growth when it comes to restaurant chains offering niche international cuisines, such as Tortilla serving a particularly California-style of Mexican cooking. Also enjoying popularity are Turtle Bay (Caribbean), Las Iguanas (Latin American), Yo Sushi and Wagamama (both Japanese).

By sambo