The fire is the heart of the kitchen. A good kitchen consultant breathes life into to that very fire by creating an exemplary design. The difference between success and failure is the critical path instilled into the design flow, which is the soul of the kitchen.
Ignatius John has brought alive many kitchens with his innovative planning and zeal. He has established his trademark design in all areas, be it a humongous central kitchen in an MNC or a complex new-age hotel eatery.
Ignatius is a role model for budding planners and a great peer reference for seasoned consultants. What stands him apart is the combination of skill and analytical ability. He has had an impressive career path – rising from a hands-on management trainee after IHM, to becoming an F&B manager, a corporate GM, across stints abroad, the owner of a large catering company (12,000 meals in the mid-90s) to finally becoming a remarkable kitchen designer – his passion and hi-octane profession for a quarter of a century.
He has successfully designed more than 350 kitchens and is a hot favorite, especially among big boys such as Microsoft, Wipro, Oracle, Intel, AIG hospitals, SAP, and so on to ‘Ignite’ their kitchens. Twenty-five years on, the flame is still burning bright with renewed vigor.
It is difficult to fit into a few words all that Ignatius is about. However, working with him so closely for the past ten years as a partner at Peacock Group, I will try to give justice to what drives Ignatius and has made him among the top kitchen consultants in the country,
Committed to hard work
For Ignatius, all seven days are packed from 7 AM, without a single dull moment, till 8 PM. He allots each project to the time schedule as per the priority of deliverables. He emphasizes on the moto of the Peacock Group, ensuring that equal attention is paid to all projects, regardless of their size. At the outset of a new project, the planning starts with a clear vision and timelines.
Ignatius’ attention to detail starts from the word go. The excitement and nervousness never end and every project coming on board is treated as the very first one. He believes that each kitchen should be at least 10 % better than the last one!
Ignatius approaches each project as if they were building blocks: with a clear vision, due diligence, space matrix grids, schematic designs, and all the steps in the road map. He gathers the critical information during the feasibility stage through primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.
As the next step, he floats a friendly, yet comprehensive, questionnaire to the client. He uses analytical and number-crunching techniques to generate valuable data. Systematic workings of meal load calculations, seating capacities, dish wash cycles, CFM/Power loads or the water usage calculations give the required foundations. The knowledge accrued from these becomes the way forward strategy, bringing all stakeholders on a common page.
The space matrix block is the stepping stone, which is actually the pillar of the entire design. In the initial days, I would try to go for the jugular and plunge right into the actual kitchen equipment layout without getting the basic matrix worked out. Ignatius would patiently guide me, explaining that the skeleton needs to be in place before the meat is put on. If not followed correctly, it would be like a pack of cards in a Tsunami!
A meticulous planner
Ignatius applies the same amount of dedication and in-depth planning while attending works shops as well. Armed with A3 printouts, PPTs, excel sheets, sketch pens, and colorful highlighters, he would be at the workshop with a ready look on his handsome face. It’s a pleasure to see his eloquent presentation skills, making it so easy for all to understand. Nowadays, despite COVID and the virtual stage, his fluid style remains the same.
Once the appropriate approvals are in place, detailed MEP schedules, final drawings, tender documents are generated for further smooth flow of the project. Looks simple right? Well, as they say, you need a brilliant writer to convey something so lucidly! The MEP consultants love him for this hands-on approach. It’s a common saying in design language – If the BOH services are taken care of, the FOH will be heavenly.
Mr MG Kamat, MD of Dhruva Engineering Consultants (DEC) says, “When Mr. Ignatius approves, the end result is guaranteed. A person who ‘listens’ is the best engineer, and his best-approach attitude makes him a perfect example.” Ignatius never leaves highly sensitive services to chance. He firmly, yet politely, insists, “Please share your final drawings post our MEP plans, we would like to check if all our requirements are met.” He ensures that all loose ends are tied up neatly, securely.
Punctuality is an important word in Ignatius’ dictionary. Most of our visits to other cities are hectic day trips. If the meeting is at 10 AM in Mumbai, he would be at the site at 9 AM. His day would have started at 3:30 AM. Funnily, the local team would still be strolling in after he arrives! Looking at this frequent occurrence, I would ask Ignatius to reach the airport at 9 AM, instead of 8 AM, but he would turn up at 7 AM! Commitment!
The day would proceed smooth and fast since he would have pre-planned the agenda meticulously. MEP queries, site marking checks, clarifications et all – without a single sign of irritation, even if the lunch break is skipped.
Memory is the key
Ignatius is a huge memory reservoir. Despite juggling multiple projects with multiple timelines and at various stages (one may be at DD stage, while the other big assignment would be at the tendering stage), he would recollect the right piece of information and pass it on, effortlessly. Each hour stacking would be judiciously managed and this is possible due to his do-it-yourself attitude and his detailed, logical method.
His equipment knowledge is amazing, he is adept at plugging the ideal piece with the right budget. This is possible due to the constant sharpening skills via research, browsing and meeting vendors in the office or at exhibitions. He would willingly allot time to hear them out even at the expense of his personal discomfort. Mr Pandurang Prabhu, MD of a reputed hood manufacturer company says, “One rare quality we see is that he continuously tries to take feedback from vendors, ensuring that the products are user friendly, for ease of operation.”
Courtesy and simplicity
Ignatius addresses everyone formally as Mr or Mrs, never by first name, even if it is a 20-year-old trainee architect/engineer. He sagely says, “Embrace the current trend, but don’t have to let off the niceties we learned in the hotel industry, addressing all our guests/clients in a formal way. It leads to a good business atmosphere”.
Ignatius is always dressed smartly in full sleeves shirts; simple yet respectable. No T-shirts ever for meetings, even with the Friday dress down culture prevalent nowadays. His well-trimmed trademark French beard and a gentle smile are the constants on his face. He travels mostly by auto-rickshaw, many a time by overnight busses too. Due to his easy to approach manner, he is often invited for panel discussions, industry lectures, and design forums.
Playing hard – The wild side
Not the social party kind, though. His wild side stems from his love for nature and great passion for safaris and treks. His greatest stress buster is seeing wild animals in their natural habitat. The safaris take him to faraway exotic destinations including Masaimara, Amboseli, Serengeti etc. The day would start at 6 am, well-stocked with binoculars, a simple camera, and a Stetson hat. He gets his adrenalin fix from merely gazing at the trees nonstop and observing the game.
He has a jovial set of safari buddies – his besties. Mr. Sekhar (next to IJ) is a reputed kitchen equipment manufacturer. During one such evening, recently, the friends, over a sunset cocktail at Corbett, were discussing the finer aspects of safari life. The excitement was heavy due to a young tiger sighting with a kill earlier in the morning!
Ignatius was silent; deeply preoccupied, when someone joked whether he was missing his beloved auto cad. He replied, “No, I was just mentally finalizing a grand kitchen design for pets and strays, as well. Not the typical preserved foods module, but fresh, hot, and healthy.” Everyone laughed and someone commented, “So pal, why not for your much-loved wild animals?”
He, an expert at managing his energies, thoughts, and emotions, replied calmly, “Well, I would like them to roam scot-free as always, hunt and stay natural as per mother Nature’s design”.