With multiple kitchens throughout the property, the food-and-beverage staff at Stratton Mountain Resort relies on equipment that can keep up with their pace of year-round activity.
During the peak winter season at Stratton Mountain Resort in South Londonderry, Vt., there can be over 10,000 people enjoying the recreational amenities and facilities—and on average, over half of these people eat or drink at one of the resort’s restaurants. Summer is a “slower” season at Stratton Mountain, but that isn’t to say it’s quiet—plenty of non-winter activities are still offered at the property that keep its F&B outlets active.
Cooking for as many as 5,000 people on a busy weekend day would be a challenge for any kitchen staff, but for the resort’s Executive Chef, Jacob Ebel, and his team, it’s just another day at the office. Eight of the resort’s restaurants are managed by staff, while nine are run by outside operators. The resort also does extensive catering for banquets, weddings, and meetings. A total of ten kitchens on the property serve the restaurants, and two kitchens are located in the Base Lodge on the mountain—one is dedicated to catering operations, while the other serves as the main kitchen for the Lodge.
Managing a staff of 200 for the eight resort-run restaurants falls under the purview of Ebel, a graduate of Sullivan University in Louisville, Ky. With 16 years of industry experience in restaurants and resorts across the country, he is an advocate of sustainable cooking and partners with local farmers and markets to host farm-to-table events once a month at the resort.
With 17 restaurants, pubs, and grills at the property, food-and-beverage service is a non-stop machine at Stratton Mountain—and anything that helps to bring efficiency and consistency to the operation is a worthwhile investment.
A Consistent Product
To help keep up with its volume of activity, Stratton Mountain relies heavily on two Alto-Shaam holding cabinets—one in the Base Lodge’s main kitchen, and the other in the catering kitchen. One was purchased five years ago, and the second by Ebel when he came on board more than two years ago.
The ovens are ideal for multi-tasking, Ebel explains, allowing users to set temperatures with the digital controls and then continue with their preparation work. The food in the cabinets does not need to be monitored; you can “set it and forget it,” Ebel says.
The holding ovens can be used all day, from breakfast through dinner. “It’s perfect to hold food for a 100-person breakfast meeting and for breakfast buffets, and the oven continues to be used throughout the day,” explains Ebel.
The cabinets can also be used to hold different hot components of a dish during prep time—and then, once it is all assembled, the finished dish can be held in the cabinet until it is ready to be served. The items can be held in the oven on banquet trays, bins or even individually plated items, greatly enhancing efficiencies for the Stratton Mountain kitchens, especially during peak periods.
The holding ovens help make the kitchens “absolutely efficient, and allow for consistent production,” Ebel says. He likes the convenience of putting starches, vegetables and meats all together—and, because of the consistent temperature, the holding oven will not dry out foods, which can be the most difficult part of using that type of kitchen equipment, he says.
“The Alto-Shaam holding oven has allowed us to consistently hold a variety of product, from fish to bread, without sacrificing quality,” says Ebel.
The equipment’s durability and dependability is further assured by the ease of training all members of the kitchen staffs on the use, maintenance and cleaning of the holding ovens, to maximize their application and ensure long life.
If Ebel were given a chance to make a wish list, he would include having Alto-Shaam holding cabinets in every kitchen at the resort. He has worked with other Alto-Shaam items at past kitchens as well. “The Combitherm ovens are ideal for high-volume production and longer-term food holding,” he says. “That allows for quicker service at the restaurants.”
Getting Bigger and Better
The Base Lodge at Stratton Mountain Ski Resort is currently undergoing an $8.5 million renovation project that will add a second floor to the east and west wings of the Lodge, adding 4,000 sq. ft. to the main floor of the building.
The renovation will add space to include a new serving area, coffee shop and retail shop, and the main restaurant at the Lodge, Grizzly’s, will be expanded to add 350 seats. The kitchen, a major part of the renovation project, will be updated to house state-of-the-art equipment with modern food-storage systems and advanced prep technology.
“Guests can expect an exceptional dining experience with high-quality meal options in Base Lodge, across the mountain and throughout the resort, as well as for catering and special events,” says Bill Nupp, Base Lodge’s General Manager.
The kitchen renovation will also bring new opportunities for expanded service for conferences, weddings and meetings. Completion is expected by December 2015, just in time for the peak winter ski season. During the renovations, the main kitchen has been relocated away from the construction zone—and while it has been a challenge to cook in a temporary kitchen, Ebel says, the expanded space will be worth the wait.
A Trusted Brand
Alto-Shaam’s products are custom-tailored based on their use and application in a particular kitchen. The company’s mission is “to help our clients realize great potential profits by streamlining the kitchen, enhancing quality of food and speed of service, and finding efficiencies to save money and production costs,” explains Todd Griffith, Alto-Shaam’s Regional Sales Vice President for New England.
“Alto-Shaam understands that the true cost of a purchase of their equipment is the actual cost to operate and maintain it on a daily basis,” Griffith says. “The holding ovens help operations through labor savings, and the technology supplements the kitchen workforce. The robust design of Alto-Shaam ovens eliminates most maintenance issues, because updated designs remove the problems.”
With proper maintenance and service, Alto-Shaam products can last decades, Griffith notes. While the average life of kitchen equipment is 7 to 10 years, he says, some Alto-Shaam products have been running in kitchens, including at resort properties, for 30 to 40 years.