The culinary success of a club or resort is directly tied to how its kitchen is designed to fit its particular needs.
The club kitchen is a world unto itself. It’s where talented chefs take raw materials and transform them into appetizing, delicious multi-course meals for members and guests. But long before a kitchen is put into productive use, a significant amount of planning goes into designing the layout and components of the workspace.
SUMMING IT UP
• Workflows and safety should be the prime drivers of kitchen design.• Fast-cooking equipment such as fryers, salamanders and griddles should be near the point of service, while bulk cooking items such as braising pans, convection ovens and steamers should be farther away.
• Proper space needs to be allocated for service, storage and dishwashing areas.
Kitchen design can make or break the efficiency of an operation. Careful thought must be given to not only specifying the proper equipment, but also making sure it will be in the right place, because the fewer steps a kitchen staff needs to take to complete a task, the better.
Inefficiencies will have a direct effect on food quality, service levels, operating costs and staff morale—and trying to fix them after a new or redesigned kitchen has been opened will prove to be infinitely more difficult and costly than if time is taken to make sure problems are not a part of the plan in the first place.
A club or resort’s kitchen should be organized with several design goals in mind. First, the layout must be highly efficient, emphasizing proper work flow. Ergonomics, storage and appliances all matter, of course, but a truly successful kitchen design must relate to the cooking process.
“Cooking is not a single operation but a series of independent activities—grocery intake and storage, food preparation, cooking, baking, cleanup and so on,” says Brad Cornwall, Executive Chef at Black Rock Country Club in Hingham, Mass. “These activities take place in a certain order, on a predictable, routine basis.”
Second, the kitchen needs to be able to deliver consistent quality dishes to members and guests. Its output—the meals delivered to customers—must therefore be of high integrity.
“You certainly don’t want someone to get sick from dining at your club,” says Cornwall.
|When the team at Black Rock CC designed the club’s kitchen, a layout was selected that accommodated staffing needs and worked well with the existing menu. The dish room is typically its own zone in the kitchen and should be spacious enough to accommodate all of the traffic it will get.|
Consequently, kitchens should be designed with integrity in mind. Salad prep can’t happen on the same surfaces where raw chicken is handled.
Just as quality, consistency, and integrity are major considerations when designing the kitchen layout, they are also ongoing concerns for everyday management.
“Ideally, the kitchen design should be planned according to the menu envisioned,” says Cornwall. “This will determine what kind of equipment you will need and how you should organize it.”
Black Rock’s kitchen boasts two separate lines—one for member dining and another for banquets. The line for member dining (see photo, right) has a range, char-broiler, salamander, fryer, double-deck convection oven and a pasta cooker, while the line for functions (see photo, opposite center) has two tilt skillets, another double-deck convection oven, a range, two steam kettles, a steamer and a prep/plating area.
“Our kitchen gives us a great deal of flexibility,” says Cornwall of his 3,300-sq. ft. space. “We are able to make our own pastas, soups and sausages and we change the menu every two months.”
Room to Move
Regardless of what your kitchen plans to serve, the design should include plenty of room for the staff to move freely and safely while handling heavy and hot cooking equipment.
“If the space allotted for the kitchen is not very large, then there shouldn’t be too much equipment, or there shouldn’t be more than a few people in the kitchen at one time,” says Cornwall, who emphasizes that the safety of employees should be a top concern.
“With limited space, we designed our kitchen so that we would be able to put out banquet and a la carte meals simultaneously, without either one interrupting the other,” says Steve Geisler, Executive Director of Club Operations at The Hawthorns Golf & Country Club in Fishers, Ind. “That is one of the key factors to address during a renovation, especially for older clubs where space is at a premium. There needs to be enough room for employees to do their job.”
And while everyone strives to get the most out of a space, Geisler warns that adding too many items can sometimes do more harm than good.
“If pressed for space, there are ways to safely couple equipment functions,” suggests Cornwall. For example, if there is not enough space for a range and an oven, consider buying a range with an oven base. Looking for a steamer and an oven, but only have room for one? Consider a combi-oven.
“While these units are more expensive, they are very efficient,” Cornwall notes.
Hanging items instead of stacking or packing them in storage spaces below equipment is another way to avoid clutter. At Black Rock, work tables and cabinet bases are used for storing items. The trick is to make sure these areas are not so full that the chef has to pull out every single item before finding the one he or she needs.
To promote safety and kitchen efficiency, good lighting is also a must. Cooks need bright lighting that doesn’t generate much additional heat to accomplish every task that needs to be completed. Lighting also comes into play during the plating process.
“Appearances are crucial,” says Geisler. “When members get their food, they want it to look as good as it tastes. By having proper lighting in the kitchen, cooks can be sure that the food is presentable as well as tasty.”
To achieve that end, both Geisler and Cornwall use commercial fluorescent light fixtures in their kitchens.
Tools of the Trade
Cornwall stresses that equipment and placement are very important to the overall success of a menu, and subsequently to a club’s culinary operation. “These things help in creating new menus, entrees and specials,” he says.
Kitchens with lots of equipment, like Black Rock, usually band pieces together in a battery. Heavy-duty ranges, ovens, fryers and steamers are strung together in something that resembles an assembly line. These items are usually positioned up against a long wall—and it is critical that the wall can handle the equipment’s utility needs.
“Before purchasing the equipment, make sure you have proper electrical, gas and water hookups to fit your design,” says Cornwall. “When buying gas equipment, be sure you look at the gas connection hookup and the gas manifold size. These two diameters are used for two completely different functions. If you have a piece of equipment that stands alone—for example, a range—then it should have a gas connection that will most likely be located on the back side. If it is in a battery, you will want it to have a gas manifold.”
In most cases, there is a choice of which side will have the connections. “The best way to ensure you get what you need is to have your design plans handy when purchasing equipment,” says Cornwall.
Holding stations, like refrigerators, heating cabinets and proofers, are best left in the corners and out of the way, suggests Geisler. “In an assembly line, the refrigerator should be at the beginning, because many of the items originally come from it,” he says. “Once the food has been passed down the assembly line and is fully prepared, the proofer or heated cabinet should be at the end, waiting to hold the cooked food.
“Ultimately, the assembly line will depend on the chef’s preferences,” he adds. “The layout needs to work for his or her needs.”
Work tables are imperative as well. Since these tables require no hookups, they fit very well in the center of the kitchen, as long as they are far enough away from the cooking area to avoid collisions. At Black Rock, the prep and work tables form an island in the center of the kitchen (see photo, left).
Don’t Skimp on Service
It is particularly important to pay attention to key work areas for staff, such as wait stations and dish drops. Unfortunately, these areas often end up being treated as afterthoughts that get crammed into a dining room’s distant corners—or worse, in plain sight of members.
“Never underestimate how much space your servers will need to do their jobs and to store things like glassware and trays,” says Cornwall. “Too often, that crucial space isn’t considered during the design process.”
Wait stations should be located strategically to allow for easy access and maximized use. They must be well-hidden and out of sight of the dining room, but still in position to connect with the workflow.
The same principle needs to be applied to dishwashing areas. Dishwashers can also create a massive amount of steam, so these areas have to have plenty of ventilation.
“Again, these are things that most people don’t take into consideration, which is an awful mistake,” says Cornwall.
To avoid this, Cornwall suggests bringing in a staff member from each part of the F&B team during the design process. “That way, you’ll ensure that each part of the operation is represented,” he says.
Ready to Change
Some clubs may keep the same chef for twenty years, while others might change every other year. When new chefs comes in with a different plan on how to run the kitchen, certain equipment should be ready to move.
“It is good to have a versatile kitchen that is able to adapt when necessary,” says Geisler.
To ensure that a kitchen is flexible enough for this, purchase casters and quick-disconnect gas hoses for equipment. These items will also make it easier to clean under and behind equipment.
Ultimately, every design is a compromise, so flexibility is an important thing to consider. The bottom line is that a good design will suit the constraints of space and budget, without having a detrimental effect on service. C&RB