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Locatelli's lair

30 July 2002 by
Locatelli's lair

Giorgio Locatelli knew exactly what he wanted to transform the kitchen for his new restaurant in London's Churchill Inter-Continental hotel, and it took 18 months of designing and installation to achieve it. Diane Lane reports.

The kitchen at Locanda Locatelli is unrecognisable as the old banqueting kitchen given up by London's Churchill Inter-Continental when the 90-seat restaurant took up residency on the hotel's ground floor in February.

With 16 chefs in the kitchen during service, the 149sq m space needed to be well planned, and in the 18 months it took to design and install the £620,000 kitchen, chef-proprietor Giorgio Locatelli worked closely with Derek Horn of designer Berkeley Projects UK. "I've had lots of experience doing kitchens, so I really know what I want," says Locatelli. "Derek understands the needs of the chef and puts them first."

Managing the project on behalf of the Churchill Inter-Continental was the task for John Browne, the hotel's chief engineer. While services such as extraction and waste disposal are shared with the hotel, Locatelli was keen to allocate space for changing rooms and showers so his staff would not need to use the hotel's staff facilities. A former fire exit has been turned into a goods-in and staff entrance with the coldroom and drystore adjacent to receive deliveries.

Ventilation was a priority to provide comfortable working conditions, so a Vent Master system was installed using part of the existing duct to bring air in from the ninth floor. "If you work in the heat, after two shifts your legs really ache," says Locatelli. "The air we breathe in this kitchen is better than that outside on the street."

In choosing equipment for the kitchen, Locatelli spent four days visiting the Angelo Po factory in Italy. Although he had never used the company's equipment before, he liked what he saw, and consequently most of the cooking equipment and refrigeration came from the Italian manufacturer.

Just outside the kitchen and adjacent to the bar area is a Consort wine store, where some 320 Italian wines are held at 18ºC (or 16ºC in the summer). Further into the restaurant, cheeses are kept in a Chambrair Fromagair cheese humidifier.

The Angelo Po solid top is used mainly for risotto and sauces. The burners are used for saut‚ing and have a covered pilot system to prevent soiling. A granite-topped gantry separates the hot section from the waiters' side of the hot pass and was chosen by Locatelli because "it's eyecatching, easy to clean and keeps the heat". Opposite the cooking range is a fish sink, with fish fridge underneath, a salamander, combi-oven, single-basket fryer and stainless steel worktops with under-counter fridges, all from Angelo Po.

Dishwashing and potwashing are tucked away in their own area, equipped with a Meiko K200 dishwasher and plenty of sinks.

The Vent Master cooker hood sucks out 2.6cu m of air per second while pumping in 2.11cu m of clean air per second. Two curtains of cold air from the ventilation canopy keep the heat in the main cooking area. All cooking equipment is protected by an Ansul fire suppression system.

There are two Angelo Po heated trolleys that plug into power points on the waiter side of the pass. Lights are built into the vents overhead.

The island creates a one-way system for the waiters.

The meat area is equipped with an upright Angelo Po meat fridge, a huge chopping board and sinks. The vacuum-packing machine lives under the stainless steel worktop.

Washing veg, mise en place and the preparation of salads and starters takes place in the general prep area. There is plenty of under-counter refrigeration into which everything disappears once prepped. Other equipment includes a lidded salad bar, a Berkel slicer and a wall-mounted Panasonic microwave oven.

The bakers start at 8am every day to bake nine types of bread, including sun-dried tomato and black olive, and four types of focaccia. The dough is mixed in a Bear Varimixer and spends two-and-a-half hours on racks over the mixer before being baked in a Sveba Dahlen oven from Sweden, chosen by baker Dan Lepard.

Cold air is generated over the pastry section which has its own Eloma Chefmaster oven, Angelo Po under-counter fridge, Williams freezer for ice-cream and one-basket Lincat fryer for items such as beignets. A Cattabriga machine is used to churn ice-cream in the morning. There are always 10-12 flavours such as pistachio, vanilla, and gin and tonic. Sorbets include strawberry, orange, bitter chocolate, and milk chocolate.

When it comes to coffee, which is ground to order, only an Italian-made La Marzocco machine - deemed by Locatelli to be "the Ferrari of coffee machines" - would do.

Pasta dough is made one kilogram at a time, either on a pasta machine on the stainless steel worktop or using a specially commissioned cherrywood board with rolling pin that fits over the worktop. It is vacuum-packed and rests in the fridge overnight, then it is shaped the following day into about 10 different types. Gnocchi dough is made in one process with the potatoes being cooked on an Angelo Po two-burner stove.

The day's bread is piled high on a granite-topped island with airtight drawers in the waiters' area. The area also houses the coffee-making equipment, dairy fridge and glasswasher.

Locatelli's team are serving 220 covers a day

Angelo Po UK 01332 638030 * Ansul/Tyco Fire Products Manufacturing 0161-477 1886 * Avery Berkel 0870 903 4343 * Bear Varimixer/Scobie & McIntosh (Bakery Engineers) 0131-657 0555 * Berkeley Projects UK 020 8643 1228 *Cattabriga/Alasdair W Woods 01475 673300 * Chambrair/Consort 01635 550055 * Eloma/Equip Line 01895 272236 * Irinox UK 01553 777870 * La Marzocco/Mulmar 020 8905 1060 * Lincat 01522 875555 * Meiko UK 01753 686878 * Omega/Derek Wright (Food Machinery) 01484 401451 * Panasonic 01344 476516 * Sveba Dahlen/Benier (UK) 01908 312333 * Vent Master 01634 712266 * Williams Refrigeration 01553 817000

Best buy
Locatelli is most happy with an Omega CV400 vacuum-packing machine costing £2,628 and used in conjunction with an Irinox blast chiller for storing consomm‚ and soups. "I was reluctant to buy one at first because it's a large amount of money to spend but we'll recoup the money in the first year through reduced wastage," he says.

Most expensive buy
The range in the main cooking area cost £31,921 and has an iron chassis on to which the solid top, burners, grill and pasta boiler are anchored. The chassis came in as one piece before the door was built, and all the equipment can be taken off if necessary for maintenance or replacement. Angelo Po ovens sit underneath.

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