The new kitchen at Champney's health resort has proved worth the wait, says the establishment's chef, Alan Palmer. He had to contend with some of the worst weather last winter could throw at him (Caterer, 12 March, page 74) while in temporary kitchens because of building delays.
Now, though, his new £20,000 kitchen, which opened in February rather than last December as planned, is up and running and Palmer and his 10-strong brigade of chefs are a happy team.
Part of a major programme of development, the kitchen refurbishment is only one component in extensive building work at the resort at Tring in Hertfordshire, which was relaunched on 26-28 June. This work also includes a new 126-seat restaurant with a hot and cold buffet for lunch and breakfast, plus a table d'hôte menu in the evenings.
The kitchen was designed by Tricon Foodservice Consultants, with the HMI Group providing the cooking suites, combi-oven and dishwashing, and Berkeley Projects responsible for the remaining equipment and fabrication.
One major innovation is the way the kitchen handles deliveries. There is a special decanting area which allows boxes to be unpacked and decanted into polycarbonate gastronorm containers before food is taken into the various storage areas. "It's much more hygienic," says Palmer. "Also, it is easier to see what we have in store and it gives us better control. We've spent about £5,000 on gastronorm containers, but it's well worth it."
In the larder section, which doubles as a pastry area, prep equipment includes a Robot Coupe ice-cream machine, mainly used for sorbets. For making ice-creams or frozen yogurt, Palmer prefers a Pacojet because it gives really smooth results, even with very low-fat ingredients. Ingredients for ice-creams are first frozen solid in one of the Pacojet's special containers, then the machine's blade spins through the mixture to produce more bulk and a silky texture.
In addition, there is a Hobart slicer for cold meats, a Hobart veg prep machine for salad work, and a Hobart bowl cutter for mousses, breadcrumbs, purées and similar tasks. Palmer is a fan of the bowl cutter because of its sturdiness - unlike some appliances, it has few plastic components which can prove brittle and break.
The cooking area is divided into two by a pair of bespoke Bonnet Maestro ranges. Palmer opted for these bespoke ranges because they are easy to clean, sturdy, and designed so that little can go wrong. Fittings and control knobs are brass and very robust, and the wide surround around the appliances in the main range gives plenty of space for plating up.
The potwash area, conveniently located next to the cooking area, has an IMC waste disposal unit, and sinks for manual washing. Dishwashing is done in a separate room where there is a Cidelcem pass-through machine. Palmer says he switched his chemicals supplier to DiverseyLever when the new kitchen was opened, because he was no longer able to ring his previous supplier's representatives directly.
In the room service area, there is a Williams wine chiller and a special rack that enables trays to be laid with liners, cruets and other items, ready to go straight to the pass when needed.
The pass between the cooking section and the service area consists of a long counter with refrigerators underneath. Above it are stainless steel panels, with heated shelves at the two ends through which plated meals are passed. There is also a soup station built in.
On the other side of the still room and service area is a counter for beverage machines. These include two Milk Coolas whose contents, one skimmed and one semi-skimmed, emphasise the point that this is a health resort's kitchen.
There is also a Matthew Algie double bulk brewer with 10-pint urns. The resort also has a Matthew Algie cappuccino machine in the bar for special coffees, so the bulk brewer is needed only for breakfast coffee. "We went for a larger machine than we needed for coffee because it gave us a bigger hot water capacity for tea," explains Palmer. A Matthew Algie pour-and-serve machine caters for decaffeinated coffee.
Fruit and vegetable juices are made in a domestic juicer, which Palmer says works well, but is not really big enough for the job. "I haven't been able to find a bigger one," he says. Other equipment in this section includes a Panasonic Pro II microwave, used by the night porters for warming milk for drinks, a water chiller, and a Scotsman ice-cube machine.