London 2012: My New Kitchen – Westfield Stratford City

27 July 2012
London 2012: My New Kitchen – Westfield Stratford City

A temporary production kitchen for a brigade of 30 chefs and seven satellite kitchens will be serving up to 2,500 covers a day at pop-up restaurants in Westfield shopping centre during London 2012. Diane Lane took a look round the vast project ahead of the games

While all eyes have been focused on the building of the Olympic Park in Stratford, another build has been taking place just a stone's throw away.

The Westfield Stratford City shopping centre has been a hive of activity for several months in preparation for "pop-up" hospitality for corporate clients for the duration of the games. The venue offers views of the Olympic stadium, Aquatics Centre and Velodrome and is expected to entertain thousands of guests at a time, with more than 70% of ticket holders passing through the centre en route to the Olympic Park.

Events and catering company Absolute Taste, in partnership with ISS Food & Hospitality, was appointed as Westfield Stratford City's caterer, and the task of providing the kitchens needed to deliver the huge amount of food required was undertaken by supplier of temporary kitchens and commercial catering equipment for hire, PKL Group.

"The brief was for a large production kitchen and several satellite kitchens catering for a peak of up to 2,500 covers a day from breakfast to dinner," says Lee Vines, sales and marketing director at PKL, who took charge of the vast project working alongside Philippa Perkins, London 2012 catering project manager for Westfield, and Absolute Taste's health and safety manager, Barry Dodd, and group executive chef, Phil Stocken.

Client tastings
Stocken started writing menus in November and client tastings began in January. Predicting volumes has been a challenge, with information constantly changing from day to day. "We have over 350 different menu items available," Vines says. "It's almost like we've opened a chain of restaurants."

At peak times there will be a brigade of about 30 chefs in the production kitchen under the watchful eye of event head chef Shaun Craig.

The production kitchen is housed in empty retail space, which was essentially a blank canvas requiring not just the kitchen equipment, but all the ducting for the gas and electricity services needed to run it.

"Although it's a temporary kitchen it's a fairly complex design and has been installed to meet permanent standards in terms of environmental and buildings control," says Vines. "So it's effectively a permanent-type installation, although things will be coming out at the end."

As with a permanent kitchen, it was essential to get the flow right in terms of food hygiene and health and safety, and the huge space has been divided into the usual sections of storage, prep, cooking, pastry and wash-up, although each individual area easily dwarfs any other London establishment's total kitchen space. One of the main issues that needed to be addressed by PKL's design was the restricted access for goods deliveries, which are permitted only between 1am and 6am.

"Once we're in lock-down deliveries are only allowed between 1am and 6am, so we have to consolidate deliveries and hit our cues along with the 70 restaurants and shops that also need to take deliveries," Perkins explains.

Consequently, storage space was a prime consideration, and to this end there are several Williams coldrooms for the overnight intake of fresh and frozen produce, giving an L-shaped boundary to the warehouse-like space. These are strategically placed to supply ingredients to the collection of stainless-steel workbenches that make up the prep area in the centre of the kitchen. Two of the coldrooms are earmarked for storing prepped food ready for distribution.

Besides chilled storage there are some blast chillers, also by Williams, for quickly pulling down the temperature of cooked food for regeneration in accordance with regulations.

The cooking area is typically geared up for volume production with a bank of 24-rack gas combi-ovens and three 150-litre gas bratt pans, both by Angelo Po, and five traditional kitchen workhorses in the form of heavy-duty six-burner gas ranges. Other items of kit include a 900mm chargrill and twin-basket fryers, both by Falcon. As required by regulations, the gas equipment is fixed to a purpose-built anchor.

Another indication of the sheer volume of food to be produced is a line of 10 Williams hot cupboards for ferrying cooked food to its destination.

The pastry area is neatly arranged in one corner, its boundary marked by a rack of shelving housing various pans, trays and other small pastry kitchen items. It is furnished with its own Williams chiller and a hefty ChefQuip mixer, besides ample stainless-steel tabling.

Slightly offset from the main kitchen activity and with the benefit of boundary walls, the wash-up area houses two Meiko dishwashers and plenty of tabling to cope with an influx of dirty dishes, although each satellite kitchen also has its own dishwasher.

From the main kitchen, the food will make its way to one of seven satellite kitchens, each serving a two-tier temporary "house" complete with outdoor decking built on to the roof of the shopping centre. Each satellite kitchen has its own head chef and the amount of cooking required there will depend on the menus selected by the client.

"The satellite kitchens have been designed for each specific client and incorporate the kind of kit needed depending on whether the client is looking to reheat food in conjunction with the central production kitchen or to prep and cook itself," says Dodd.

One has been live since April, with the client regularly hosting events to make the most of the unusual temporary hospitality facility. It has also served as something of a "soft opening" in preparation for games time, when there will be 250-300 guests throughout the day.

While its kitchen was originally planned for regenerating food from the production kitchen, menu changes by the client required a degree of flexibility and tweaking of the design and equipment supplied by PKL. It is now set up for more prep and cooking in situ and equipped with an Angelo Po Combistar oven, Blue Seal turbo fan oven, Falcon solid-top range, Lincat tabletop fryer and Williams counter refrigeration. There's also a Viessman coldroom built just outside the kitchen.

The hospitality "house" is fitted with indoor and outdoor bars, also equipped by PKL with an Angelo Po glasswasher, Hoshizaki ice-maker and rows of Williams bottle coolers for holding the celebratory drinks.

Although technically a temporary kitchen, the large central production facility meets all the environmental and buildings control standards of a permanent installation

With about 2,500 people to cater for each day, bulk cooking equipment such as combi-ovens and bratt pans were essential

The outdoor hospitality areas offer views across the Olympic Park and will be the scene of plenty of partying if the rain holds off


Absolute Taste 020 8870 5151 www.absolutetaste.comAngelo Po 0870 460 6750 www.angelopo.itBlue Seal 0121-327 5575 01299 871856 Foodservice Equipment 01786 455200 www.falconfoodservice.comHoshizaki 0845 456 0585 www.hoshizaki-europe.comISS Food & Hospitality 0844 936 1255 www.dinewithiss.comLincat 01522 875500 01753 215120 0845 840 4242 0121-744 0422 Refrigeration 01553 817000

London 2012: The Caterer and Hotelkeeper Interview - Lyndy Redding >>

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