Despite not having designed the kitchen himself, Mark Bennett, head chef at Malmaison's new 130-bedroom Liverpool hotel, is very happy with the space in which he and his 11-strong brigade work.
As the site is a new-build property, executive chef Keith Shearer, whose remit includes designing the kitchens for all the group's properties, didn't have the problem of working around structural obstacles.
An additional benefit for Shearer was that, in Robert Cook, he has a boss who understands the need to invest in a kitchen to meet all the demands in terms of preparation and service. "We're very lucky with the space," says Shearer. "And we have a kitchen that sends a message that we're serious about the food operation. It's a template for future Malmaison kitchens."
Shearer worked on the design with Jack Sharkey, of Vision Commercial Kitchens, a member of the Catering Equipment Distributors Association and the company responsible for planning every kitchen in the Malmaison group.
The 102sq m main kitchen in the Liverpool hotel was designed to be able to cope with the hotel's busy lunch and dinner brasserie business, serving 200-300 covers a day, plus another 100 covers for meeting rooms and private dining. A stills area, wash-up, dry goods, coldroom and chef's office take up a further 60sq m of operational space.
A dining room, called The Kitchen, has a glass wall, providing diners at the eight-seat stainless-steel table with views on to the pass, and a TV screen with views of the cooking operation. The room is also used for laying out a breakfast buffet for residents.
Meeting rooms on the first floor are served by an upstairs satellite kitchen, which receives prepared food from the main kitchen by way of a lift. For Bennett, a Malmaison chef for seven years and head chef at the group's Manchester hotel before taking the helm of the Liverpool kitchen, it took a while to get used to having so much space. "It's a good-sized kitchen to work in, with no tight corners and a great flow," he says. "If you need to jump on a section, you can still see everything."
The kitchen follows a traditional layout, arranged into classic self-contained sections. The stove is sited as close as possible to the pass, and all sections are positioned with easy access to refrigeration to avoid movement during service, because, as Shearer puts it, "You can really rack up the miles in a four-hour service."
A plethora of Gram under-counter refrigeration ensures that ingredients are always close at hand. The fridges feature drawers as well as doors. "Drawers are practical from a service point of view to avoid having mise en place out," says Shearer.
Additional refrigeration comes in the form of two Williams chilled wells, one on the starters section of the pass and another for holding toppings in the dedicated pizza area.
Stringent food safety procedures dictated the need for a blast chiller, and a Sammic vacuum-packing machine is another step in the elimination of cross-contamination, with meat and fish prepped for service being portioned up into individual bags. At the heart of the kitchen is a 4m x 2m Rorgue island suite supplied by Exclusive Ranges, something all Malmaison kitchens have as standard, designed to provide a wide choice of cooking procedures. Chosen for its durability, Shearer compares the suite to a tank. Á¢ÂÂItÁ¢ÂÂs a simple design made with robust parts,Á¢ÂÂ he says. Á¢ÂÂAnd itÁ¢ÂÂs very easy to clean.Á¢ÂÂ
The suite features a mix of solid-tops and burners. Á¢ÂÂI like to have both,Á¢ÂÂ says Shearer. Á¢ÂÂWhile I prefer to use the majority of kit on solid-tops, burners can be good for an emergency if you need to bring something to the boil quickly.Á¢ÂÂ
A lower section at one end of the suite houses a 650mm-high stockpot burner for the veal and chicken stocks made daily, and a bain-marie is used for holding stocks and soups and tasks such as blanching spinach.
ThereÁ¢ÂÂs a chargrill to service the grill section of the menu, from which the biggest seller is the steak frites, a 250g Scottish rump served on a wooden board with a beaker of home-made chips from the built-in Pitco fryer. A salamander takes care of gratinating duties, including shepherdÁ¢ÂÂs pie served in individual Staub cast-iron dishes.
The pastry section is tucked away in one corner and, like the other sections, has its own refrigeration. It is also furnished with a Metcalfe mixer with a 25Á¢ÂÂ'litre bowl used for bread dough, biscuits and cake mixes two Zanussi gas burners for tasks like sabayon a Samsung microwave for melting chocolate and a Rational combi-oven converted to European-style baking trays rather than gastronorm trays to fit more on.
1. A plancha allows for more versatility on the menu, providing a surface for direct cooking of items such as pork fillet and tuna steaks. It consists of a polished steel raised cooking surface integrated with the single-piece worktop and has a removable grease collection tray to the front. It is heated by a TÁ¢ÂÂ'shaped stainless-steel burner with graduated heated control of up to 390ÁÂ°C.
2 A late addition to the design, necessitating a bit of a reshuffle in the layout, was a Woodstone pizza oven. Shearer had the idea of adding stone-baked pizzas to the menu for bar snacks, informal lunches and room service. A 30kg Silea dough machine currently whips up about 5kg of Neapolitan pizza dough per day, which is then dressed with toppings including favourites such as margherita and quattro formaggi or the more exotic Gamba prawn and chilli. Pizzas are cooked at 280-290ÁÂ°C, while the temperature drop to 160ÁÂ°C overnight is perfect for confit duck legs.
3 The 180mm-deep 1/1 gastronorm bain-marie is constructed from stainless steel and as part of the range top with no joins. The electric elements are set outside the well and supply a temperature range of 60Á¢ÂÂ'100ÁÂ°C.
4 Installing the stockpot burner at a height of 650mm Á¢ÂÂ" 250mm lower than the surface height of the rest of the suite Á¢ÂÂ" was a safety consideration, bearing in mind that the stockpots have a capacity of 80 litres and take two chefs to lift. At 14kW, the power of the burner is 50% more than that of a standard Rorgue open burner.
5 The pass is a massive 9m long, provides plenty of space for sending food to multiple outlets and makes it easier for waiting staff to pick up dishes. It has separate areas for sending main courses and starters and extends into the pizza section, providing a dedicated pizza pass. Cupboards under can be loaded from both sides for greater flexibility.
- Gram 01322 616900
- Metcalfe 01766 830456
- Pitco 01925 821280
- Rational 01582 480388
- Rorgue/Exclusive Ranges 01707 361770
- Sammic 0116 246 1900
- Samsung/Apuro 0121-744 0968
- Vision Commercial Kitchens 0161-766 5522
- Williams Refrigeration 01553 817000
- Zanussi 0121-220 2800