Marco Pierre White's new restaurant at Chelsea Football Club operates from a small kitchen where a brigade of five under head chef Matthew Brown pumps out English favourites on match days and classic French dishes the rest of the time. Diane Lane takes a look around
You're most likely to hear the term "bijou" from an estate agent describing an apartment in which there is no room to swing the proverbial cat, but it's also how the brigade describes the kitchen at the new 70-seat Marco restaurant at Chelsea Football Club's Stamford Bridge complex.
Indeed, it's not the largest kitchen I've seen. The main cooking area measures just 14.5sq m and accommodates three chefs at any one time. Still, they're pumping out 70 covers most nights, plus 40 for lunch.
The restaurant is a collaboration between Marco Pierre White and club owner Roman Abramovich. In charge of operations is head chef Matthew Brown, who previously worked with White at London's Hyde Park hotel and was chef-proprietor of Wheeler's of St James.
Diners choose from à la carte and du jour menus featuring the classical French dishes for which White is renowned, such as braised pig's trotter and Bresse pigeon with foie gras. There's also a match-day menu that operates on the evenings of the 23 match days a year. Some 100 covers are served in the hour before kick-off, with a further 40-50 after full time and another 40-50 in between. Typically English fare is the order of the day here, with choices such as cottage pie and peas, fish and chips and rump steak.
The modular cooking line runs along one wall, where the main firepower is in the form of three Charvet double solid-top ranges, chosen in preference to open burners to suit pans of all sizes. Above one of these hangs a salamander.
A Garland chargrill gets plenty of use on match days, when steak accounts for more than half the covers. Also working overtime on match days, when 40kg of fish and 20kg of chips can pass through it, is a twin-basket Valentine electric fryer. Fish and chips was apparently requested by Abramovich as an addition to the menu.
The pass is directly opposite the cooking line and houses Williams under-counter refrigeration with a combination of drawers and doors on the cooking side for the meat and fish needed during service. Another line of refrigerated counters provides further worktop space along the opposite wall. Here sits a Merrychef microwave used for crystallising parsley and sage as garnishes for the poached wing of skate and the grilled calves' liver.
To the side of the main cooking area is the larder section, where there are more refrigerated counters with worktops and shelving and access to the coldroom. Tucked away next door is a Winterhalter pass-through dishwasher.
On the other side of the rear wall of the main cooking area there's a separate pastry area where pastry chef Roger Pizy and his commis Arran Greig create an array of classic desserts, including lemon tart, pear tarte tatin and blackberry soufflé.
This area is home to a Rational combi-oven, since it is mainly used for pastry tasks, although savoury pies with pastry lids are cooked in there, too, for a more even colour.
The obligatory marble top sits on one of the stainless-steel benches that line three of the walls. A Garland induction hob, on which Bourgeat induction-friendly pans are used, facilitates the making of all the dessert sauces.
There's a Hobart mixer for crumble topping and pastry a Kitchen Aid, which is dedicated to the blackberry soufflé during service and each week two litres of vanilla ice-cream made with condensed milk is churned in a Robot Coupe ice-cream machine.
Just outside the pastry area, next to the dry store, is a Hoshizaki ice machine to provide ice for chilling down veg and cooling the marble worktop ready for rolling pastry. A Sammic vacuum-packing machine also lives here.
Supply and installation of the kitchen, together with the ventilation canopy and all fabrication, was by Catering Equipment Distributors Association (CEDA) member Court Catering Equipment, which carries out all the kitchen installations at the stadium. Project director Simon Gelber describes it as a very basic kitchen. "It is basic. We rely on the skills of the chefs," says Brown.
1. Each of the three Charvet double solid-top ranges has two 7kW burners, and the ovens below are gastronorm 2/1 with 11kW enameled H-shaped gas burners.
2. All refrigeration is by Williams and mainly takes the form of under-counter cabinets to keep ingredients close at hand during service and with plenty of workspace above for mise en place. There is also a cold room for chilled storage and an upright freezer cabinet.
3. The Garland induction hob doesn't take up much space and provides the pastry section with the means to prepare all the dessert sauces, such as the caramel sauce served with an apple tart.
4. Various sauces, cottage pie filling and the swede purée that accompanies an oxtail and kidney pudding on the match-day menu are among the items that are porportioned using a Sammic vacuum-packing machine.