A £300,000 refurbishment of the limited kitchen at the Metropolitan hotel in London was long overdue. The purpose of the overhaul was to increase production at the 24-hour operation, while adding essential energy-saving technology, as Diane Lane reports
Providing food for breakfast and room service, four function rooms, plus a menu for the lobby and the trendy Met Bar was no easy task in a small kitchen designed originally for preparing staff food, but since the main kitchen is given over to Nobu, that's what has happened at the 150-bedroom Metropolitan hotel in London's Old Park Lane for the past 10 years.
Breakfast is a busy affair, with 160 à la carte covers served in the White Room from 7am to 11.30am. Having no restaurant means there's a large room service menu which accounts for about 80 covers a day and functions from lipstick launches to corporate meetings range from up to 50 for a sit-down dinner to canapés for 300 in the Met Bar.
While technology such as combi-ovens has been added over the years, the kitchen has just undergone a total refurbishment costing £300,000 to enable it to cope with all the demands on it.
The aim of the refurbishment was twofold, as food and beverage operations manager Achille Checuz explains. "We wanted to increase production and introduce energy-saving technology as it's a 24-hour operation."
Saving energy is high on the agenda for the hotel, part of Como Hotels and Resorts, which has a dedicated environmental team and is a member of Considerate Hoteliers. Plans include installing a dewatering machine which will reduce the amount of food waste to get rid of although the ultimate aim is to turn it into compost for another project on the horizon, the planting of a herb garden.
One thing that couldn't be done was enlarge the kitchen, so every opportunity was taken to maximise space, including installing a sliding door for access to the corridor off which two Colsec coldrooms lie, and getting rid of the potwash to make room for a dedicated pastry area complete with Rondo pastry brake.
With a clear objective in mind, Checuz and head chef Nicola Ducceschi enlisted the services of design consultant GWP and distributor C&C Catering Equipment to realise their plans. "We identified several problems with the old kitchen and designed around them," says Ducceschi, who has previously worked at the Dorchester under Willi Elsener and at Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, south London.
Delivering food for all of the five-star hotel's facilities caused much congestion at the cooking line which ran along one wall and led to the decision to commission a bespoke Athanor island suite to allow chefs to provide two areas of production, one for breakfast and another for banqueting.
The suite measures 2,800mm x 1,600mm and houses most of the kitchen's cooking elements. With two members of the 16-strong brigade on duty throughout the night to deliver orders from the night menu - which kicks in at 11pm until 6.30 the next morning - the kitchen's existing solid top and open burner ranges were on 24 hours a day, so energy consumption was a key factor in the choice of equipment.
Consequently there is just one 9kW open gas vortex burner, useful for wok cooking, while two four-zone induction hobs, which use energy only when a pan is placed on them, take care of all other pan work such as sauces and stocks. The space underneath the hobs provides storage for the stainless-steel pans used on them.
The need for pans has been significantly reduced by incorporating two two-zone Plaques Athanor (planchas), surrounded by water channels, primarily for the direct cooking of meat and fish but which also double as solid tops for use with pans. A hinged electric bar grill over one of the planchas gives it a further use for items such as the Angus Met burger served with Cheddar cheese, hot tomato pickle and chunky fries. Underneath the plancha to one side of the suite is a 1/1 gastronorm 6kW electric oven.
There's a built-in bain-marie in which veg is blanched off and which, in conjunction with a Roner thermal circulator, facilitates sous-vide cooking.
A Charvet salamander sits over the induction hobs and thanks to a new type of pilot system takes just nine seconds to reach full temperature, providing further energy savings as it needn't be on full power constantly.
At one end of the suite, though not part of it, is a twin-tank fryer which is more economical on oil than the large fryer it replaces. As a result, oil consumption has reduced to 25 litres a week from the 100 litres previously used. The fryer sits back-to-back with a Charvet bratt pan for quantity cooking for staff food, banqueting and stocks, eradicating the previous safety risk posed by using large aluminium pots.
The only cooking equipment not within the central arrangement are two Rational combi-ovens stacked one on top of the other and chosen in preference to one large unit for greater versatility. The ovens are sited against the wall at the end of a run of three existing Williams under-counter refrigerated cabinets upon which sits a refrigerated garnish rail, also by Williams, used in the morning by the breakfast chef and at other times for herbs or burger relishes.
Two further under-counter fridges, one of which provides a worktop for the pastry section, sit on the opposite wall and an Electrolux Dito 26-litre mixer, used for pizza dough, biscuits, mousses, sponge, mash and morning goods such as the 150 croissants per day needed for breakfast, is kept outside the kitchen on a trolley so it can be moved to wherever it's needed. A Multivac vacuum-packing machine is used for portioning and maintaining quality standards and consistency.
The noticable reduction of ambient heat in the kitchen is an early indication of the likely reduction in energy consumption which Ducceschi estimates will be about 50%.
|!](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/IiPFx39xRFWAoUY6Wnuc)||The bespoke Athanor island suite replaces a series of solid top and open burner ranges which posed two specific problems - the high energy usage and resulting uncomfortable kitchen temperature, and crowding around the cooking line shared by the various sections.|
|!(https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/1F8UnOzRrataqRoKhRaX)||In addition to the energy savings the induction technology provides, the fact that it doesn't produce heat on the surface means the area can be used as a working station, for instance with chopping boards, as well as for cooking..|
|!(https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/qckT6MISAKxAms76hBDY)||The Plaque Athanor provides excellent temperature regulation and the option for direct cooking or pan work. It is a 20mm thick polished steel plate which can achieve 450°C surface temperature when used like a solid top (on heat level nine) or 150°C to 270°C (levels four, five and six) when used as "plancha" for direct cooking. Because steel is non-micro-porous, the plate does not absorb the grease or oil of the product being cooked directly on the surface.|
|!(https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/6Tf19Y4SUGSQrrUiXqR2)||The original pass had a flip-up section on the service side to provide extra surface area without permanently intruding into the corridor, so C&C, which built all the fabrication, incorporated a pull-out section on the new pass to give the same useful facility..|