If we start as we mean to go on, the London 2012 Olympics should be a cracker for Blighty, with our 80,000-seater Olympic stadium completed way ahead of schedule. What is a worry, however, is our ability to provide hospitality for such an event, expected to bring in £2billion from visitors. New College Nottingham (ncn) is well aware of the UK skills shortage and has invested in new training facilities to better prepare its protégés for the real world. By choosing Hatco equipment, it has also slashed its energy bills by 25 percent…
Fit for purpose
With a well-publicised skills shortage in UK catering and hospitality, today's youngsters are being encouraged to take a good look at the industry as a serious career path.
One of the challenges is that college kitchens and restaurants are not always set up to give the next generation a proper grounding in these often highly pressurised vocations.
Until a year ago, the Catering and Hospitality department at ncn Clarendon campus was in the same boat. While it had a training kitchen and a restaurant, Newstead, these no longer presented the full range of challenges seen in a modern real work environment.
The chance to shake things up emerged when plans to replace Newstead restaurant with a refreshing, realistic work environment were given the green light, to better reflect modern consumer trends and stave off the threat from the high street with its many eating venues.
The contemporary U Choose food court opened in September 2008 and serves up to 3,500 students and staff every day, with a mix of healthy ‘cook from fresh' menu offers, grab and go options, freshly-made pizzas and burgers, pasta and paninis, fresh sandwiches, baguettes, salads, cakes and desserts, vegetarian options and daily specials.
As part of the £350,000 refurbishment, the existing training kitchen was replaced with a new skills suite for catering students, with their freshly prepared dishes feeding into an adjoining production kitchen run by the in-house Catering and Hospitality teaching and training team.
"Students wanting to hone their fine dining skills can still do so at our award-winning Adams Restaurant and Brasserie at ncn City campus," said ncn Director of Lifestyles, Adrian Pratt.
"Newstead restaurant at our Clarendon campus was a traditional college training restaurant, typical of kitchens built in the 1960s, so had become much less fit for purpose.
"It no longer provided the right opportunities, knowledge and skills for around 200 catering and hospitality students, whereas now they get to freshly prepare hot and cold dishes in the new Skills Suite with the added bonus of working with branded products in the food court.''
"For example, we now have a Starbucks coffee bar on site. Students train on the specialist equipment to a standard that improves their prospects of gaining employment at a supervisory level with a successful company. The idea behind the new facilities was to provide a better grounding, whether students use their qualifications as a route to an apprenticeship or foundation degree, or to enable them to progress confidently and competently into employment."
"It had to be ergonomically sound, but also reflect industry practice," Adrian said. "We all know space is an issue in commercial kitchens. Minimising cooking space whilst maintaining output, to maximise front of house space and generate income and, ultimately profit, is the order of the day. This demand is going to increase significantly over the next three to four years."
"We wanted small, contained work areas to allow students to take the minimum number of turns, walks and actions possible, with everything they needed in front of them. In a three hour service, you can't waste time and energy fetching and carrying, so we needed to incorporate that factor.
"We also wanted the Skills Suite to be environmentally friendly and, with fuel bills going up rapidly, as efficient as possible to make energy savings wherever possible."
Under the direction of commercial kitchen design agency HK Projects, which coordinated the catering refurbishment at ncn Clarendon, the Savoy Educational Trust Skills Suite boasts 16 workstations. Each has its own preparation bench, solid top stove, oven, sink, fridge for mise en place, utensil drawer and underneath shelves for pans and gastronorms.
Finishing the job with Hatco
Students are also required to flash and finish food, but arguably the biggest culprit for wasted energy and high running costs in a commercial kitchen is the grill designed to do this job, which is often turned on when the kitchen opens and left on all day, pumping out heat.
To combat this, HK Projects recommended the Hatco Quick-Therm Salamander (QTS-1). It is designed to cook, grill, reheat and hold all kinds of food as well as producing the classic 'au gratin' effect. The energy-conscious alternative to the traditional grill switches itself on only when a plate or pan is put beneath it. Removal of the plate turns off the heating elements.
A kitchen 'must-have', the Quick-Therm Salamander also drastically reduces food preparation time with its unparalleled start-up speed. The patented 'instant-on' heating elements are ready to use in just eight seconds, offering eight temperature levels from 40Â°C to 70Â°C.
Eight Quick-Therm Salamanders were installed in the Skills Suite: one for every two workstations. They are making food preparation far easier with improved quality and the work environment more comfortable. The whole catering operation has become much more efficient as a result.
"They are within arm's reach for each student and have exceeded our expectations," said Adrian, a trained chef who has worked at ncn in different guises for 27 years. "I just wish they had been around when I was a chef."
"Efficiency-wise, a normal grill might be on continuously through service, which makes the kitchen very hot and wastes fuel, but this salamander switches itself on only when a plate or pan is put beneath it. In the past year, we have saved approximately 25 percent on energy bills because of it."
Jason Fish from HK Projects said the salamander also helped get round the fact there were structural limitations with a torturous ventilation route to atmosphere. "The touch plate and halogen technology reduced the ventilation requirements," he said. "These capital savings part-funded the cost of the grills, with operational savings expected well into the future."
This press release was provided by Imperial and Hatco