Michele's Restaurant & Main Kitchen
Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center, Dover, Del.
A $60 million expansion of the Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center helped to create Michele's, a fine-dining restaurant and its adjacent kitchen. The facility's owners and top executives insisted on providing employees with ample and appropriate E&S to produce a four-star-quality menu that features steaks and seafood.
Oak wood-accented arches, ceiling-hung chandeliers and fabric chairs on casters contribute to the upscale ambiance in the 118-seat Michele's restaurant (above). The adjoining 5,000-square-foot kitchen is equipped with several counters for prep and finishing (right). They are ergonomically positioned a few steps from the kettles, convection ovens and other equipment on one of two back-to-back hot cooking lines (behind counter). Kitchen photos by Beth McHale
With an operating track record of just two and a half months, Michele's restaurant at Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center in Dover, Del., recently received accolades from Delaware Today magazine as the best new restaurant in the state. Opened in January 2002, this 118-seat fine-dining establishment, designed with a color palette of oak-wood tones, yellow and peach, features graceful arched doorways, ceiling-hung chandeliers, a 140-bottle centerpiece wine rack, a dark-patterned carpet that complements the deep gray fabric-upholstered chairs, and high arched-back banquettes covered in red and gold striped fabric. Each table is set with a white tablecloth, accented by a small candle lamp.
Michele's and the adjacent 5,000-square-foot kitchen, where food is prepared for the restaurant and room service, are but two of the many new foodservice projects that have been built recently as part of Dover Downs' $60 million expansion, which was designed to help it become a top-rated convention and meeting place. Originally opened in 1969 as a horse racing track, Dover Downs soon added auto racing, followed by a casino 20 years later. This year, 18,000-square-foot Rollins Center convention and meeting place, which is used for big name Las Vegas entertainers, banquets, trade shows and conventions, was opened. The complex includes a 232-room hotel tower, a 5,000-square-foot buffet kitchen and 450-seat Festival Buffet, a 3,000-square-foot banquet kitchen and other foodservice facilities.
When top executives at Dover Downs decided to include Michele's as part of the hotel's attractions, plans included an adjoining kitchen, in which food would be prepared for not only the restaurant, but also room service. In addition, several food products, such as soups and sauces, are made here for seven other foodservice operations on the property. "We received full support from the hotel's owners and top executives to equip the restaurant's kitchen so we could produce four-star-quality food," explained George Fiorile, director of Food & Beverage for the Dover Downs property. "We also had to be able to expand our room service production." The hotel now has 232 rooms, but may be expanded to more than double its size - to 500 rooms - in the near future.
"We fit a lot of applications into one kitchen," explained Bob Burlingame, a foodservice designer at JEM Associates of Linwood, N.J., who became involved in the project about six months after the design process began.
The focal point of the kitchen is its back-to-back cooking lines. On the front side, closest to a meal assembly area and main chef's counter (which has a refrigerated base, refrigerated cold pan, built-in hot-food well, drop-in hot-food well, freezer base, heat lamp, pizza prep tables and a hand sink) and beverage stations for Michele's, is equipment used primarily for main dish preparation. From left to right facing the line are a two-section refrigerator, wall shelf, back counter, convection steamer used for vegetables, and a deep-fat fryer bank for shoe string potatoes, as well as menu garnishes. Next on the line is the high-powered charbroiler used to cook - grill marks included - several cuts of steaks, which are finished off in the convection oven below the adjacent six-burner range. The number one best-selling menu item, prime filet mignon with apple-smoked bacon topped with Stilton cheese, also is prepared on the broiler.
The hotel's marble-floored, contemporary lobby welcomes guests to an upscale experience (above). In the main kitchen (left), a beverage station with storage below is designed to give staff members easy access and facilitate efficient service.
Dishes such as veal medallions and an angel hair pasta dish with scallops and crab, shallots and white wine are prepared on the range/sautŽ station. "Each burner puts out 30,000 Btu," said Fiorile, "which produce nice hot flames the chefs like. The convection oven below provides great flexibility on the line."
At the far right side of the line is a pizza oven, in which Michele's fish specialties, such as Chilean sea bass cooked on an apple cedar plank, are prepared. Jumbo shrimp stuffed with crabmeat, first heated rapidly in the convection oven, also are finished in the pizza oven. The pizza oven is used for room service, as well.
The back cooking line is designed for room service menu preparation, as well as items used at Michele's and seven other in-house foodservices. On the back cooking line (starting from the right side facing the line) is a wood chip-burning gas-fired smoker, which is one of Fiorile's favorite pieces of equipment. "This unit gives us an advantage over many other restaurants," he said. "The aroma of cooking foods wafts throughout the facility. And, we can smoke meat such as prime rib for hours in comparison to putting a 'magic sauce' on it and trying to get a smoked flavor."
Adjacent to the smoker is a convection oven and two 40-gallon steam-jacketed kettles, in which soups and sauces are prepared. Positioned next on the line are a six-burner range with salamander broiler overhead, griddle, deep-fat fryer, exhaust canopy and worktable. Room service carts are positioned proximately so they can be loaded and taken quickly up to the floors.
As part of Dover Downs' $60 million renovation project, a 5,000-square-foot buffet kitchen was constructed to serve the 450-seat buffet dining room and its anticipated 45,000 customers each month. Preparation tables are strategically positioned so staff can move easily around the kitchen. Utensils, such as knives and ladles are hung up on column walls and overhead.
Designing an ergonomically "smart" kitchen was one of Fiorile's primary considerations. In addition to purchasing mobile equipment that is on casters and has door-mounted swivel connectors so cleaning is easy, economizing on required movement by staff was also important. "We have enough refrigeration on the front side of the kitchen and on the line near the hot prep equipment so staff members don't have to walk far to get the ingredients they need to cook," he explained. "On the cooking lines, you can be just about anywhere within two steps, which improves productivity. If employees are productive, and don't have to go through hoops to get something done, they stay much longer. No doubt, our goal was to keep turnover to a minimum, because it is so costly to hire and train new staff."
Fiorile also wanted to separate the preparation of cold items, such as salads and cold appetizers, from the hot lines. "You don't want people crossing one another," he said. "Accidents can happen in a kitchen anytime. The separation of responsibilities helps reduce staff members chance of bumping into one another." Fiorile added that the placement of the dirty dish drop-off station and dishmachine near the dining area's entrance/ exit and hot food line also prevents staff "from taking those extra 20 steps," which saves time and aggravation.
Maintaining top sanitation standards was another key consideration when designing the kitchen. For example, a blast chiller was not only specified but purchased. "I'm a stickler for cleanliness," said Fiorile. "But Chef Mike [Daniels] is even more particular. Even during service, the kitchen looks like it does when it is closed."
As with any project of this size, one of the most significant challenges, according to Burlingame, was "to make sure there was total collaboration among members of the design team." Most of the equipment was custom-designed and had to be fit to the millwork specifications selected by the interior designer. In addition, added Burlingame, ice makers presented a dilemma. "The ice makers were originally specified to be self-contained, but the water system couldn't accommodate them. Therefore, air-cooled ice makers had to be installed, which required ventilation within the small area in which they are situated."
As Dover Downs continues to expand, no doubt Michele's will continue to attract customers looking for an extraordinary, upscale, special dining experience. In addition, the luxury hotel's room service will continue to attract guests looking for top quality. The success of the entire foodservice program here will be largely determined by how efficiently staff can use the installed E&S package as demand grows.
Key Equipment List
2. Food carrier box
3. Dunnage rack
4. Evaporator coil
5. Security truck
7. Heated storage cabinet
9. Walk-in combo
10. Floor trough
11. Floor sink
12. Blast chiller
13. Wall shelf
14. Prep sink
15. Ingredient bin
16. Food slicer
17. Worktable w/sink
18. Floor mixer
19. Hand sink
20. Room service table & carts
21. Salad refrigerator
22. Conveyor toaster
23. Coffee urn
24. Hot mix dispenser
25. Waiter/waitress counter
26. Juice dispenser
27. Iced-tea brewer
28. Soda conduit
29. 1-section refrigerator
30. Ice cuber
31. Ice maker/flaker
32. Chef's counter w/refrigerated base
33. Order printer
|35. Can rack dispenser
36. Worktable w/overhead shelves
37. Panel w/sprinklers
38. Exhaust canopy
39. Deep-fat fryer
40. Griddle, gas
41. 6-burner range w/salamander broiler overhead
42. Tilting skillet
43. 40-gal. steam-jacketed kettle(s)
44. Convection oven(s)
46. Hose reel
47. Waterwash panel for self-cleaning hoods
48. Pizza oven
49. 6-burner range
51. Spreader cabinet
52. Deep-fat fryer bank
53. Convection steamer
54. Back counter
55. 2-section refrigerator
56. Heat lamp
57. Chef's counter w/refrigerated base, refrigerated cold pan, built-in hot food well, drop-in hot food well, freezer base, heat lamp, conv. outlet, pizza prep tables, hand sink
58. Mop sink
|59. Pot rack, wall-mounted
60. 3-compartment sink
61. Hood & panel w/sprinklers
62. S/s wall cover
63. Poker chip dolly
64. Kitchenware dryer
65. Clean dish table
66. Conveyor rack dishwasher
67. Garbage disposal
68. Soiled dish table
69. Coffee grinder
70. Rack dolly
71. Coffee brewing system
72. Waiter/waitress station w/drawer warmer, drop-in beverage dispenser & utility sink
73. Ice cream storage/dipping cabinet
74. POS printer
75. Waiter/waitress station
76. Coffee warmer
77. Underbar work board
78. Waiter/waitress ledge
79. Underbar cocktail unit
80. Double speed rail
81. Glass rack storage unit
82. Underbar handsink
83. Soda gun
84. Backbar cooler unit
85. Espresso machine
86. Glass froster
87. Glass deck merchandisers
Michele's restaurant and main kitchen are located in Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center, which includes a horse racing course, casino, 232-room hotel tower and convention and meeting space in Dover, Del. Opened in mid-January 2002, the 118-seat, 2,200-square-foot fine-dining restaurant is open for dinner, Sunday, 5 p.m.-9 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 6 p.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 6 p.m.-11 p.m.; for breakfast, Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-10:30 a.m.; and brunch, Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Michele's just received recognition from Delaware Today magazine as one of the best restaurants in the state. The adjacent 5,000-square-foot kitchen is used for the preparation of food for Michele's and room service. Dover Downs has seven foodservice venues, in addition to kitchens for banquets and the Buffet restaurant. Staff totals 20 in Michele's and the main kitchen.
Project Supervisor and Leader: George Fiorile, director of Food & Beverage, Dover Downs, Dover, Del.
Architect: Kope-Linder Associates, Philadelphia Interior Design: Marcia Davis, Marcia Davis & Associates, Atlanta
Chefs: Norbert Zastavany, executive chef, Dover Downs' foodservices; Michael Daniels, chef, Michele's
Others Involved from Dover Downs: Heinz Schultz, vice president and general manager; Harry Thomas, Maitre 'D, Michele's
Foodservice Consultant: Bob Burlingame, foodservice designer, JEM Associates, Linwood, N.J.; John Egnor, principal, JEM Associates
Project Coordinator: Judy Spielman, consultant to JEM Associates, Linwood, N.J.
Custom Foodservice Design: JEM Associates
Foodservice Dealer: Thomas United