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FE&SEditorial Archives2003May — Facility Design Project of the Month

Vu Restaurant & Lounge
At The Hyatt Regency Jersey City, N.J.

A European-style cooking battery positioned inside a glass-enclosed display kitchen provides culinary entertainment without impeding spectacular views of Manhattan and the Hudson Harbor. The foodservice facilities also include a room service preparation area and a large banquet and employee meal preparation kitchen.

In recent years, the Harborside Financial Center in Jersey City has been vigorously promoted as "Wall Street West." Situated on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, this area has become one of the fastest growing business districts on the northeast corridor. Among the area's newest buildings is the Hyatt Regency Jersey City, which was built on the financial center's south pier and opened in July 2002. Extending 800 feet into the Hudson, the hotel was designed with 350 guest rooms, numerous meeting spaces, two ballrooms and a restaurant and lounge with a display kitchen, all of which offer panoramic vistas of the Manhattan skyline and the Hudson Harbor. From some rooms, the Statue of Liberty and parts of the New Jersey skyline are also visible.

After entering the building at street level, hotel guests and restaurant customers ride an escalator to the third level and step into a rectangular-shaped, pier-length lobby, which merges into the 9,450-square-foot Vu lounge and then the 164-seat restaurant, which is encased in windows on three sides. As guests enter the lounge and restaurant, their attention is drawn by both the interior's contemporary, minimalist décor and simple architectural lines, and the exterior's dramatic skyline juxtaposed against the Hudson River.

Even the restaurant's 750-square-foot, glass-enclosed display kitchen, which is filled with movement as staff prepare up to 300 meals per day on a European-style cooking battery and other new pieces of equipment, must compete for customers' attention with the breathtaking river-front vistas. (In the 5,800-square-foot back of the house are a room service preparation area and a large kitchen used for banquet service and employee meal preparation.)

"When the sky darkens outside (top), the glass in the windows starts working like a mirror if the lights aren't controlled properly," said designer Julia Monk. In contrast, during the day, the outside light penetrates everywhere (above), including into the exhibition-style kitchen shown behind the seating area. Photos courtesy of the Hyatt Regency

Though expansive views made possible by the hotel's position along the pier offer a distinct competitive advantage for attracting business, they also created daunting design and lighting challenges in the restaurant. "We wanted the restaurant and lounge space to be a viewing chamber, rather than call attention to itself," explained interior designer Julia Monk, a partner in Brennan Beer Gorman Monk of New York City. "We minimized the detailing and put the 'spice' in the materials, such as zebrawood for tabletops and buffet counters, and pewter and stone for banquettes." Slate green carpet, champagne walls, oak wood and mahogany-stained bar stools and chairs, and lamps with aluminum cylinder bases with frosted white glass shades also help to express the contemporary, minimal décor scheme.

Making the kitchen as transparent as possible was also a challenge for Jeff Brown, vice president of hospitality design for Inman Foodservices group, Miami. This was achieved by positioning glass walls on three sides of the square-shaped display kitchen and installing a glass exhaust hood above a European-style cooking battery, which doesn't have back shelving that would impede the views.

The kitchen also had to support production of a contemporary menu. The restaurant's concept, which has been slightly modified since its opening, is a northern Tuscan steakhouse with American influences. "We wanted something that was appealing, not only for north Jersey residents, but also for staff of corporate tenants working nearby and tourists," explained Steven Pidgley, Hyatt Jersey City's executive assistant manager, Food and Beverage.

Though the core menu - steaks, seafood and pastas with light, Mediterranean-style sauces - has remained consistent since Vu's debut, chefs, including Richard Kennedy, executive chef, have modified it to suit customer preferences and production capabilities. In addition to menu changes, preparation methods were altered to balance out production, which varies greatly depending on customer traffic.

On the east side of the kitchen's European-style cooking battery is first, a charbroiler, used to grill chicken breasts, seasonal seafood selections of swordfish, Ahi tuna, halibut and red snapper, several varieties of steak, short ribs and veal. A refrigerated unit below stores ingredients. Also on this side of the battery are a salamander broiler where cheese served on hamburgers is melted, a flat-top range on which many breakfast items and lunch items, such as crab cakes, shaved prime rib wrap and seared tuna, are cooked, and a two-unit fryer assembly used to cook french fried potatoes, buffalo wings, calamari and won tons. A prep counter where plates are held runs along the kitchen's north side.

On the west side of the battery is a griddle with pull-out refrigerated drawers below, a salamander above and two six-burner sauté ranges used for preparing steaks, seafood, chicken, veal and vegetables. Below the ranges are convection ovens, one of which is used for heating pizzas, while the other is used for baking and roasting steaks, seafood, poultry and game meats. A bain marie for soups and sauces is placed on a counter on the south side. Though most food prepared for Vu and the hotel's room service program is produced in this kitchen, soups and sauces are made up in the main kitchen, along with slow-cooked prime rib.

On one side of the European-style cooking battery, Irving Peoples cooks burgers on a charbroiler. To his right are a salamander broiler, a flat-top range, a two-unit fryer assembly and a prep counter. Photos by Donna Boss

"We couldn't use upright reach-ins in this kitchen because they would obstruct the views," Brown noted. "As a result, all the refrigeration had to be placed under counters." All equipment here is positioned on a six-inch curbed base that is sealed with silicone so no food or dirt can get underneath, and nothing can get up into the equipment.

On the north side of the kitchen, along the perimeter, is a rotisserie used mainly for cooking chicken. Also along this wall are additional undercounter refrigerators, plate storage and a microwave oven. Positioned counterclockwise to the west are a live lobster tank, prep counters for garde manger and an undercounter freezer in the corner for desserts. A granite-top counter runs the length of the south side, where plates are garnished and held under heat lamps, if necessary, before being delivered to customers. Meal orders are also placed here. "Everything is prepared to order," said Kennedy, "so there has to be constant communication between the people working in the front and back of the house."

Atop the remaining counter is a steamer in which dim sum appetizers are heated, and a panini press. More undercounter refrigeration and countertop cold storage containers for dressings and garnishes are also positioned here.

In addition to providing food preparation staff with easy access to ingredients, the installation of remote undercounter refrigeration has also helped reduce noise and heat. "We placed all the compressors in the back of the house, so maintenance staff can work on them more easily," Brown noted. "This also allowed us to maximize the undercounter cold storage square footage in the public areas without considering compressor housings."

The glass exhaust hood over the cookline, according to Brown, is not the first of its type to be installed in the U.S. but, to his knowledge, it is the first glass hood made by a new process that eliminates the need for chicken-wire to be laminated into the glass to meet UL requirements.

Immediately behind the display kitchen is a dishwashing area. Adjacent to this space is the room service ordering and preparation area, where food is assembled and placed in carts for delivery to guest rooms. A corridor links the restaurant kitchen to the main kitchen, which is fully equipped for the preparation of banquet and employee meals (see "The Main Kitchen").

Currently, Pidgley, Kennedy and the Hyatt staff are looking to expand their services and attract more customers by offering food and wine at lunch and in the early evening on a ground-level patio that overlooks the river. But they are well aware that their core business will continue to be focused on the Vu restaurant and lounge and catered events. Keeping equipment in good order so the food remains at top quality will be crucial to their success.


Key Equipment List

1. Base cabinet
2. Thermal shelf
3. Undercounter heated cabinet
4. Cook's display counter
5. Countertop steamer
6. Service counter w/sink
7. Undercounter refrigerator (+34°F.)
8. Undercounter freezer (-10°F.)
9. Hand sink
10. Power interruption device (specced, never installed)
11. Fire suppression system
12. S/s wall shelves
13. Rotisserie
14. Decorative wall finish
15. Exhaust ventilator
16. Work counter
17. Lobster tank
18. Prep counter w/sink
19. Dipper well
20. Ice cream cabinet
21. Bain marie
22. Bain marie heater
23. EDP/POS printer
24. Charbroiler
25. Salamander broiler
26. Hot-top range w/oven
27. Fryer assembly
28. Range battery
29. Griddle
30. Sauté range w/oven
31. Fill faucet
32. S/s corner guard
33. Floor trough w/grate
34. Ice storage bin
35. Ice cube maker
36. Water filter assembly
37. Flake ice maker
38. Mobile ice cart
39. Worktable w/sink
40. Mobile waste receptacle
41. Food processor
42. Trash receptacle
43. 240 dish shelving
44. Mobile rack dolly
45. Mobile dish dolly
46. 240 utensil shelving
47. Sink heater
48. Utensil sink
49. Pot washer
50. Clean dishtable
51. Dishmachine
52. Booster heater
53. Garbage collector
54. Undercounter hose reel
55. Mobile silver soak sink
56. Soiled dishtable
57. 5-qt. mixer
58. Prep sink
59. Portion scale
60. Cook's cooler assembly
61. 180 cooler shelving
62. Blower coil
63. Mobile pan rack
64. 180 freezer shelving
65. Cook's freezer assembly
66. Plate dispenser
67. Protector case
68. Chafing dish
69. Buffet counter
70. Oval ice cold pan

Design Capsule

Opened July 2, 2002, the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City is situated on a pier that extends 800 feet into the Hudson River. The 350-room, nine-story hotel features panoramic views of Manhattan and New Jersey skylines and the Hudson. The Vu, a 164-seat restaurant and bar, offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Customer counts vary considerably: On average, 50-85 breakfasts, 76-138 lunches and 70-100 dinners are served daily. The 9,450-square-foot restaurant and lounge is supported by a glass-enclosed, 750-square-foot exhibition-style kitchen (total, 10,200-square-feet). Room service meals also are prepared here. An average of 30 room service breakfasts are served daily, along with 50-60 dinners. A 5,000-square-foot main kitchen is used to prepare food for catered events, which are held in 20,000-square-feet of meeting space and conference facilities. Meals for the windowed employee cafeteria, also featuring Manhattan views, are prepared in the main kitchen, as well. Kitchen staff includes 15 FTEs.

Architects: Brennan Beer Gorman, New York City. Peter Gorman and Mark Sheeleigh, partners; and Christy Collins, architect.
Interior Decorators: Brennan Beer Gorman Monk, New York City. Julia Monk, partner; Diana Facci and Veronica Shin, designers; and Stephanie Miller, communications director.
Owner: Hyatt Hotels Corp. John Nicolls, senior vice president, architecture and design; and Jeff Hansen, project director.
Foodservice Consultant: Inman Foodservices Group, Miami. Jeff Brown, vice president, hospitality design.
Hyatt's Executive Chef & Project Designer: Janos Kiss, assistant vice president
Executive Assistant Manager, Food and Beverage: Steven Pidgley
Executive Chef: Richard Kennedy
Equipment Dealer: Medley Hotel and Restaurant Supply Co., Bill Busch

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