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FE&SEditorial Archives2004October — Facility Design Project of the Month

Borgata Buffet, Atlantic City, N.J.

The name of the game in the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa is maximizing efficiency and quality control. This is accomplished in the 560-seat buffet restaurant with woks, a Mongolian grill, a rotisserie, a pizza oven, ranges and display cases installed in an open FOH kitchen. Behind the scenes, E&S in production, cook-chill and garde manger facilities, as well as a full-service bakery, are also used to support this restaurant and others on the Borgata property.

Atlantic City hasn’t been the same since the opening in 2003 of the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa. This Las Vegas-style property has raised the bar for customers’ expectations for elegance and luxury in East Coast gaming resorts.

Designed by Dougall Design, a Pasadena, Calif., firm that also planned Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino, and Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Borgata was the first resort of its kind to be built in Atlantic City in 13 years.

“One of our key directives from Borgata’s management was to design the best buffet in the city in order to equal the quality of services offered throughout the hotel,” recalled John Egnor, principal, JEM Associates, Linwood, N.J., who provided consulting and design services for all of the resort’s foodservice operations. “We designed the buffet to feature all-day-long cooking, for example, so customers would know the foods being prepared are fresh. To further enhance products’ presentation, we display foods in porcelain and glass bowls and on platters under lights built into sneeze guards that make the items most appealing. I believe that this buffet has changed many customers’ perceptions of what this sort of restaurant can

provide. So, it’s not surprising that the buffet operation is now featured in marketing materials given out by the hotel to entice guests.”

The more than 12,000-square-foot buffet facility was designed with a hand-painted ceiling of fret work and decorated in Mediterranean colors to resemble a rustic, 18th-Century Tuscan villa. The Italian motif is extended to the tile-rimmed front surfaces of the buffet equipment, as well as the decorative service pieces placed alongside food displays. The old-world ambiance provides a distinct contrast to the 3,000-square-foot display kitchen that features state-of-the-art, stainless-steel equipment and contemporary food display units that bring attention to a prominently presented 80-item menu.

As customers enter the 560-seat buffet, they are greeted by staff members and seated in one of several dining areas that are separated from each other by low walls and columns, which provide a sense of intimacy and privacy within a large space.

When ready to dine, customers most often start filling their plates at the cold/salad stations located on both sides of the hot buffet. Menu choices displayed in air-chilled units are among the approximately 50 items offered daily that are produced in the behind-the-scenes kitchens (see below). “We selected fabricated stainless-steel air-chilled units because food is refrigerated from above and below, so there’s no danger of the temperature rising above HACCP standards,” Egnor explained. “In addition, there’s no ice and, therefore, no water and no mess.”

Eliminating the use of ice in cold food displays and water in hot food equipment has long been a priority for Egnor. “Water accumulated in cold units or steam tables is one of the chief elements that causes a buffet unit’s construction to deteriorate faster than it should based on life expectancy,” he commented. “If you can eliminate the moisture, you get a sturdier, more durable piece of equipment. In addition, the reduction of water and deterioration enhances the operation’s aesthetic appearance because surfaces can be kept cleaner.”

Behind the cold/salad displays are floor-to-ceiling stainless-steel refrigerated wall units comprised of various sized storage “lockers.” At first glance, this shiny surface appears to be just a decorative element. But its functional purpose is revealed when staff members open locker doors that have been filled from behind the scenes with vegetables, salads and other items served at the cold stations. “The key to a refrigerated unit’s proper functioning is to make sure there is enough space at the top for air circulation,” Egnor advised.

Customers typically next visit the main buffet line, which is actually arc-shaped with various food displays forming a perimeter around the interior preparation kitchen. Hot food items are presented in small containers on heated black–glass surfaces, which eliminates the use of steam table pans and water. Along the left side of the display are Asian menu items such as mango chicken, seafood stir fry, curry beef, fried pork dumplings and vegetable spring rolls that are prepared on the nearby Mongolian barbecue range, a wok range and a deep-fat fryer.

“We designed individual, electric-powered heating units for woks to sit in,” noted Egnor. “Their electrical element provides direct heat to the woks, which were constructed with flattened bottoms in order to provide maximum contact with the heat.”

Also in this preparation area and throughout the FOH kitchen supporting the food stations are refrigerators, exhaust hoods above the cooking equipment, shelving units, prep work counters and holding cabinets.

Moving further along the line, customers find food displays of soup, baked breads, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, rotisserie-prepared meats, prime rib, barbecued ribs, roasted fish dishes and a variety of vegetables ranging from ratatouille to corn on the cob.

At the center of the buffet line’s arc are two carving stations with heat lamps. Directly behind the food display is a ceramic coal charbroiler, a “hot and cold” sauté station and a work counter with a refrigerated base. Moving back toward the center of the cooking area, the line includes a rotisserie, which is flanked on each side by two work counters with freezer bases.

On the right side of the curved line is an Italian and pizza station where pasta dishes and varieties of pizza are offered daily. This section is equipped with a deep-fat fryer, pizza prep table and a pizza (deck) oven. “We selected a model with a vertical door because it allows chefs and customers to see more of the products cooking in the equipment,” noted Egnor.

Most customers’ last encounter with the buffet restaurant’s food displays is at one of two dessert stations, which, like the cold/salad stations, are positioned on either side of the servery. All the desserts offered are prepared in the hotel’s bakery, which is situated adjacent to the BOH cook-chill area. In addition to brownies, cakes, pies and cookies, the dessert selections include examples of the 50 flavors of gelato made at the hotel daily.

As the largest restaurant on the property, the buffet serves as many as 5,000 customers daily. In order to accommodate varying peak and non-peak traffic periods, the cold/salad and dessert stations are opened and closed as needed during breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Directly behind the servery kitchen is a compact warewashing area, which houses an automated rack warewashing machine. “We might have liked a larger washing space, given the volume of wares used here. But, had we given more space to this area,” Egnor recalled, “we would have had to compromise by cutting back on serving space.”

To prepare menu items that aren’t produced la minute, three kitchens and a bakery were built to support the buffet, as well as other hotel restaurants. In the BOH production kitchen, food is brought in and then stored in a walk-in cooler, freezer or dry storage. When needed for production, items are taken to one of four mobile worktables, which have been positioned at various locations in the kitchen. Among the many menu items prepared here are vegetables and mashed potatoes.

- Click here to view a floor plan of Borgata Buffet -

On the left side of the kitchen are exhaust hoods, four tilting kettles, a tilting skillet and a stationary skillet. Perpendicular to this production equipment is a worktable with sinks and heated cabinets. In the center of the space is a four-burner range, a bain marie, two pressure steamers, three double convection ovens, a water-wash exhaust hood, a griddle and a charbroiler. Further to the right in the kitchen are pan racks, a fish fryer and pressure fryers, which are used to cook fried chicken, a popular menu item here. A large “rotating tray” oven is used to finish prime rib, other meats and turkey.

Design Capsule

Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa at Renaissance Pointe in Atlantic City, N.J., opened in the summer of 2003. Designed for guests seeking indulgence and opulence, the $1.1 billion venture includes Borgata’s 2,002 guest rooms, a 125,000-square-foot casino, 11 destination restaurants (five fine-dining and six casual-dining operations) and five bars, 11 retail boutiques, a 50,000-square-foot spa, 70,000-square-feet of event space, a 1,000-seat theater and parking for 7,100 cars. The gaming space includes 145 tables, 3,650 slot machines, keno, a racing book and other attractions. The 12,000-square-foot buffet restaurant serves 5,000 customers daily. Supporting this operation are kitchens for quantity production, cook-chill and garde manger, in addition to a bakery. Sales at the buffet are approximately $20 million annually.

Owner of Borgata: Boyd Gaming Corp. and MGM Mirage
CEO: Robert Boughner
Vice President of Food and Beverage for Borgata: Victor Tiffany
Executive Chef: Ron Ross
Executive Pastry Chef: Thaddeus Dubois
Design Architect: Mike Stewart, Marnell Architecture, Las Vegas
Production Architects:
Eric Rahe, architect, Bower Lewis Thrower, Philadelphia; Ian Cope, architect, Cope Linder Associates, Philadelphia
Interior Design: Terry Dougall, Dougall Design Associates, Pasadena, Calif.
Foodservice Consultants & Designers: John Egnor, principal, JEM Associates, Linwood, N.J.
Project Manager: Martin Kozakowski, JEM Associates
Equipment Dealer: Baring Industries, Miami;
Manny Alvarez, project manager

A nearby 2,800-square-foot cold pantry kitchen is equipped with three walk-in coolers, a walk-in freezer, dry storage and several worktables, all of which were installed for garde manger.

Located a little further down a back hallway is a cook-chill kitchen. Soups, stocks, sauces, pasta, prime rib, top round, turkey and other meat and poultry items that can be slow-cooked in bags are prepared in this approximately 1,200-square-foot room that is equipped with a pasta cooker, three horizontal mixer kettles, an exhaust hood, a tumble chiller and food tank where cook-chilled products are stored.

This BOH production complex, according to Egnor, has contributed to considerable food cost savings. “We’re seeing a 20% higher yield for prime rib prepared in the cook-chill equipment compared to conventional preparation in an oven,” he reported. “This is about a $5,000 per week savings, just for this one product.”

The adjacent full-service BOH bakery is equipped to prepare breads, rolls, cakes, pies, pastries and other baked goods for the entire hotel. The lineup of equipment here includes walk-in coolers, a freezer, dry storage, worktables, a batch freezer, a microwave, a chocolate melter, two 20-gallon steam kettles, 40-, 80- 140- and 250-quart mixers, a four-burner range, exhaust hoods, a “revolving tray” oven, a rack oven, a proof box, sheeter and bakers’ racks. The cook-chill/bakery area has its own pan and pot washing section.

Though guests at the Borgata buffet restaurant might be amazed to see the E&S that is used in the behind-the-scenes kitchens to help produce the impressive display of daily menu selections, very few are invited to visit this bustling facility within the hotel casino. However, most are more than satisfied with the culinary experiences they receive at the buffet, with its support from the back of the house, in addition to observing la minute preparation in the front of the house, as well. The E&S in all the production areas helps bring the best of both worlds to customers. — FE&S

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