Sizzlin' Hot Off the Grill
Grills used for menu preparation in commercial kitchens take many versatile forms and can cook a variety of food items. By cooking raw foods quickly and thoroughly directly over a heat source, this type of equipment also minimizes chances of pathogen contamination during cooking.
By Laura Doty, Contributing Editor
The curved grill and sauté station anchors the employee servery at Manulife Financial, Boston, and features display cook stations and hot-holding units, enclosed exhaust hoods with fire suppression, and custom stainless cabinetry with front wood veneer.
To attract employee customers and compete with the commercial options that are available to those customers, non-commercial foodservice operators work to offer value, quality and variety in their operations. The equipment found at grill stations in modern non-commercial dining facilities can help provide operators a welcome flexibility when planning daily menus.
At Manulife Financial, Boston, the sleek, S-shaped servery for employee dining, opened this October, features cutting-edge design and equipment, and is anchored by the centrally located grill and sauté station. On the front line of the grill station, the key piece of equipment is a combination char grill and flat-top griddle set on a refrigerated base, in a one-piece, mono-block construction. Customers may watch as chefs working at the grill prepare anything from breakfast dishes such as eggs, pancakes and bacon, to lunchtime specialty sandwiches that include grilled veggies, chicken and, of course, hamburgers. A granite-topped workstation flanks the grill, with space for a mobile cold-food holding unit below. The back line at the grill station includes more counter workspace, a conveyor toaster and a pass-through combination refrigerator/freezer to hold food product prepped in the back-of-the-house kitchen area. Two hot-holding display units separate the grill from the four-induction burner sauté station also located on the front line. The back line in this area features a countertop workstation consisting of a prep sink, and a fry station with an exhaust hood that includes fire suppression units mounted above. Handwashing sinks are at either end of the grill and sauté station as an aid to employee hand hygiene.
The Manulife servery features curved, custom-built stainless cabinetry fronted by a wood veneer throughout, with glass sneeze guards protecting all stations. The servery, used for frequent catered events as well as day-to-day employee dining, is part of a $1 million foodservice build-out for the newly constructed Manulife Financial building, which includes a separate pantry and executive dining facility. Ed Arons, senior associate, Colburn & Guyette Consulting Partners Inc., Boston, designed the kitchens and servery at Manulife. He worked on designs for the facility in conjunction with Aramark Corp., the contract company responsible for Manulife Financial’s foodservice operations. “We faced one major challenge in getting equipment and the custom-fabricated cabinetry into the second-floor servery location,” said Arons. “We could not use cranes to lift anything in because of the location of the building in south Boston, and glazed, floor-to-ceiling windows could not be removed. Our servery pieces could be no longer than 6 ft., so that they would fit into elevators.”
The mono-block-constructed combi char grill and griddle in the Manulife Financial’s servery is mounted on a refrigerated base including product storage drawers.
“We had to move everything in very early in the morning, as the elevators were always heavily trafficked once the working day at Manulife began,” added Louis Duarte, project manager for Providence, R.I.-based dealership Jacob Licht Inc., responsible for speccing and installing equipment in the Manulife facility. “The Aramark chefs are extremely pleased with the kitchens and servery, and customer numbers are greater than anticipated.”
In a city like New York, the restaurant business is acknowledged to be extremely competitive, and even regular customers of any venue may be fickle. To bring back former patrons and attract new ones, Compass Restaurant, an upscale restaurant in the Lincoln Center neighborhood, hired Executive Chef Valdo Figueiredo, who decided to tweak menus and “let them eat meat,” adding classic steaks and chops to the existing contemporary American menu.
The change in Compass’ menus motivated back-of-the-house changes in kitchen hot-line equipment. An old grill and two stoves were sold to make room on the line for the acquisition of a high-end, state-of-the-art grill and broiler combination, representing an investment of more than $20,000. “The main factor driving our choice of this grill and broiler combo was that the ceiling height and exhaust hood installation in the kitchen was too low to allow for a broiler with an oven,” Chef Figueiredo said. “So we wanted a grill that could accommodate the oven beneath.”
The new gas grill is powered by six burners that have the potential to kick out 65,000 Btu of heat, compared with the 40,000 Btu a typical four-burner unit generates. To help conserve energy, operators can power up individual sections of the grill as the volume of orders entering the kitchen mandates. The 1600°F. broiler provides radiant heat generated by rows of clay briquettes located above the broiler tray. An internal fan helps heat the briquettes when the broiler is lit and it takes about 10 minutes to reach the full broiler temperature, according to Figueiredo. The broiler rack slides out and can be lever-adjusted in height-to-flame ratio depending on the thickness and type of meat being prepared. The broiler includes a non-insulated cabinet above for holding menu items after cooking and before service at the adjacent pass-through chef’s table/expediting station. The stainless table station also holds designated cutting boards, a cold-holding well for mise en place items in stainless hotel pans, and is fabricated with shelves above to hold service plates. One specially designed tabletop service item found at Compass is a wood and metal “sizzle platter” with a built-in juice trough, used to serve the porterhouse steak for two. Storage shelves and a double-door reach-in refrigerator holding portioned product for the station are below the table.
A high-end broiler and char grill with conventional oven beneath work in tandem for menu production at Compass Restaurant, NYC.
“Hamburgers and chicken paillard are prepared using only the grill, but we may use the grill, oven and broiler in different combinations to prepare a steak or chop menu item properly, depending on the type of meat, the cut of the meat and the customer’s desired doneness,” explained Figueiredo. “For example, a steak may be seared initially on the grill and then moved to the broiler in a sizzle pan for finishing. If a medium-well or well-done menu item is requested, we use the oven, as well, to achieve the best results. At the high heats provided by the grill and broiler, to try to provide a well-done piece of meat using just these items would turn it to burnt charcoal. Knowing how to use the three equipment pieces together effectively requires the chef’s experience,” he added.
Grills are a key item of cooking equipment in the preparation of many types of popular ethnic cuisines. Robatayaki is Japanese food traditionally cooked over an open charcoal flame and served on paddles. Modern, gas-fired robata grills, used to prepare skewered meats and seafood in a display-style, appear to be a mini-trend in the making and have been popping up in numerous U.S.-based Japanese restaurants.
Menu items prepared on the custom-built robata grill at Ono, NYC, are served on unique mini-grills (below) holding hot charcoal briquettes.
The robata grill has become a centerpiece in menu production at Ono, a new upscale Japanese concept created by Jeff Chodorow of the China Grill Management Group. Ono is located in the Gansevoort Hotel in Manhattan’s trendy meatpacking district. The robata grill is housed in a 200-sq.-ft. area behind Ono’s sleekly designed sushi bar, where menu items are prepared in a display-style for customers. The custom grill was designed by Russell Stilwell, FCSI, founder and president of Next Step Design, Annapolis, Md., the consultant who designed Ono’s kitchens. In spec-cing and installing equipment for Ono, Stilwell worked with Jerry Kouveras at local dealership The Sam Tell Cos.
“We created a grill island range suite at Ono by taking apart two high-end char grills, placing them back-to-back, and building them into a custom stainless superstructure,” Stilwell said. “The char grills were also modified to include cradles to hold the bamboo skewers used to cook menu items on the robata grill, so that the skewers wouldn’t burn, while the food would cook quickly. The Japanese manufacture robata grills, but we wanted to use an American-manufactured product that would be UL-listed and -approved to maintain our code requirements,” he added.
The island configuration of the 7 ft. by 8 ft. robata grill allows for two chefs to work together on two sides of the grill, and provides a dramatic display cooking point for Ono’s patrons. Menu items including Kobe beef, foie gras and uni-basted king crab legs are threaded on skewers and cooked on the gas-fired grill, which includes a charcoal bed assist for food-flavor enhancement. Items cooked on the grill are prepped in Ono’s downstairs kitchen and stored on trays delivered to the ground-floor restaurant’s display kitchen area. Two chef’s countertop workstations are located on either side of the grill, including cold-holding wells for ingredients and sautés, with lowboy undercounter refrigerators beneath to hold trays of prepped product for grill preparation.
Ono, which opened with the Hotel Gansevoort in October 2004, has become a crowd-pleasing hot spot with menu items prepared on the grill proving to be some of the most frequently ordered by customers. With the opening of a beautiful, outdoor patio annex at Ono come warmer weather in the spring, meal volumes at the restaurant are bound to increase, and the robata grill chefs will undoubtedly be extremely busy.
|Key E&S For Grill Lines
High-powered gas char grill
Exhaust hoods with fire suppression
Custom robata grill
Hot-holding display units
Combination countertop char grill/griddle
Pass-through combo refrigerator/freezer