Electric dreams

Sales leads can originate from a variety of sources and at the most unlikely of times.

Just ask Preston-based kitchen house CHR, which has an episode of Ramsay’s Best Restaurant to thank for triggering one of the most demanding projects it has delivered in recent times.

Company founder and managing director, Ron Neville, just happened to be watching an episode of the hit Channel 4 show one evening when it featured Winteringham Fields, a self-styled ‘restaurant with rooms’ in North Lincolnshire.

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Neville instantly recognised the Bonnet range that popped up on his TV screen: his company had fitted it back in 1995 when the picturesque establishment was under the stewardship of Michelin-starred chef Germain Schwab.

CHR had lost touch with Winteringham Fields following Schwab’s departure a little over 10 years before, but after seeing the site again from the comfort of his sofa, Neville got in touch with the current owner, Colin McGurran, to see how the range was holding up and offered to send over an engineer to give it a free service.

“The top had sort of come away from the frame and it was breaking up, so we fixed it up and got it working better than it was,” explains Neville. “And then over the next couple of months we continued talking to Colin. He decided he’d do a new kitchen and that is when we got back involved with him.”

With Winteringham Fields choosing to overhaul the kitchen from top to bottom in a bid to establish a facility capable of keeping pace with modern cooking trends, CHR found itself taking apart a kitchen that was regarded as state-of-the-art when it had assembled it some 15 or so years earlier. The site was stripped back to its shell and re-plastered, re-wired and re-plumbed.

“What you have got now is a kitchen where you don’t see any pipes or any wires. There is nothing actually fixed to the walls of the kitchen — all the shelving comes off the fabrication,” says Neville, who puts the entire value of the redevelopment project at around £300,000, with around £170,000 relating to equipment spend.

The over-riding factor that determined the type and style of equipment installed was the restaurant’s decision to ditch its dependence on gas and move to electric.

That choice was taken very early in the consultation process, says Neville. “We started to talk to Colin about induction as opposed to gas, using planchas and getting rid of the ovens underneath, which I suppose most chefs only use for browning a few bones in for the stock,” he comments.

“The particular range we are talking about was loaded about 85kW or 86kW of gas and was very inefficient — even more inefficient than it was when we put it in. It was probably working at something like 35% or 40% efficiency, so most of his gas was going up the chimney. We came up with a new range that basically had a total load of 34kW on it, which automatically made him 50kW better off.”

The backbone of the cooking range comprises a pair of small MKN combination ovens, two planchas and a bespoke cooking suite from Athanor offering the latest advances in induction technology.

One of the main challenges CHR faced was meeting Winteringham Fields’ demands for a combi oven that would serve the pastry section at service times and face the cooking range at prep times. Neville says it soon found a solution: “We came up with a pivot and swivel mechanism, which meant they could use it in the pastry area at service times and then get hold of it and turn it around. We know it’s the first time that has been done, and it means the guys are using the oven a lot more and getting more efficiency from it.”

CHR had just three weeks to complete the kitchen fit-out and by another quirk of fate it turned out that the building company looking after the construction aspect of the project was the same one it had worked with when it installed the kitchen there the first time around under the previous owners.

The job also required close collaboration with Liverpool-based Promart, which it contracted to provide all of the stainless steel fabrication, including separate stations for butchery, bakery, general prep, the hot pass and the cold pass.

“A lot of the kitchen is fitted fabrication and it is absolutely phenomenal,” says Neville. “We actually reduced the size of the kitchen by about 30%, so the client has now got some space back which it has turned into a laundry. The reason we could do this is because the equipment is better fitted, the layout is better and the flow through the kitchen is better. We can’t teach somebody how to cook — you can either cook or you can’t — but we can bring consistency into kitchens and I think that is what has happened.”

The view from the kitchen

Colin McGurran is the owner and chef patron at Winteringham Fields. He talks Catering Insight through some of the key components of the kitchen project from his point of view.

On the reason for the project

“I had a very good kitchen by anyone’s standard before, but it was 15 years old and getting a little bit tired so it was time to make that decision and I didn’t want to keep spending money on it. And also, if you look at the trends of kitchens nowadays, they are becoming a lot more precise and a lot more consistent, and that is the key really. It is not the old, typical chef brigade where you would have 15 cooks doing sauces over a load of cream and butter. It is a lot more clinical, a lot more olive oils, a lot more salads. And my kitchen wasn’t set up for that.”

On the scale of the project

“We shut down the kitchen, ripped every tile from the floor, took down the ceiling and removed every light fitting and socket. It was literally just a breeze block shell and then we started it all again. We even dug up the floor and put a new drainage system in because I wanted it to be a place where you could actually jet wash the whole kitchen without worrying where water was. Everything is pretty much water-tight and water-proof and it all drains into the kitchen floor.”

On the move from gas to electric

“There was no electricity before, even the salamander grills were all gas. The only things that were electric were the tabletop ovens and things like that. Now, even the salamanders are all touch sensitive, so you put a plate on them and the halogen lights come on and grill them. We are now cooking on 80% induction, we have got the planchas and we have also got combination ovens from MKN, which are all electric.”

On the importance of equipment

“I had a clear picture of what I wanted my menu to look like and how simplified I could do the menu by concentrating on the control aspect of cooking. When you turn a gas flame on and you put a pan over it you can’t tell how hot that pan is. You just add your sweetbreads when the pan is smoking, for example. But having induction, I can now say ‘when the pan reaches 165.2°C put the sweet breads in’, which means that every time I cook sweetbreads or scallops or something like that I can tell you exactly what temperate I want it to be at. Induction allows you to get the product to its absolute best. I think that now the kitchen is designed and led this way, everyone’s motivation is a lot higher because they are so chuffed to work in this environment.”

On cutting down running costs

“Previously, if you just wanted to boil a pan of carrots you would be boiling a three-foot long solid top, so a lot of heat goes up the flume, whereas now when you put a pan of carrots on an induction hob you are just boiling that pan. We have probably saved at least 60% of our utilities just by going electric. Our utilities bills were about £20,000 a year, so it is a massive saving.”

On his favourite piece of kit

“I think the MKN ovens are fantastic and there is a massive amount of capability on those.
Just the fact you’ve got internal [temperature] probes as well is great and there is even a USB port to download your information and then put that information back in through a USB cable. It is really quite clever — far too clever for what we need it for — but the potential is there.”

You can also see a special video interview with Colin McGurran filmed by Signature FSE here.

Spec sheet

Equipment from a variety of manufacturers was used during the kitchen re-build and re-fit at Winteringham Fields in Lincolnshire, including:

Athanor: Bespoke cooking range with 2 planchas and double multipoint induction
Hatco: Grill
Leigh Tec: Ventilation
Promart: Bespoke fabrication
MKN: Combination ovens
Precision: Hydrocarbon refrigeration

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