As home to the Worshipful Company of Grocers – one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies in the City of London – since 1426, the Grocers’ Hall classic venue in Princes Street counts fundraising events and private dinner parties as its bread and butter, offering clients a diverse choice of halls and rooms.
These include the opulent Livery Hall with its breathtaking chandeliers and The Piper Room with its huge spices-inspired tapestry, the ‘exclusive use’ venue providing scope for everything from receptions and formal banquets with live music to seminars and lunch presentations.
Catering for up to 150 covers for a four-course dinner, Stephen Reid, the Dorchester-trained head chef of the in-house catering team, said last year he became keen to find out more about the cooking technology available to improve consistency, speed up service and save energy costs.
“Consistency of standards is crucial in banqueting, which is easier said than done when you are serving such a high volume of plated meals,” he said. “Grocers’ Hall had a traditional stockpot which, as was pretty standard for many years, was left on overnight, a practice which was no longer considered safe for more than one reason. At this point, we decided to look at other options.”
Reid and his sous chef Graham Pratt were won over by the multi-functional FlexiChef from German thermal cooking technology specialist MKN.
Reid said since the FlexiChef was installed it had become invaluable to their operation as the equivalent of an extra pair of hands. “Its efficiency and recovery capabilities have taken an enormous amount of pressure off when it comes to achieving consistency,” he said.
“We can do 20kg of a veal bone stock in one-and-a-half hours, 150 duck legs confit in 45 minutes and 15 whole shoulders of lamb in one hour,” he said. “With the four, independent temperate zones and using the grill mode as a plancha, we get perfect end results when searing large amounts of tender scallops, chicken and fish etc. The statistics are quite amazing. The touch control panel takes you methodically through the cooking stages and there are over 100 pre-set recipes, but, of course, as chefs, we all have our own ideas and the FlexiChef’s versatility allows for that.”
The FlexiChef also incorporates SpaceClean, the first automatic cleaning system for pans. Using water pumped out at high pressure, chemical-free, to create an automatic cleaning system, it uses just 26 litres of water and takes only 2 minutes plus set up time per cycle.
“Ultimately, the FlexiChef has changed how we approach our dishes and made our overall operation more efficient, while the consistency means we can operate much more accurately,” said Reid.