Gateshead-based distributor GastroNorth completed a project earlier this year to overhaul Darlington College’s main production kitchens, after they were destroyed in a fire in October 2016.
The college’s head of estates and facilities, James Butterfield, detailed: “The damage was far greater than we’d initially thought. It was quite a shock when we realised we’d need a complete refurbishment.”
With approximately 1,500 full-time and 1,500 part-time students to keep fed, this unexpected refurbishment required prompt action.
Butterfield explained: “The kitchen is essentially split into two. One half is for the food served in our food court and coffee shop, the other half produces food for our restaurant, both of which are run by students, supported by staff.”
Conditions of the insurance meant that any new equipment had to be equivalent to the old gear. “We needed expert help in getting the kitchens back up and running as quickly as possible,” said Butterfield. “This is why we called in GastroNorth. We’ve used them in the past on smaller projects, so we know they’ve got the expertise to be able to provide exactly what we need.”
With these requirements in mind GastroNorth got to work, and chose equipment that would be able to handle the demands of commercial production while meeting the educational needs of Darlington’s students.
After careful consideration of the requirements, equipment from Falcon and Williams was selected to handle the cookery and refrigeration, respectively. “We need extremely robust equipment,” said Butterfield. “An average day sees us producing roughly 800 meals, which is demanding enough, but when you consider that students aren’t the most gentle of users we really need something rock solid!”
The Falcon equipment selected centred around two burner and two solid top ranges, plus deep fat fryers and griddles. Three grills from the Dominator Plus series rounded out the selection.
Williams equipment at the college includes a walk-in coldroom, cabinets and counters from the Jade range, an Aztra undercounter refrigerator and an Onyx salad prep counter.
Butterfield commented: “The walk-in fridge is fantastic. The summer was really hot, but even under those conditions it’s able to maintain the correct temperature. We’ve actually got more storage space now, within the same footprint.”
The new equipment is already having an impact at Darlington. “Walking in to a burned-out kitchen wasn’t a great feeling,” said Butterfield. “But when GastroNorth handed over a new state-of-the-art facility 6 months later that certainly helped.
“Williams and Falcon make equipment that work excellently together. Being able to provide students with experience of using professional equipment in a real commercial kitchen gives their careers the right start, as well as helping to keep the rest of the college well fed.”