The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the hotel and Gaurav Gupta, director of Sunray Group, knows how to create a great one. He works with upper-tier brands such as Marriott, Hilton, Choice Hotels and Carlson to identify properties with potential for improvement and turn them into more deluxe venues.
Before redesigning a kitchen, Sunray takes into consideration the market, location, brand standards and requirements, the type of hotel and, of course, the constraints of the existing space. Sometimes, the old footprint just isn’t adequate; for example, with two properties near Montreal, renovated in 2016 and 2017, the tiny prep kitchens were too small for hot-breakfast service, so Sunray actually removed a guestroom to add a full kitchen.
A key addition was a Turbofan G32D5 gas convection oven. A compact unit, it has the capacity for five full-size sheet pans, with room to store an additional six in the support stand below the oven.
“Competition is fierce, so any place you can set yourself apart is really important to us,” Gupta says, noting employees are happier too, having more room for foodservice.
As the industry moves from full-service to grab-and-go offerings, Sunray has installed Rational SelfCooking Centers in some properties. “It allows you to cook multiple different meals — meats, fish, even bread — in one machine, at one time, using steam and hot air,” says Gupta. The 5 Senses 61 E model has room for six half-size sheet pans or steam-table pans at a time. “It’s actually an amazing machine,” he says, adding that the largest size can cook 500 chicken breasts to perfection in a single unit.
Toronto’s Omni King Edward Hotel recently underwent an exciting kitchen project of its own, retrofitting its grand 1920s-era Crystal Ballroom. Space was at a premium in the heritage venue, says Food-and-Beverage director Dave Han. To maximize cooking capabilities, the hotel invested in Rational Combi Master Series 201 ovens. “Two of them can each do 50 to 75 protein [servings],” he explains. “Then we use the thermal holding ovens to get them to the right temperature.”
“That heat-and-hold is very important,” says executive chef Daniel Schick, who also says the Sous Cooker Sansaire immersion circulator is indispensable for large banquet facilities. It has unlimited possibilities, Han agrees, including poached eggs in a kale bath.
“Induction cookware is something we need more of in 2018,” Han comments. The King Edward’s choice is the IHS Cool Cube Live Cooking station, which allows for live-action stations in the ballroom, the lobby or anywhere else a chef might desire. A risotto station on wheels, pop-up hot chocolate in the lobby or a reception with tacos are only some of the possibilities the hotel is introducing.
“People like to be part of the cooking station, even with a simple omelette,” says Schick. “Plug-and-play is probably the most innovative thing you’re going to find at the hotel today.”
Among other prized acquisitions were induction-friendly 6.7-litre enamel Le Creuset pots, paella pans from Serrano Imports and a Hobart Meat Grinder No. 4812 for burgers. Then there’s the Robot Coupe Mixer Vertical Cutter No. R8, which is used to produce fine crumbs and crumbles for elegant tea baking.
Still on the wish list? An anti-griddle to flash-freeze creative ice-cream treats or slushy cocktails. “You can put a piece of fruit on it and it instantly freezes,” Schick says. “It’s one more way the kitchen can create memorable guest experiences.”
Written by Sarah B Hood