In the time of the great French food writer Brillat-Savarin, when the modern concept of the restaurant was in its infancy, chefs were using wood-fired ovens and cooking on open hearths. Today, technological advances and culinary trends have shaped the design of hotel kitchens. Hotelier takes a look inside a few of the country’s newest kitchens.
THE ST. REGIS TORONTO
In December 2018, the opulent LOUIX LOUIS opened on the 31st floor of The St. Regis Toronto and already “we’re seeing tremendous numbers: on a busy night, we do 350 covers,” says general manager Dominik Ociesa. “We need to be able to offer incredible service at high volume.”
“The most impactful piece of equipment we’ve brought in is the Montague broiler,” he says. “It allows us to maintain the heat at above 600 degrees, so we can very quickly cook a piece of meat and put a nice char on it much faster than we could on a grill.”
Ociesa also appreciates the kitchen’s Alto-Shaam convection oven. “That’s crucial for the Dover sole or larger pieces of protein — we do tomahawk ribeyes above 30 ounces,” he says. “It’s great at bringing these pieces to temperature and also keeping them dry to allow the crust to develop.”
And, for sous-vide technology, Ociesa turns to the Polyscience Immersion Circulator and the Sipromac vacuum packer.
These new cooking technologies require room, but fortunately, Ociesa says, the demand for local ingredients has resulted in an increase in “fresh ingredients that are not being flown in, but trucked in from local suppliers, which decreases the need for space.”
Another key trend is social media, which has changed the menu, if not the kitchen itself. With the importance of Instagram, “one is always looking for dishes that will help us secure some real estate on the social-media platforms,” he says. “We have a 13-layer chocolate cake called the King’s Cake — it’s an absurdly large chunk of cake sprinkled with edible gold leaf. We bring it out, lay the cake down, pour over a chocolate ganache and allow ample time for photographs.”
GROUPE GERMAIN HÔTELS
Groupe Germain Hôtels includes boutique brands Le Germain, Alt and Alt+ in seven provinces. National Food-and-Beverage director Bruno Durand is currently designing kitchens for a new restaurant (tentatively named Boulevardier) at Le Germain Hotel Montreal and for Terre at the newly built Alt Hotel St. John’s in Newfoundland (scheduled to open in July). He notes some equipment not found in 20th-century kitchens has become commonplace.
“We have a RATIONAL combi-oven in every hotel. Even if we don’t have a restaurant, we have a combi-oven,” says Durand. “In Montreal, we’re going to have one for banquets and one for the restaurant. They’ve changed the way we do banquets. When I design a kitchen, we have the kitchen part for the restaurant and the prep part for the banquets and the combi-oven is the centre of it.”
Next comes sous-vide (Durand has just acquired an Arctic Atmovac for Terre) and induction warmers, which, he says, are “changing the way we serve food. You can completely control the level of heat; it’s going to be more the norm. Many chefs are old-fashioned and don’t want to move to induction, but the new generation is moving to it and the price is getting to be more affordable. I buy six to eight Vollrath warmers for each kitchen.”
Durand also says he tries to allow as much space as possible for cold storage. “In Montreal, we’re going have a walk-in fridge and freezer, with an elevator from the parking level to the kitchen so we don’t have any contact with guests [during deliveries],” he explains. “It takes space, but you need it to make sure we give the best experience to our guests.”
In April, the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary unveiled its Hawthorn Dining Room & Bar, a 180-seat restaurant in a 1914-vintage property — an update that was overseen by executive chef and Food & Beverage manager Eraj Jayawickreme.
“The focus is on using the restaurant to showcase the amazing producers, artisans and farmers of Alberta,” he says.
During the transformation, the existing footprint could not be changed, so to maximize limited space, “with our small, sharable-plate concept, we need equipment that allows you to put out food fast,” Jayawickreme says. He installed Hatco heat lamps and a Garland French flattop on the grill side to sear meat and prepare fish.
Two Convitherm combi-ovens with built-in smokers allow for smoking food during convection cooking. “We also have two Garland deep fryers that have built-in filtration. We can actually filter after each meal period, so the oil stays fresh,” he says. “One’s gluten and one’s non-gluten.”
The kitchen’s layout is calculated for efficiency. Steam tables were removed to accommodate more counter space. Cool shelves on brackets can be folded away when not needed. Walls are wrapped in seamless FRP (fibre-reinforced plastic) for cleanliness; the floor is non-slip poured epoxy that can be power-washed; and large equipment is on quick-release connectors so it can be moved easily.
All the fridges on the line are drawer fridges and outlets and small appliances are located where they will be used (a Globe meat slicer by the cold station; a Santos tabletop ice crusher for oyster and cold-seafood service; Polyscience sous-vide equipment for the entremets and grill station).
For an especially high-tech touch, Jayawickreme installed data lines and a 49-inch screen so the kitchen can monitor social media. “Our colleagues can see what our guests’ reaction is and we can make changes in real time,” he says. “All feedback is a gift.”
HILTON GARDEN INN AND HOMEWOOD SUITES BY HILTON OTTAWA DOWNTOWN The recently opened Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites by Hilton Ottawa Downtown features the creative and local-focused Tulip Restaurant and Bar. Executive chef David Vinoya designed the kitchen, with the help of general manager Denis Gilles, to create a unique dining experience.
Vinoya says Tulip will be using two 100-plate RATIONAL combi-ovens, noting they not only provide consistency and quality, but also save on manpower. The restaurant uses two double-deck Cleveland floor steamers, as well as a Cleveland grill, a Primo mixer and a Frymaster deep fryer. It’s also equipped with a Garland US Range convection oven and a walk-in fridge and freezer by Curtis.
For buffet service, unique chafing dishes from Rosseto are not only visually striking but also easier to handle than traditional models.
“One important area where progress has been made is food safety,” Gilles says. “We have cooling drawers — years ago, you didn’t have that.”
Raw and prepared foods are stored separately, while lidded Rubbermaid and Cambro food-storage containers guard against contamination.
“[Food allergies] is one of our concerns,” adds Vinoya. For guests with special dietary needs, “we, as hoteliers, can accommodate them and create a memorable experience.” ◆
Written by Sarah. B. Hood