Total Food Service’s Blueprint series investigates Metro New York’s hottest kitchens, floorplans, and equipment layouts. This month’s Blueprint features the Livingston Commons Dining area at Rutgers University, and the foodservice professionals who made it happen.
Steve Riecks’ Approach:
Honestly, one of the main things that we’ve been trying to do on the last couple of projects is to take the mystery out of the food preparation.
We are coming out of a facility that we’ve used for forty years. It was full of mysteries. Whether it was a 2 sided warmer or something we were cooking behind a door, or what was in a particular pan, this time we wanted every ingredient and prep activity out in the open. From a raw product, to a finished product. The goal was to take the mystery out of the preparation of the food. At the same time, the goal in the new facility was to add a maximum amount of flexibility with our menus. You need to keep in mind that boredom becomes a big factor because in many cases, students are eating in the same facility every meal and everyday.
So the object is to take that very same chicken, fish or burger and create excitement by cooking out in front of them. We are replacing the traditional pre-prep of these items that was done in the back of the house with fresh-station cooking. Then you add the excitement of seeing the pizza go into a Wood Stone oven and then right to their table and you’ve recreated the entire dining experience.
From an employee standpoint it’s a lot more fun being able to interact and be almost in the front of the line if you will, versus being in the back of a kitchen. The new facility is going to elevate the quality of our service. In the last couple of projects we did on campus before Livingston we started to implement a plan on how we could actually bring a set of equipment in for breakfast and then swap it out for lunch.
For breakfast, we can use the range to do omelets to order. Then we can slide a flat top in there and do Philly Cheesesteak for lunch. At the very same station, we can then put a char broiler for dinner to do steak. It just rolls in and it’s plug and play.
We also brought some excitement to our presentation with Charlie (Sams) and Ken’s (Iverson) “Wall of Flame” concept. We tried to put a piece in every corner that had some flame in it. On one wall, we have a spectacular Rotisol Rotisserie that throws off beautiful flames. In the other corner is the deli that has the rotating Royal Char Broiler that has a very unique flame-throwing-element feature on it. Our Wood Stone oven is in another corner and you can see the fire in it. In our other corner we have saute stations that also throw off a beautiful flame. The original plan event included gas lamps on the salad bars that would have been very unique. Due to combustive gases and building code, the Fire Marshall asked that we make a modification in the design. We really didn’t have any issues in the construction of the food service operation. There were some soil issues that had to do with the foundation of the actual building. We worked closely with the Biber Partnership, who handled the architectural side of the project. Their team included Peter Barber, Lauren Mitchell and Linda Patton who as the interior designer colors a lot of the finishes. The copper on the walls that she selected is magnificent as well as some of the textures she used on the Continental Refrigerators.
Ken Iverson’s Approach:
We were brought in by Charlie Sams in 2007 who has been the food service director at Rutgers for a number of years and will be retiring this year. This is our 15th major project at the university and our sixth dining hall project. We did their stadium and their law center, and a whole bunch of stuff. So we’re normally brought in very early for conceptual discussions.
Our agenda is then to work through the design part and then we were also retained to manage the project from a food service point of view. They’re a self operated shop and are very successful at it. In fact with the dollars that are generated by their meal programs and other cash operations, are reinvested in the facility. So this is actually dining service dollars going into dining service buildings. They actually paid for the entire building and all the equipment from food service revenues.
Our goal for the project was to maximize adaptability and flexibility to be built into the facility. So all of the counters have cooking stations. There’s an unprecedented 19 hoods in this facility. Most of the stations are modular with very unique customized counters. Each feature a product insert in the counters that enable easy switch-outs of charbroilers, griddles, or a saute range, mandarin wok, and other appliances. We’ve broken new ground by being able to actually write a schedule, for not just a meal or day part but the actual equipment. So a key to this design was the actually creating a parking area for auxiliary appliances. One of things that we wanted was a showpiece that had some eye candy. So there are finishes on certain items, like walk-ins with a special metallic face and the Continental reach-ins that have never been seen before. Many of the hoods are encased with ceramic glass tile. Another major consideration in creating a facility to serve a diverse student population is its capacity to handle a high volume takeout business. This can run as high as 40 to 50% for any meal. We have even created a separate entrance and kitchen to support the takeout operation. The centerpiece of that operation is the Jade European island suite that enabled us to seamlessly merges both takeout and our in-cafeteria dining. A major goal for us was to create a facility that was very contemporary, without looking, Faddish. We needed a vision for a design that would enable us to upgrade 10 years from now.
To accomplish that, all of the counters have decorative granite and resin-paneled facades with LED’s that are built into the counter. All of the 3-form panels feature the look of a leaf or reed built into the resin. They were then impregnated with an overlaid copper weave, like a cloth. All of those panels and there’s probably a few hundred of them are removable. Marlo did all the custom fab and they did an extraordinary job of it. The opportunity to use a New Jersey manufacturer to do a project like that was special. Marlo has successfully done other projects for us at both Rutgers’ stadium and dining halls and we’ve been very, very happy with them. Baring Industries did a nice job for us. It was their second project with us after some issues on the first project. This second time, they understood what our expectations of them are as a company. Their project manager, Ed Temmel brought a better skill set than a typical project manager. He knows his trade and plays with others in the sandbox. He did a solid job of coordinating the welding, the assembly and the refrigeration work and just did a very good job of managing his team. Over our four years on this project we met a total of 2,000 hours. The approach as a team was to focus each week on a specific area. So one week would just be about pizza. Another week would just be about the servery.
My management approach is very collaborative. It is important to me that when you walk into the facility that everybody sees a bit of themselves in it. I need insight into what everybody else is thinking and everybody else on this project has a wealth of experience. Charlie’s (Sams) has been here for 28 years. You know the director of facilities for food service Steve Riecks, has 24 years of dining service operations under his belt. This approach enables the university to end up with a one of a kind end product and I don’t particularly like having the whole project riding on my shoulders, A key element to the excitement of the facility is the “Wall of Flame” concept that you can see from any point of entry into the servery. This includes flames coming from every corner of the room.
There’s a traditional wok station, with all that flame. Then we have a Rotisol rotisserie with its own wall of flame. We found a special char broiler, that’s four foot in diameter and rotates from Royal in Las Vegas and actually shoots flame up the center, like a torch. RPI, did a beautiful job for us in helping us accomplish the look that we were after in our char broiler area. They were able to combine special glass with special heights and unique fabrication to create the perfect cases for our spec. As you can well imagine in a university facility sustain ability has become a priority and became a consideration in our design. They have taken this beyond the basics of salad bars that feature Jersey Fresh offerings. Rutgers has tremendously deep relationships with Jersey farmers. The university actually has cooperative programs where they go out and help farmers with proper insecticides and how to grow naturally and recycle. A large part of that program is a focus on assisting the farmers to recycle all their waste. They also developed a facility in Bridgeton, New Jersey that’s an incubator for farmers to create new products. It may be a blueberry farmer developing a new drink or even the production of a new gluten free bread product.
The pizza area has a “Rain Forest” feel to it. We’ve put the Wood Stone hearth and a prep table and cutting table with a beautiful stone top behind glass.The next station is a second saute station with a de-emphasis on pasta. We wanted pasta adjacent to pizza just because we felt they kind of went together, although we do all kinds of pasta, not just Italian. So the next station is more, like a traditional fare but with a more contemporary feel. It won’t feel like an entree station, but it will function like one. A facility of this size required a well thought out plan to walk-in capacity. We have a produce cooler, a meat cooler and a dairy cooler. We have a special cooler to tie into the take out area. The special cooler we have is what we’re calling a cart locker. One of the challenges that we had experienced in the other dining halls is when they end the day.
There is hot food coming off the line that needs to go back in the walk ins and that of course impacts the ambient temperature in the box. So, we’ve made a room that can function like a quick chill. When they break down the servery, or if they produce a large volume of soups or stocks or anything they want to chill down, they have a special room designed just for that. It features both a two stage refrigeration system with both maintenance level refrigeration and then when the temperature gets to a certain degree a huge compressor kicks on and has added load down capability. Our approach to dish washing was to create a suite that combines a pair of Hobart flight machines with a central Bi-Line conveyor tray line. There’s a central drop area for each of the four dining areas. A key to this program is the Somat pulping system. This allow us to take the resulting 15% of non sight waste, and give it to the local farmers.
Peter Biber’s Approach:
The original concept was to create a facility that could support the graduate school expansion on the Livingston campus. Students want to feel that they are eating fresh and restaurant quality food.
As you walk in the servery is a circle. Our goal was to create pattern of movement that would flow in many directions out of that circle.
To create the right feel, we needed to pick a new surface. We found a tile that could bend with the curves. We used the tile to create a different look for the hoods. We used a cross hatch surface called Dimensions with a terrazzo floor. We wanted a facing for the salad bars that could easily be cleaned. We actually built the sample in my garage which we then brought to Rutgers and interchanged with panels, different lighting and then a double layer of resin. I can’t say enough about the fantastic job that Marlo did to help us pull it all together. They were close to our office so we were able to continue to fine tune the process. We used Armstrong wood ceilings throughout the facility to create continuity. This enabled us to create a warm feeling. It’s such a concern that the new age look has been used everywhere turns very old very fast. We see a lifespan of 10 years on these projects. Management at Rutgers also had a vision for a secondary faculty dining facility within this birdsong. There’s a spine that flows back to the faculty dining area with a separate entrance. The real question was how to separate this from students so that alcohol could be served. We also built a second full service kitchen with its own dishwasher suite and waitress service. The metal used on the outside of the walk-ins and reach-in boxes was created for both a backdrop and from a practical standpoint to protect against denting that comes from equipment being run into the boxes. As an architect, we need to become more attuned to cooking and prep coming out of the kitchen and into the servery. With that comes the need from a design standpoint to rethink the types of colors, textures and surfaces that we use in designing. We wanted to work with the colors of the student center. So we moved away from blues in the student center to a palette of more greens. In the pub, we used black, white, grays and fireplaces. Its very different than everything else in the building. You actually dial in your lunch on a touch pad. You are handed a ticket and then served at your table. We also needed Takeout and the pub to be cut off from the rest of the building so that in off hours, there can still be access. The way we designed takeout really makes it efficient. On the east side of the building, we have substantial terrace space with umbrellas that really create a sense of community.