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chefg

Alinea Kitchen Design

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I have to say designing the Alinea kitchen has been one of the most exciting experiences thus far in the opening of this restaurant. I have been fortunate to have been “raised” in some of the best kitchens in the country. When I arrived at the French Laundry in August 1996 the “new kitchen” had just been completed. Often times you would hear the man talk about the good old days of cooking on a residential range with only one refrigerator and warped out sauté pans with wiggly handles. When I started about 50% of the custom stainless steel was in place. The walls smooth with tile and carpet on the floors. I recall the feeling of anxiety when working for fear that I would dirty up the kitchen, not a common concern for most cooks in commercial kitchens.

The French Laundry kitchen didn’t stop, it continued to evolve over the four years I was there. I vividly remember the addition of the custom fish/canapé stainless unit. Allowing the poissonier to keep his mise en place in beautiful 1/9 pan rails instead of the ice cube filled fish lugs. Each advancement in technology and ergonomics made the kitchen a more efficient and exacting machine.

When I returned to the Laundry this past July for the 10th anniversary I was shocked that it had metomorphisized once again. The butcher room was now a sea of custom stainless steel low boys, the pot sink area was expanded, the walk-in moved, and an office added to the corner of the kitchen. The kitchen as I left it in June of 2001 was beautiful and extremely functional, of course it is even more so now. It is the relentless pursuit of detail and concise thought that allows the French Laundry kitchen to be one of the best for cooks to execute their craft…..16 hours a day.

This was good motivation.

When it came time to design my kitchen I drew on experiences at Trio, TFL and other kitchens I was familiar with to define the positives and negatives of those designs. We were faced with a 21x 44' rectangle. This space would not allow for my original kitchen design idea of four islands postioned throughout the kitchen, but ultimately gave way for the current design which I think is actually better than the original. But most the important aspect in shaping the final design was the cuisine. Due to the nature of food that we produce a typical layout with common equipment standards and dimensions do not work. Here is where the team drew on our experiences from Trio. By looking at the techniques we utilized we came to several conclusions.

1. A conventional range was not our main heat source. We do need the flat tops and some open burners for applications such as braising and limited stock work. But our overall use of this piece of equipment is somewhat low. Given that we wanted four open burners and two flat tops with two ovens I began to source out a reliable unit. We settled on the Molteni G230.

g_230_eng.resized.jpg

2. Upon analyzing our other heat source needs we decided to place a large focus on induction. By utilizing portable induction burners we are allowed the flexibility to give as much power as needed to a specific station in the kitchen. Obviously induction’s radiant heat is very low, and this allows us to keep the temperature in the kitchen reasonable, yet the power is quite high. 31,000 BTU's of highly controlable heat. But the main reason for choosing this flexible source of heat is the fact that each chef typically employed at least four different cooking applications on a given night. This huge flux in technique and the realization that the menu would change entirely in 8 weeks time meant that we had to design a kitchen that could evolve on a nightly basis. And last, we are very specific with temperatures; induction makes it easier for us to hold a liquid at a predetermined temperature for long periods of time without fluctuation. They operate between 85 and 500 degrees farenheit. We did a great deal of research on the different producers of induction and favored Cooktek. The fact that they are the only U.S manufacturer of commercial induction cooking equipment and located in Chicago made the decision easier. Their innovative approach to induction may prove to be even more exciting as we are already talking about new product development in the future.

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3. a. The complexity of the presentations and a la minute plate-ups of the food require a great deal of surface area devoted to plating. This was one of the most critical factors in determining the basic shape of the kitchen. The size of some of today's popular plates, the amount detail in each composition, coupled with the fact that producing tasting menus vs. ala carte means sometimes large waves of same dish pick ups made it necessary for us to have over 44' of linear plating surface.

b. Virtually nothing goes vertical above the 36” counter top in the space. All food, plates, equipment, and dry good storage are contained by under counter units. There are a few exceptions such as the infrared salamanders, the three-door refrigerator, and the hood. This allows all the cooks a clear line of communication between each other and the front staff. It allows me an easy sight line to survey the entire kitchen’s progress with a quick glance.

Given these two points it seemed obvious that we needed to combine the two and create custom pieces that would fulfill both needs. Large spans of plating surfaces with all food and equipment storage below. As you can see we ended up with two 22’ long units. Each function as a pass and under counter storage.

The building is 21’ wide wall to wall. This allowed us just enough space to create two lines on each exterior wall with their passes forming a 60” corridor for the pick up of plates and finishing of dishes.

4. We decided to add a station to the kitchen. At Trio we had five including:

a. pastry

b. cold garde manger

c. hot garde manger

d. fish

e. meat

Now that we had more space, and the ability to give each station multiple heat

sources regardless of their location in the kitchen, we could spread the workload even further. We also realized it doesn’t make much sense to identify each station by classic French Bragade terms. A saucier did not solely cook meat with classic techniques and prepare various traditional stocks and sauces…in fact quite the opposite. This holds true with most of the stations, with the exception of pastry, but even they will have very unconventional techniques, menu placement and involvement in the kitchen systems. We will add a station that will be responsible for a large majority of the one-bite courses both sweet and savory.

5.Given the size constraints of the building we realized a walk-in would not be possible in the kitchen. If we were to have one it would be in the basement. Having experienced this at Trio we decided to design the kitchen without a walk-in, making up for the space in various lowboy locations and a three-door reach-in. I experienced the walk-in less environment when I worked at Charlie Trotter’s. It is certainly different, but as with most things if done properly it provides a very efficient environment. It works best in situations where fresh products are brought in daily for that days use. And prevents ordering in large quantities. It also provides us with very specific units to house different items. We will utilize the 3-door refrigerator to store the majority of the vegetables and herbs along with some staple mise en place, and items that cannot be made in very small quantities like stocks. Raw meat will have it’s own lowboys as well as fish, dairy, and all frozen products.

6. At Trio we found ourselves using the salamander a great deal. It is very useful for melting sugar, bringing on transparent qualities in things like fat and cheese, cooking items intensely on only one side, and it is a highly controllable non-direct heat source. Due to the air gap between the foodstuff and the heat elements the cook can control the degree of heat applied to the dish based on the technique he is using. It becomes a very versatile tool in the modern kitchen, so much so that we will install three Sodir infrared salamanders.

sem60.jpg

Again, this is to insure that all the cooks have access to all of the techniques in the kitchen. As I said before it is important for our cooks to be able to sauté, simmer, poach, fry, grill, salamander, and freeze at the same time and sometimes for the same dish.

We have a few unusual pieces of equipment in the kitchen; the most is probably a centrifuge. A few months ago Nick and I were driving home from a design meeting and ended up talking about signature dishes and menu repetition. Of course the black truffle explosion came up and he asked if I would have it on the menu at Alinea. I replied a firm no, but shortly thereafter said I would enjoy updating it. We threw around some tongue and cheek ideas like White Truffle Implosion, and Truffle Explosion 2005….I said it was a goal of mine to make a frozen ball with a liquid center….but then dismissed it as nearly impossible. Within a few minutes he said …”I got it…we need a centrifuge” His explanation was simple, place the desired liquid in a spherical mold and place on the centrifuge…place the whole thing in the freezer. Within days he had one in the test kitchen. I guess this is better suited for the kitchen lab topic that we will be starting in a few weeks…

We are working on a upload of the kitchen blueprints. When those post I plan on going into more detail about certian aspects of the design. Doing so now would be pointless as the viewer does not have a reference point.


Edited by chefg (log)

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chefg,

I can feel your excitement over this. Without getting into specific costs, what percentage of the build-out budget will be spent on the kitchen?

I'm also curious about the specific benefits of the Molteni unit, relative to similar products made by other manufacturers. What differentiates it?

=R=

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chefg,

My first reaction was surprise at the lack of gas as a cooking fuel. I was brought up in a "it has to be gas" world. The times they are a changing.

I'm curious about exhaust hoods. It appears the only one you need is for the range set up. Are hoods required for the salamanders?

You mentioned carpet in the French Laundry's kitchen. Will you be using carpet? How does the French Laundry / will you get that past the health inspectors?

Finally, any chance of a scanned sketch of the layout to help with the overall visualization?

Thanks,

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Chefg -

I love the fact your kitchen will be induction-heavy, but what about the cookwear? Since not every pot is induction friendly, do you have a plan in place for easy identification as to what exactly can be used where? How do you hope these details will play out in your mobile kitchen?

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chefg,

I can feel your excitement over this.  Without getting into specific costs, what percentage of the build-out budget will be spent on the kitchen?

I'm also curious about the specific benefits of the Molteni unit, relative to similar products made by other manufacturers.  What differentiates it?

=R=

The kitchen will consume roughly 20% of the budget. I think it is particularly important to look at these percentages with an open mind in reference to the final product. To try and access the stature of any build-out based on the rumored costs can be very misleading.

The kitchen is the vision of the Alinea team, and made reality by the architects at Rugo/Raff. We decided to bypass a “restaurant” or “kitchen designer”. The project seemed so personal to my vision that I felt it would be most efficiently conveyed by me to the architects. I am sure I will make a few mistakes along the way that would have been caught by someone like Tim Harrison. But I am also confident that given the cuisine that we produce the Alinea kitchen certainly does not fit into any template known. I feel we are getting a 30% kitchen build out for the price of a 20% build-out due to disciplined budgeting, a lot of homework, and a dedicated design team.

As far as the Molteni stove…..that decision was based mainly on references by peers and colleagues. I have cooked on several types on stoves in my career and had the opportunity to demo a Molteni at the Food Show in Chicago this past year. After looking at several brands…Bonnet, Montague, Diva de Provence……the reputation of Molteni, in combination with the available styles and price, ultimately seemed like a perfect match.

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chefg,

My first reaction was surprise at the lack of gas as a cooking fuel.  I was brought up in a "it has to be gas" world.  The times they are a changing.

I'm curious about exhaust hoods.  It appears the only one you need is for the range set up.  Are hoods required for the salamanders?

You mentioned carpet in the French Laundry's kitchen.  Will you be using carpet?  How does the French Laundry / will you get that past the health inspectors?

Finally, any chance of a scanned sketch of the layout to help with the overall visualization?

Thanks,

Holly:

Times are changing …but very slowly. I think if you surveyed most chefs cooking today the majority would dismiss induction as a preferred heat source. Four years ago I would have been one of those chefs…and maybe with good reason….induction technology is still in its infancy, as the benefits become more known, and popularity increases the perceived short comings of this heat source will evolve and it will become the primary source for most kitchens. They are equally as strong, in some cases more (BTU’s) and have much faster recovery times. They are also highly controllable, easily moved throughout the kitchen, and give off little heat into the environment of the kitchen. All of those factors and the ones I mention up-thread make these units the most suitable for our style of cooking.

Yes, we will use the black walk-off mats in our kitchen…or an equivalent. I think the health department would favor these types of mats vs. the common rubber mats with holes, they seem to be a collector of food and what not and very difficult to clean. Keep in mind the kitchen at the FL and Alinea is impeccably clean. At Trio, where we used the carpets as well, they were vacuumed several times a day. It was very rare for a large spill to soil the mats, but if it did happen they were removed and replaced with clean back ups, the soiled set aside to be professionally cleaned.

As I mentioned up-post a scanned blueprint of the kitchen is in the works for everyone to reference.

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Chefg -

I love the fact your kitchen will be induction-heavy, but what about the cookwear?  Since not every pot is induction friendly, do you have a plan in place for easy identification as to what exactly can be used where? How do you hope these details will play out in your mobile kitchen?

We will utilize mostly Sitram cookware which is quite induction friendly. Cooktek has supplied us with the results of their research on the efficiency of various brands.

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Thankyou Chefg. Very interesting.

Are you including water baths for sous-vide cooking?

What mixers do you plan, for example for bread dough?

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Chef, congratulations on your Molteni and the CookTeks. I used them at Ducasse in Paris and they worked hard but cleaned up beautifully.

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Chef G.

Thanks for jumping on the topic so quickly.

As an old school, educated years ago, kind of guy; we were always taught that for higher end establishments BOH to FOH space ratios were expected to be close to 1:1. As I see from your previous posts you are better than 1:2. The economics of this are simple, more seats for diners (revenue) to fewer total square feet (expenditure). My questions, coming from a traditonal, large brigade background is this efficiency a function of the style of cuisine and service or is this more a function of the flexability that you are designing into the space.

Thanks,

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As an old school, educated years ago, kind of guy; we were always taught that for higher end establishments BOH to FOH space ratios were expected to be close to 1:1. As I see from your previous posts you are better than 1:2. The economics of this are simple, more seats for diners (revenue) to fewer total square feet (expenditure). My questions, coming from a traditonal, large brigade background is this efficiency a function of the style of cuisine and service or is this more a function of the flexability that you are designing into the space

I will let ChefG comment on the efficiency of the kitchen. But it should be stated that the idea for the dining rooms from the very beginning was to make sure that tables had a great deal of space between them, thus ensuring a feeling of luxury for diners. There is nothing I hate more than going to a fine restaurant and then feeling like they have packed me in.

So where the gross sq. feet of FOH to BOH ratio may look like 2-1, in reality we could have squeezed the same number of tables into a smaller area and achieved the 1-1 ratio.

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Chefg,

Could you possibly elaborate just a little on the make and model of the centrifuge?

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chefg,

Are the portable Cooktek units neatly stackable or is there a manufacturer designed/standard footprint rack for efficient storage?

Also, given the uniqe nature of the equipment and serviceware you will be using, are you planning on implementing any innovations in the sanitation/dishwashing departments?

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Chefg,

Could you possibly elaborate just a little on the make and model of the centrifuge?

I am trying to find a pic online....either way I am sure you will see am image of it when the food lab topic is posted.

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chefg,

Are the portable Cooktek units neatly stackable or is there a manufacturer designed/standard footprint rack for efficient storage?

Also, given the uniqe nature of the equipment and serviceware you will be using, are you planning on implementing any innovations in the sanitation/dishwashing departments?

LBH--

The cooktek unit will stack on themselves but we have designed all undercounter storage to be very specific in storing various equipment. More on this when the scanned blueprints are available.

No. That is one of the limitations that we have willing placed upon ourselves...all service pieces created with Crucial Detail must be machine washable...all of the pieces posted thus far have been as well.


Edited by chefg (log)

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We feel the creative process demands an awareness of technology,and are excited to share some of the more unusual equipment that has made its way into our kitchen.

Upon looking for thermal circulators we established a relationship with a company in Niles, IL called Polyscience. They are a large producer of laboratory equipment. The owner, Philip Preston, an avid foodie and cook in his own right, was very excited about the opportunity to combine the two disciplines. As we toured the Polyscience plant I mentioned to Philip some of the ideas I had for techniques based on intense refrigeration. Up until this point I had no way of producing the concepts I had in my head. The equipment simply did not exist. Philip was intrigued by the ideas and mentioned that the systems to produce the desired results were not impossible; in fact in his world they were quite doable.

There have been various threads on cooking at low temperatures and sous vide cooking on eGullet so I will not reiterate all of the fine points. This subject was even approached here when a member commented on the images of us cooking en sous vide with a gas-fired stove as the heat source. At the time I mentioned the use of highly controllable thermo circulators was not necessary. It is not, but it sure is nice. The units that we tested are shown below. They performed well beyond my expectations and will definately be a part of the Alinea kitchen.

gallery_21344_267_1102556203.jpg

gallery_21344_267_1102556181.jpg

One of the concepts that I mentioned to Philip was an anti-griddle. This flat surface would maintain temperatures of – 40 C. This concept started with my recollection of the “blini board” that was used every night at the French Laundry. Basically a pancake griddle that can be purchased at any department store. Our concept would be the inverse, we would create dual textures by freezing instead heating. A puree of mango would be folded with Golden Trout Roe and puddled onto the freezing surface. The intense temperature would freeze the first 1/16 of an inch within 30 seconds allowing us to flip the “blinis” and freeze the other side. The center would remain creamy.The first prototype of the anti-griddle is in production.

We hope to report on two more collaborations between Polyscience and Alinea in the near future -- and we should have a picture of the anti-griddle available by then.

Another piece of equipment that we are very excited about is a vaporizer that a friend of Alinea brought back from Germany. He had the good fortune to meet the inventor of the vaporizer and sit in on a demo. Knowing our use of controlled aromas in cuisine he immediately thought of us. Ironically we had been brainstorming on methods to control the containment and dispensing of aromas. This machine was the perfect solution for two reasons. It allowed us to use real ingredients for the aroma base as opposed to synthetic mediums, which was always important to us in the execution of the desired aroma. But more critically the aroma is contained indefinitely. Further, the ability to dispense it in a very controlled manner was finally possible. The machine allows the user to heat the ingredients from 130 C - 230 C. Plant material (cellulose) begins to burn when temperatures of 235 C or higher are achieved. This control lets us determine the best temperature for extraction without marring the aroma with burnt smell. The mediums are endless, this machine will even vaporize liquids, such as wine and even oils with amazing intensity.

gallery_21344_267_1102555920.jpg

As you can see the essence in captured in the clear bag.

gallery_21344_267_1102555966.jpg

Sous chef John Peters samples vaporized licorice

Now we can pump aroma into various things like overturned glasses, glass tubes, or pockets of food to enhance the experience. Before we were limited to producing aromas at the moment and we were never able to place aromas based off of real ingredients into different containers, allowing the guest to dispense the aroma at their will. We will go into the kitchen next week and develop various uses for the vaporizer for the opening Alinea menu.


Edited by chefg (log)

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for more information on ideas of the "anti-griddle" check out moveable feast dot com

refers to the adria conection placing a plancha over liquid nitrogen and "cooking" various products.

very interesting, curious about aplications

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for more information on ideas of the "anti-griddle" check out moveable feast dot com

refers to the adria conection placing a plancha over liquid nitrogen and "cooking" various products.

Do you have a more "specific" address, I tried what you gave in your quote, as well as googling and no luck.

Thanks

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it must be challenging to simultaneously discover new applications,

i think that chefg has answered this question with regards to quality over primacy being the issue

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for more information on ideas of the "anti-griddle" check out moveable feast dot com

refers to the adria conection placing a plancha over liquid nitrogen and "cooking" various products.

Do you have a more "specific" address, I tried what you gave in your quote, as well as googling and no luck.

Movable Feast, Diary of an Itinerant Chef

I think the relevant entries are in September.

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Being a bench scientist and foodie, many of these ideas resonate strongly with me. In lab I've made purees, pastes and foams, reduced liquids, "cooked" things at very precise precise temperatures, separated aromatic compounds, quick-frozen "meat" and various slurries, sliced tissue 1000 times thinner than any mandoline can do, and the list goes on. Biomedical science and cooking have many things in common, and it's exciting to see someone finally "get" that.

I just saw the Polysciences post by chefg, and it's right on; after seeing more discussion about sous vide ~ 1 month ago, I immediately thought of those waterbaths as the ultimate apparatus to carry it out. They are very precise and simple to use and upkeep.

There are lots of things we do in a real biomedical lab that can be adapted to a kitchen, as chefg is finding out, and it seems he's making those adaptations. From what I know of lab techniques and equipment, there's probably a lot more to come.

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      He finished the philosophical discussion by talking about the general style of haute cuisine that he and others are engaged in. While others have coined the term “molecular gastronomy” to highlight the scientific component of the creativity involved, Adria rejected it, saying that all cooking is molecular: most of his techniques are in fact rather simple and don’t employ radical new technology. Most of the technology that they do use has been around for some time; they have simply adapted it to their own purposes. Nevertheless, he applauds contributions to gastronomy from Harold McGee and other food scientists, and welcomes their collaboration in the kitchen. He has yet to find a term that describes the movement: as of now, he feels that there really is no good name for this style of cooking.

      More than any other single thing, Ferran Adria is known for the use of “foams” in cooking. While he is proud of his achievements with foams, he stressed that while appropriate in some circumstances, the real utility of foams is limited. He bemoans their ubiquity -- and wishes to not be blamed for others’ poor deployment of the concept. In the course of describing this and other techniques, Adria made a point of stating that using them should not be inferred as copying. Techniques and concepts are to be used and shared. He invited everyone to learn and harness whatever they found interesting, and to employ it in to their own pursuits.

      Another set of techniques discussed and demonstrated by the master and his assistant, Rafa Morales from Hacienda Benazuza, included three types of spherification. These included the use of calcium chloride (CaCl) and sodium alginate as well as the converse, and exploration of a new agent, gluconodeltalactone. The original combinations of alginate into CaCl for “caviar” production, and CaCl into alginate for larger “spheres” have chemistry-related limits as to what can be sphericized. In private correspondence, Harold McGee explained to me that Adria described encapsulating a mussel in its own juice. While this would make the dish technically an aspic, unlike conventional aspics it remains a liquid. Adria said that though gluconodeltalactone is very new, and they are just beginning to get a handle on it, he is very excited by it. He also demonstrated a machine for spherification on a larger scale than they had originally been able to do, as well as liquid nitrogen and freeze-drying (lyophilization) techniques. At the conclusion of his demonstration -- and thus the Conference -- the audience once again awarded him a standing ovation.

      While Adria’s appearance was the culmination of the conference, the energy it produced was not just because of his stature in the world of gastronomy -- it was also due to the excitement generated by the conference that preceded it. If there had previously been any doubt, Thomas Keller’s welcome of Adria was a clarion: Spanish cuisine has landed on North American shores and is finding a niche in the North American psyche. Spanish cuisine -- in its multifaceted, delicious entirety -- lives here, too.

      + + + + +

      John M. Sconzo, M.D., aka docsconz, is an anesthesiologist practicing in upstate New York. He grew up in Brooklyn in an Italian-American home, in which food was an important component of family life. It still is. His passions include good food, wine and travel. John's gastronomic interests in upstate northeastern New York involve finding top-notch local producers of ingredients and those who use them well. A dedicated amateur, John has no plans to ditch his current career for one in the food industry. Host, New York.
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