Each day, staff in the restaurant display kitchen prepare 350 covers. The line divides into four stations. The grill/rotisserie station contains a mesquite grill for steaks, buffalo rib eye, crusted elk loin filet, striped bass, salmon filet and beef and turkey burgers. The hickory rotisserie cooks chicken, rosemary chicken, honey-cured pork chops, a lamb duet with smoked and braised lamb shoulder fritters and grilled lamb chops, prime rib, and prime dip and prawns. "The manufacturer designed the grill and rotisserie back to back, so only one exhaust hood is needed," Lynch says. "When the two pieces of equipment are side by side, two separate exhaust hoods are necessary."
The sauté station features an 8-burner, 30,000 BTU range; a pair of 4-burner, 45,000 BTU ranges; and a plancha. Staff working here use the equipment to make eggs, omelets and vegetables for handmade pasta dishes. For breakfast orders, staff also have access to a waffle maker nearby.
Also on the cookline, a pair of 45-pound fryers with built-in filtration systems allow staff to prepare firebrick beer-battered rock shrimp and a trio of sweet potato fries, hand-cut fries and beer-battered zucchini. These appetizer-style items, along with small plate items such as house-made smoked rope sausage, cherrywood pit-smoked barbecue lamb ribs, salmon pastrami and walleye cakes, are popular at the bar as well as the restaurant.
To prepare frittatas, cassoulets, pizza and flatbreads, staff use a brick oven that allows them to apply high, consistent heat to these popular menu items.
At the pantry and dessert station, staff prepare salads and sandwiches using a prep table, refrigerator and freezer.
"We arranged the layout in order to facilitate circles of movement," Lynch says. "Staff members at each station only see their portion of the order sent through the POS system and work within their circle of influence. This minimizes need for crossover."
The restaurant display line is also where staff prepare orders for room service. In their rooms, guests see the menu items displayed on televisions. They call a number to place their orders, which transmit directly to the point of sale system. Staff fill orders and deliver trays within 20 minutes. Using the same call-in procedures, guests can also order amenities, extra pillows and so forth.
The restaurant display line also supports the active bar service. In the morning, the bar serves breakfast. At noon, customers can order casual lunches, and in the evening they can order small plates and appetizer-type items. The bar features draft beers and wine stored in one cabinet kept at 35 degrees F, another at 40 degrees F, and a third at 50 degrees F. A game room with pool tables sits adjacent to the bar.
Stewarding plays a key role in supporting efficiency as well as maintaining strict sanitation standards. "Because space was tight and we needed space for two cooking lines in the kitchen, the dishroom is closer to the restaurant because staff make frequent trips here," Carlson says. "The area doesn't have a big scrapping area, but we have space for banquet carts with dishes. The interior design for the bar and restaurant took a long time to resolve, but in the end we ended up with a little more space in the building to accommodate these needs."
In addition to one dishwasher accommodating all the dining activity, the stewarding area also contains a pot-and-pan machine, a spray station as well as a three-compartment sink. "The Bloomington health department is very strict about meeting health and sanitation standards, so we put in stainless steel wall paneling here as well as on the back of the bar die," Carlson says.
"A kitchen only operates as well as its stewarding team functions," Lynch says. "The dishroom is the one place I wish we could have had more room. At least we do have room for the carts holding dirty dishes, which staff bring to a parking lot so they can be held until the stewarding staff has time to clean the dishes and glasses. "I love the pot-and-pan machine because it allows us to operate very efficiently. The fact that it keeps the pots and pans separate from the glasses and silverware minimizes complications with spots and haziness."
"One of the chief sustainability features in this operation is the dishmachine, which conserves water usage," Carlson says. High-efficiency exhaust hoods also contribute to the operation's sustainability. "The budget was so tight that we had to focus most on initial investment versus lifecycle costs." For example, a pulper wasn't put into the original equipment package.
In addition to the features mentioned, the kitchen also contains lockers in a hallway. "The number-one complaint from employees is locker theft because lockers are hidden from view in a separate room," Lynch says. "We've eliminated locker theft by placing them in full view."
In its brief existence, Radisson Blu continues to attract groups and individuals who enjoy the proximity to Mall of America and the Minneapolis airport. With its creative menu showcasing local ingredients, FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar will continue to offer guests a unique attraction that they can't find elsewhere in the mall. The pressure's on the dining staff to use the equipment to maintain a high level of consistent quality that is both competitive and trendsetting.
A 40-year veteran of the restaurant industry, chef Paul Lynch remains actively involved in farm-to-table and locally sourced culinary practices. His background includes running hotel kitchens for a variety of operations including the Four Seasons, Westin and Radisson properties in Minneapolis and Bloomington, Minn. Lynch assumed the executive chef role for the kitchens at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Minneapolis in 1999. Lynch is a founding member of Minnesota’s Heartland Food Network and is collaborating to establish a Twin Cities chapter of the Chef’s Collaborative, a group of chefs and purveyors that promotes products from the heartland and helps make them more available.
Steve Carlson began his career as a draftsman for a stainless steel fabricator in Milwaukee, followed by several years with an equipment supplier in Minneapolis. All along, though, Carlson’s goal was to become a foodservice designer, and he achieved that goal upon being hired at Robert Rippe & Associates. He finds satisfaction in seeing a project come together where everyone’s voice is heard, from the chefs who make it, to the people who serve it and the customers who enjoy it. Carlson’s design approach is best described as practical, affordable and sustainable. He specializes in projects with short timelines, complicated renovations and large-scale projects requiring complex organization and planning.