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George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University, Dallas

Contributing to this center’s LEED Platinum rating, the foodservice areas — its bistro café and its kitchen, Courtyard Café, catering kitchen and presidential kitchen — support preparation of fresh and local food within minimal footprints.

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Cafe-43Café 43During its first year, the George W. Bush Presidential Center anticipates welcoming nearly a half million visitors. Located on a 23-acre site on the east side of the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus, the center comprises a trio of buildings together occupying 226,654 square feet — the Presidential Library and Museum, the George W. Bush Institute for the George W. Bush Foundation, and the Archives, housing classrooms, research rooms for visiting scholars, and offices for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). SMU is Laura Bush's alma mater, and in close proximity to George W. and Laura's North Dallas residence. SMU also cosponsors Institute programs, and its students, administration and faculty actively participate in the center's programs.

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Certified LEED Platinum and designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York City, the building's brick and Texas Cordova cream limestone complement the historic American Georgian character of the adjoining SMU campus. The 15 acres of sustainable Texas prairie landscape were designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates of Cambridge, Mass.

"[This] is a building about the legacy of a particular president and a very interesting and complicated era: Sept. 11, the decision to go into Iraq and many other issues that gave the Bush presidency a sense of urgency and controversy," Robert A.M. Stern, FAIA, who heads Robert A.M. Stern Architects, told Architect magazine. "But it's also about the legacy of the presidency itself. As I began to work on it, I was very concerned that the building fit into the campus. SMU is a beautiful, 20th-century, Georgian campus — really quite coherent and very well done. The other thing I was interested in was the legacy of the president. The building had to be an important statement for George W. Bush, of course, but also for George W. Bush as president. And this is the first presidential library to be built and opened in the 21st century."

Stern explains that the building is designed to "meet the newest security rules of the federal government . . . [but] most people will not feel the hand of security. It's an invisible hand."

This was possible, Stern says, by working with Van Valkenburgh to place a three-story building on the south area of the land, which has a distinct slope. Thus it appears to be a one-story building on the front so it's informal and less imposing. Also, the earth was mounded up around the building, adding to this illusion.

"If there's one main theme for this center, it's freedom," Stern told Charlie Rose during a PBS program in July.

Visitors to the center walk across a colonnaded courtyard known as Freedom Plaza toward a pecan wood-paneled lobby. The archives sit in the building's east wing, while the museum, featuring permanent and traveling exhibits, sits further south. The museum's center, Freedom Hall, rises 67 feet high; sunlight streams in through a 50-by-50-foot Texas Cordova cream limestone lantern. At night, the lantern forms a softly glowing beacon. A 20-foot-high, 360-degree, high-definition LED media display rises from the Marianna cream limestone-paved floor to introduce visitors to the museum's public exhibition galleries, which include a full-scale replica of the Oval Office and a Texas rose garden modeled on the White House Rose Garden. In addition, the museum features artifacts such as a piece of the World Trade Center, and the interactive Decision Points Theater where visitors make real-time crisis decisions similar to those made by President Bush. Freedom Hall also provides access to an outdoor courtyard with a café and the full-service bistro, Café 43.

On the south side of the building, the Institute, an independent public policy establishment, houses a 360-seat broadcast-ready auditorium and a fully equipped broadcast and recording studio, as well as seminar, meeting and reception rooms and terraces that look to the Dallas skyline across the 15-acre park and university recreational fields.

Designing the Foodservices

Foodservice consulting firm Cini•Little International Inc. was brought on board in 2008 to work with the George W. Bush Foundation and architects to design the center's foodservice areas. The project broke ground on November 16, 2010, and the doors opened April 25, 2013.

Working with space constraints and without the catering company and chef didn't deter the foodservice designers from equipping the kitchens for Café 43, the Courtyard Café and the presidential suites, as well as the catering kitchen to serve an array of customers with different demographic profiles. "We selected traditional designs and equipment so anyone hired to serve as the center's foodservice provider could operate the kitchens well," says Theodore E. Farrand, FMP, president and COO of Cini•Little International and project executive and project manager for programming.

Not knowing who the foodservice contractor would be also meant the final menu was not available to Farrand and other members of the design team, which included Pamela Eaton, FCSI, LEED AP, senior associate and project manager for construction administration. "We were given a general idea of what the menu might be at the restaurant and Courtyard Café and for catered events," Eaton says. "We expected the menu wouldn't be too exotic, so we designed a generic kitchen with versatile equipment that would allow a wide menu variety by the eventual foodservice contractor."

The foodservice operations' logistics also presented challenges. "During the design process, many changes were made to the foodservices. For example, the location and shape of the catering kitchen was reconfigured several times in order to position it close to points of service and to the many corridors that lead to the auditorium and the restaurant, which is on the opposite side of the property," Farrand says. "The budget was generous for equipment, as well as deluxe finishes, countertops and floor materials. After all, the foodservice is extremely important to a museum because it entices guests to come to the exhibits and stay for a while and attend events."

In order to ensure everything arrived on time and before it was due to be installed, Ryan Williamson, who coordinated the equipment ordering and installation for TriMark
Strategic Equipment and Supply Corp.
in Irving, Texas, placed the order soon after getting the contract. "There was only one loading dock, so we had to get equipment out to all the kitchens from one location. Because construction was going on throughout the building, we had many logistical issues and had to be very mindful of where we were moving in the buildings," Williamson says.

A year after the buildings were constructed, a contract management company, Culinaire, was hired to operate all of the foodservice areas. "We were given the restaurant and catering kitchen layouts, so we knew what we were working with," says David Wood, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Culinaire. "The kitchens are wonderfully equipped, and we knew we could produce nearly anything we needed in the space. The only thing we requested over and above what was there was a wood-burning grill."

Executive chef John Maas agrees and adds, "The kitchens have excellent equipment and smart, efficient layouts. There's a good balance between the amount of space in which to walk and move carts and the other equipment and workspaces. In addition, we have state-of-the-art equipment such as combi ovens and UV hoods that minimize routine cleaning. And, we have some sous vide equipment, which allows us to greatly diversify the menu."

The foodservice operations attract an eclectic mix of visitors from SMU students, administrators and faculty to neighbors to international dignitaries. Mrs. Bush and her guests dine frequently at the restaurant. The range of customers requires menu diversity from grab-and-go sandwiches and cappuccino to multicourse meals and catered hors d'oeuvres and meals.

"After meeting with Mrs. Bush, who had a strong vision for the restaurant, we realized she wanted the restaurant to be welcoming and warm with a feeling of being in a private residential home," Wood says. "She didn't want it to be fussy or hokey with stereotypical Texan horses and barbecue. And because the center was to be certified LEED Platinum, we all knew that many local elements representative of Texas would be used throughout the buildings and in the café."

The Culinaire team headed by Chef Maas presented Mrs. Bush and several other center administrators with menu items, which weren't enthusiastically accepted. So the culinary team reassessed their vision. At Laura Bush's suggestion, Wood and his boss, Culinaire president William M. Thompson, flew to New York City to dine at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's ABC Kitchen, an unfussy, farm-to-table-themed restaurant in lower Manhattan. "As soon as we walked in and tasted the food, we understood what might work in the center," Wood says. "We'd emphasize high-quality, locally sourced produce, non-fussy ingredients and seasonally changing menus."

"I studied the menu from ABC Kitchen and used it as a starting point to develop the menus here," Maas says. "Emphasis is placed on providing a fresh menu featuring Texas produce and local products whenever possible." Mrs. Bush and the others now enthusiastically welcomed the dishes Maas presented.

"We have relationships with local farmers," Wood says. "And we'll participate in an annual dine-around fundraiser this fall called Chefs for Farmers. Chef Maas will award the audience-favorite team of chef and farmer a cash prize from Café 43."

Food Deliveries and Distribution

Food comes in the back loading dock, which resides on the east side of the center. Due to controlled security procedures, all deliveries come in through this entrance. The dock sits entirely opposite to the restaurant on the west side and perpendicular to the catering kitchen in the south-center part.

A staff member receives deliveries, including produce, which arrives every day except Sunday. Staff bring food and supplies up to the restaurant, catering and presidential kitchens where deliveries are broken down and stored in appropriate coolers, freezers or dry storage.

Café 43

In the 1,460-square-foot kitchen that serves Café 43, staff place food into a walk-in refrigerator or freezer. Undercounter refrigeration at both the hot and cold lines, as well as two refrigerated drawers under the cooking line, also support staff's storage needs.

"The kitchen has a smart layout and is designed efficiently, especially given the space the kitchen designers had to work with," Maas says. "It's relatively compact and provides a good balance between the working spaces such as the hotline and pantry relative to the size of the restaurant. This compares favorably to spaces in which the cooking areas are too small to create anything significant. We could handle more customers if the number of café seats were increased."

The café serves about 200 guests daily and supports catering functions in the lobby. Though some mise en place such as batch dessert production takes place in catering kitchen, staff prepare most of the menu items in the Café 43 kitchen.

For cold prep and garde manger, staff use a slicer, blenders, pasta machine, five-quart countertop mixer and vacuum packing unit for sous vide-style items, which Maas says is a "small but important part of the menu."

"Each station's staff is responsible for prepping and finishing," Maas says. "In the beginning, we divided prep and finishing, but we found more consistency when the same person does both functions for each dish. Also, this kitchen doesn't have enough space for much separate prep and finishing."

For hot food preparation, the line includes a smoker and double-stacked combi oven for roasted beets and carrots, slow-roasted pulled barbecue pork for sandwiches, roasted turkey and smoked chicken. Staff use the double-convection oven for bacon, candied nuts, biscuits and breads.

On the other line, staff use a wood-burning charbroiler to cook burgers, chicken for sandwiches and salads and vegetables, and to finish crisping bacon for burgers. "The grill takes a lot of hickory wood and produces great flavor," Maas says.

This cookline also contains a salamander broiler, French-top and six-burner ranges for sautéing wild sockeye salmon, searing beef tenderloin from local ranches, sautéing halibut and cooking omelets. On weekends, the ranges support production of southern-style eggs Benedict — pulled pork on a buttermilk biscuit with andouille sausage gravy. A pair of fryers sizzles cut potatoes after staff blanch the spuds in salt water with a touch of vinegar at 180 degrees F in the combi oven before chilling them. "This step ensures the fries always come out of the fryer golden brown because the starch content isn't out of whack," says Maas.

Staff also make sorbets and homemade ice cream, which is a customer favorite. "President Bush's favorite flavor is vanilla, so we bring it up to the presidential suite," Maas says.

Hot and cold food come together at a chef's counter with ticket rails, a sink, soup and hot wells, heat lamps, heated double overshelves and a POS printer. "POS tickets come up exclusively for each station," Maas says. "Only the expediter, who stands facing the hot line sees the entire order. Each station focuses on its component so each person can understand his/her contribution. The expediter brings it all together."

The beverage area includes a back counter with a refrigerator, an espresso/cappuccino machine, coffee and tea brewers and a beverage dispenser. The area also includes a reach-in wine refrigerator, cube-style ice maker and ice bin.

For dishwashing, staff have access to a prerinse unit, disposer, soiled dishtable with prerinse sink, a clean dishtable and conveyor-type dishwasher. Positioned diagonally to the dishwashing area is a potwash space with a three-compartment sink, and a prerinse unit with an
add-on faucet.

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