A full array of equipment in the front and back of the house supports staff as they prepare menu items. The students they serve are encouraged to socialize and learn about food as they walk through the 14-station servery.
The southeast corner of Arizona State University's (ASU) Tempe campus is home to Barrett, the Honors College. Built by American Campus Communities in conjunction with ASU and opened in August 2009, the nine-acre, multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art community includes LEED-certified living and learning facilities, a dining hall, outdoor amphitheater where classes meet, a refectory (dining room as found in boarding schools and monasteries), coffee shop and recreation center.
The residential college recruits academically outstanding undergraduates, including National Merit Scholars. Enrollment is 2,989 with a 15-to-one student- faculty ratio that gives Barrett students an intimate learning environment in addition to the resources of ASU.
The Dining Center's social dining experience is a key tenet at Barrett, encouraging student/teacher conversation beyond the classroom.
"The college wants students to have an extraordinary academic experience," says Jennifer Safran, principal, JEM Consulting Group/Las Vegas, the project's foodservice design and consulting firm. "They also want students to learn outside the classroom. The dining facility gives students and staff an opportunity to interact and learn about food in a social environment."
Barrett's myriad food choices contribute to the educational experience. "Here we offer more than twice as many options as at the neighboring locations at ASU," says Krystal Nelson, marketing manager for Aramark, ASU's foodservice-operations provider. "The menu concentrates on healthy and fresh ingredients, with a special emphasis on bringing in food from local farms and serving it fresh in the dining operation. Customers may choose from prime rib carved to order and grilled cage-free chicken. We also offer vegan options prepared as they watch and freshly baked breads." Menus change daily and information about where and how foods grow is available to customers.
The 20,000-square-foot dining facility includes a 6,500-square-foot back-of-house kitchen with cold-food and ambient storage as well as bulk prep and dish areas. Fourteen stations at the 4,600-square-foot, front-of-house servery offer menu variety and display-cooking entertainment. The equipment investment totaled $1.5 million.
"We've brought the chefs, who are usually hidden in the back all day, out front to customize meals and service at each of the stations," Nelson says. "Stuffy starched uniforms are gone as well, replaced by apparel that's styled differently from traditional foodservice garb. The service is friendly and personalized."
The 6,800-square-foot dining areas seat 552 customers including 304 in the main dining room, 128 in the refectory, 88 in outside seating, 20 in one private dining room, and 12 in another private dining area.
Sustainable practices include plastic and paper recycling, fryer-oil recycling, using green cleaning products, and trayless dining. The facility features Energy Star-rated equipment, natural and energy-efficient lighting and low-volatile-organic-compound paints. "Throughout the back and front of the house, equipment was selected to be as energy-efficient as possible," says David Woodard, senior designer/project manager, JEM Consulting Group/Las Vegas. "The walk-in cooler/freezer condensing units and the ice machines are water-cooled so the heat doesn't go back into the facility."
Aramark's Executive Chef Andrew Lucyshyn also incorporates sustainable practices by fostering partnerships with local growers and producers.
The flow of food delivery, production and sanitation is straightforward, moving from the back- to front-of-house, then to dish and cart washing. Cold goods are held in a walk-in freezer and two walk-in coolers; shelf-stable goods go in a two-door dry-storage area that accommodates pallets.
Near the delivery and storage area, a hallway contains the janitor's closet and employee locker rooms, as well as two 1,800-pound ice makers. "Ice is pumped into bins on carts that are taken to servery units as needed," Woodard says.
In the cold-prep room, staff use buffalo choppers, food processors and large floor mixers to process mashed potatoes, sauces, puddings and batters. Handheld mixers are used to purée soups, sauces and hummus. "I teach my staff how to use equipment properly, which makes their jobs much easier and keeps our quality consistent," says Lucyshyn.
Adjacent to the cold-prep room is the bulk-prep area, with steam equipment on one side. Lucyshyn and the staff use 40-gallon steam-jacketed kettles to make stocks and sauces. "We use the tilting braiser for stroganoffs and up to 300 portions of chicken piccata, which frees up the flat-top," he says.
Staff use the griddle and grill on the other side to prepare dishes such as eggs, sausages and quesadillas. Two small walk-in coolers support this area by providing cold storage. Staff place items into carts destined for the front-of-house servery stations, which have hot-holding cabinets and undercounter refrigeration.
"With my process management, everything must have a backup," Lucyshyn says. "Also, the kitchen is about several-hundred-feet long, so we've had to find ways to be very efficient in transporting food and supporting front-line staff."
Also back-of-house, combi-ovens roast meats and bake custards and casseroles. "Combis are among my favorite pieces of equipment, because they do just about everything," Lucyshyn says. "They keep the humidity accurate, they're easy to clean and we can use a computer program to set them."
A flight-type dishmachine and utensil potwasher are located behind hot-prep. "Putting stockpots and large sheet pans in the potwasher eliminates extra wear and tear on the flight-type machine," Woodard says. The area's pulper and water press assist in waste management.
The front-of-house's serpentine shape gives students plenty of socializing space, Safran says. "Students can talk while they're selecting their food. The absence of signage also encourages students to walk through the servery and explore the new food items daily," she explains. "The food stations are flexible allowing staff to change menu items to suit various day parts."
The dining center's contemporary look takes inspiration from natural elements found on university grounds, such as campus-grown Seville oranges, herbs and dates—neutral colors that will outlast design trends, Safran says, and also highlight the food's colors. "The progressive design and offerings reflect the university's commitment to provide memorable dining experiences," Safran adds.
Customer interaction is facilitated through seating. "The variety of seating options, including the bar seating behind the salad/dessert station, allows students to have various dining experiences as desired based on schedules and with whom they are dining," Safran says.
The grill station at one end of the servery, offers quarter-pound burgers, knockwurst with sauerkraut, turkey Reuben and tandoori-chicken wraps, shoestring fries with ancho chili or Cajun sauce, onion rings and adobo-chicken quesadillas. Equipment includes a char-grill, griddle and double fryer with a dump station. A reach-in refrigerator and work-top freezer hold ingredients.
The entrée station's chicken, prime rib and pork dishes are prepared on the rotisserie. Slow-cook ovens heat and hold salmon, turkey and brisket. Adjacent to the entrée station, an international station features induction cooktops flanked by holding plates. This double-sided station produces everything from vegetable dishes, potato pancakes, ginger pork, mashed potatoes, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, English-style fish and chips, and Salisbury steak. "We'll sauté pasta here and serve it with a sauce and carved meat and chicken," Lucyshyn says.
The deli station's refrigerated display case holds meats, cheeses and other ingredients. Two countertop slicers—one for cheese and the other for meats, are used for portioning. Made-to-order sandwiches include a steak Caesar wrap and dilled-tuna-cucumber-salad sandwich. A panini grill warms mini classic Cuban panini and other sandwiches. A three-pan cold unit holds salads that often include proteins and pasta.
The pizza/pasta, or Mediterranean station, has a hearth oven for pizza pies, calzones, baked ziti with roasted vegetables, individual lasagna rolls and other pasta dishes. "The progressive colored tiles were selected because they emulate flames," Safran says.
Induction burners prepare pasta dishes on one side of the oven; a pasta cooker operates on the other. The station also includes a pasta machine for pasta made onsite and a double-stacked convection oven for fresh-baked bread. Retractable heat lamps and heated ceramic shelves keep food hot.
Also at the Mediterranean station, a gelato case displays several varieties of the cold dessert. "The case is at the Mediterranean station rather than the dessert station so the Italian menu items can be grouped together," Safran says.
A decorative hood, which complements the serpentine line, is above the dessert/soup/salad area, also known as the farmer's market station. Induction cooktops are used for vegan options such as Sloppy Joes and jambalaya and other vegetarian items such as seitan "steak," cacciatore with marinara sauce, marinated tofu, cheese enchiladas. Customers also can choose ingredients for their own stir-fries.
Behind the salad station, an open-front refrigerator displays fresh vegetables. Cold salads and other cold ingredients are kept in self-contained pans. "The self-contained cold pans here and at other stations are designed to help maintain proper food-safe temperatures, Woodard says. "The cold liquid circulates around the wells continuously. Another feature at this and other stations are moveable food shields that give staff flexibility in placing them where they are needed depending on which products are served," he says.
Also at the salad station, hot soup wells offer cream of tomato, vegan curried cauliflower, mini tomato focaccia dipper and Cuban black bean.
The back side of the salad station contains pies, cakes, cookies and pastries from the campus commissary.
Across from dessert/soup/salad station is the cereal and beverage station. Cold pans hold items such as yogurt and cold waffle batter so students can make their own waffles The beverage section includes milk, juice, coffee and tea dispensers.
After customers gather their menu items, they pass by a millwork condiment station set up for recycling plastic bottles, cans and paper.
The key to the operation, Lucyshyn says, "is to coach the staff so they understand the process of production from the back-of-house to the front, and manage the process so we can be flexible to change menu items when needed."
Lucyshyn also believes in managing by example. "Every 20 minutes or so I touch base with every employee," he says. "I question them about time temperature and the best way to use the equipment. I keep teaching so that every day the staff learn something new. That's very engaging—and they appreciate learning."
With the focus on proper use of equipment, food safety standards and menu creativity, the students and staff at this unique honors college are also certain to learn about food as not just a tool for nourishment but also a part of culture and socialization.