A fast-track design and installation process, complicated logistics and small footprints challenged the design team to work at top efficiency to produce the restaurants and lounges for this resort's new Casino Club.
One of this country's renowned landmark luxury hotels, The Greenbrier is on the rebound (after surviving a near disastrous bankruptcy) thanks to the 2009 purchase of the resort by Jim Justice.
Surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., the historic property is a 710-room resort with 13 restaurants, cafes and lounges; four golf courses; and 10 tennis courts. The Greenbrier attracts an international clientele that enjoys the property's elegant architecture and interior design.
When Justice purchased the resort, he wanted to create a buzz and add something exciting to the property. On July 2, 2010, the Casino Club, occupying 103,000 square feet, opened its doors, offering guests gaming, live entertainment, designer boutiques, three restaurants and two lounges. The Greenbrier website describes the new addition as "introducing an elegant new era...where Gone with the Wind and Monte Carlo mingle." To showcase the elegance of the Casino Club, The Greenbrier hosts a champagne toast each night at 10 p.m. All play stops, and attention is directed to the grand marble staircase where performers dance to "The Greenbrier Waltz," an original musical composition by Greenbrier County native Tony Nalker.
Justice wanted to keep the elegance of the historic resort in the new casino, but didn't want it to be garish. To insure the architectural results he intended, he selected for his team Michael Oliver McClung, principal of the architectural firm Shope Reno Wharton, and interior designer Carleton Varney, who became president of Dorothy Draper & Company long after the renowned designer, Dorothy Draper, redecorated the hotel in the 1940s (she continued to decorate at the hotel into the 1960s; Varney is The Greenbrier's decorating consultant). The casino's bright and bold colors and ornate design elements are distinctively Draper.
Another member of the casino team, executive chef Richard Rosendale, who worked at The Greenbrier from 2000 to 2005, was enticed back to the resort in the fall of 2009 to work on the casino project, as well as to open Prime 44 West and The Forum in the main hotel building. During 2010, Rosendale also received his certified master chef credentials—he is the 66th person in the United States to earn this honor—and supervised catering for The Greenbrier Classic, a PGA Tour event the resort hosted for the first time in late July 2010.
Also in September 2009, Heather Boden, project manager for sales and design at the Wasserstrom Company, was brought in to work on equipment design, layout and specification of the 103,000-square-foot casino's three restaurants — Draper's, In-Fusion and Café Carleton — and its two lounges, Twelve Oaks and Greenbrier Royale.
One of the most challenging facets of the Casino Club project, which team members will long remember, is the fast track they stepped onto in order to complete the project. Conceptual planning began in September 2009, but implementation started only three months before the scheduled opening on July 4th weekend in 2010. "Given that the entire project, from design to completion, happened in about 10 months, we worked very closely with Chef Rosendale on the micro-design of each foodservice area so we could complete all the design work and specifications by the end of December 2009," Boden says.
Boden also worked closely with the engineering department, headed by Matthew Stewart, then vice president of engineering (he retired last year), who assisted with technical aspects of the project such as coordinating the three water-cooled condensing racks with the hotel's chiller system to remove excess heat from the refrigeration systems, and then recycle this energy in the looped water chiller.
"Nothing was compromised because we had a short time frame to work in," says Rosendale. "We attended to every detail. We just worked long hours and at an incredibly intense and fast pace."
Adding to the challenge of the tight timeline for installation was the remote location of The Greenbrier. "This made management of logistics one of the key components of running this project successfully," Boden says. "The casino was built underground, under the courtyard of the main entrance of the hotel. Because the space is underground, there were specific dates on which we could bring larger pieces of equipment into the building before the roof of the space was closed up. The refrigeration racks and some custom fabricated pieces needed to be craned into the space, because of their size and weight. We staged all equipment at our warehouse in Columbus, Ohio, and hauled the shipments to West Virginia in box trucks, because a semi-trailer would not fit down the delivery ramp into the space."
Because so many stages of construction were going on at the same time, Boden explains, there was constant traffic on the ramp due to the flow of materials and supplies coming into the space. "We scheduled our deliveries overnight when possible, to give us the longest time period of access to the delivery ramp, and so we could bring in large equipment pieces without interrupting construction going on in other areas," she says. "We started our installation in early April and completed in time for turnover to The Greenbrier before the July 4 weekend."
The concepts themselves were selected by the owner and with guest feedback, Rosendale says. "Together they offer a splash of something very different for the resort."
Draper's was a restaurant that originally existed in the main hotel and was moved to the casino. The restaurant occupies 4,300 square feet, including 1,900 square feet for back-of-house functions, and contains seats for 110 guests.
The restaurant's open kitchen is a popular attraction. "We all like to see the guests' reactions to our cooking," says Lynette Sherman, Draper's sous chef. "And, we appreciate the opportunity to talk with guests who come up and ask questions or tell us what they liked or even disliked. Fortunately, they are rarely dissatisfied."
Open from 8 a.m. until 1 a.m., Draper's offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a late-night menu after 11 p.m. "Our main challenge was creating space for the variety of products needed for the diverse menu, and the space needed for staff to quickly transition from one meal to the next with only one hour between services," Boden says.
Staff transport food for Draper's from the main storage room in the hotel through the west service corridor to the rear of the restaurant, where they store some items on shelves for dry goods and in a combination walk-in cooler and freezer.
Directly adjacent to the storage room, the prep area holds a steam-jacketed kettle for making grits, soups and stocks; a tilt skillet for stocks, filling for chicken pot pies, and pot roast. "We cook the pot roast for about two and a half hours, cool it in its sauce, portion and package tightly with a machine, then place it into the cooler," Sherman says. "We use this sous-vide-style process mostly for storage purposes."
The adjacent combi oven prepares puffed pastry for chicken pot pies, potatoes, and smoked pork and wings. Sherman has learned to appreciate the combi oven for its versatility. "I worked a grill line at Sam Snead's, another restaurant on the property, for eight years, so I was used to using that equipment. Once I came to Draper's and got used to the combi oven, I learned to love it." In this area, staff also use waffle irons to make breakfast items and waffles served with fried chicken.
The large prep table between the prep line and cooking suite is a pass-through refrigerated unit that allows chefs to work from both sides of the table and pull products from doors on either side. "We added five open burners across the rear side of the cooking suite for prep usage, as well. This allows staff to continue prep behind the main line without interrupting service," Boden says. Staff use the burners for heating sauces and gravies and preparing Mahi mahi, Atlantic salmon, succotash and other vegetable dishes.
The front of the cooking suite, used for service, includes two fryers for making fries, crispy chicken, country ham and crispy wontons; a 36-inch griddle for making pastrami sandwiches, ham-and-brie sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches and quesadillas; a 36-inch French top for sautéed crab cakes and other regional fish selections, and a 36-inch charbroiler for hamburgers, chicken, shrimp and marinated vegetables. Beneath the charbroiler sit refrigerated drawers, two ovens and a plate-warming area.
Across from the suite, the custom chef's line includes cold rails on top with refrigerated storage underneath, drop-in hot wells, built-in hand sinks, areas for trash, and outlets for electrical and data. The L-shaped counter services the hot line where it is parallel to the cooking suite, and the other, perpendicular part of the counter is for salads and other cold menu items. The servers pick up along the outside of the L counter, with the expo support station directly across from where hot foods are picked up. The server station for beverages and POS location is directly adjacent to the food-pickup area.
"The dish area is hidden on the opposite side of the kitchen, located as far away from the guests as possible," Boden says.
A dessert bar offering ice cream and pastries is prominently showcased at the entrance to the restaurant.
In-Fusion, which sits on the main casino level and one level down from the mezzanine overlooking the casino, is an adults-only location that is open from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. It seats 48 and serves 170 on a busy night. The 2,500-square-foot restaurant, which includes 1,200 square feet for back-of-house functions, specializes in Pacific Rim cuisine. A sushi bar wraps across the center of the dining area allowing guests to view the preparation as they dine. "All our fish comes in fresh, and we keep it in refrigerated drawers beneath the refrigerated prep area," says Antwon Brinson, In-Fusion sous chef. "What works particularly well in this kitchen, which is small and was built to be efficient, is the positioning of the equipment so we have to take very few steps or just turn around once to go from station to station. Having easy access to the equipment and products helps with efficiency and productivity and helps us minimize labor usage."
Efficiency is a positive attribute of any kitchen, but particularly at The Greenbrier where nearly 125 chefs, including 60 students, may be working at the facility at any given time. The Greenbrier also offers apprenticeships in which chefs work at the property for three years. "We're challenged with this kind of staffing, because someone is always being rotated in and out," Brinson says. "I'm always trying to make the stations more efficient to accommodate turnover, all the while using very high-quality, fresh ingredients."
"We're always trying to work with staffing, so we're not overstaffed but yet have enough staff to handle the volume," Rosendale says. "We regularly bring in students from the U.S. culinary schools. The apprenticeship program, which is the oldest in the country, is also one of the most challenging for students. Bringing in students requires we have proper training in place to accommodate the various levels of skill."
Behind the sushi area, servers pick up sushi from the half-moon-shaped table, while hot food is picked up directly behind this area, through the window into the kitchen. This pickup table does double-duty with refrigerated drawers underneath to service the chefs cooking on the cooking suite.
All of In-Fusion's cooking equipment sits in the center island suite, which allows access to the equipment from both sides. In the two woks, which are Brinson's favorite pieces of equipment in this restaurant because they require a lot of skill to balance the heat without burning menu items, chefs prepare Hunan chicken, sweet-and-sour pineapple shrimp, pad Thai, and rice and fried vegetables. "Our woks have handles because most students who come here are trained on woks with handles, similar to sauté pans, and find it easier to cook here than if we had another type of wok," Brinson says.
At the sauté/grill station, chefs also use two 18-inch hot tops and an 18-inch plancha for making Kalbi beef, steamed mussels and clams, sea bass, steamed bok choy and Korean bibimbap (made in a stone bowl heated in the oven to 500 degrees and put on the range; added to the bowl are seasoned vegetables, an egg, sliced meat, and rice). The fryer, with a pass-through cheesemelter overhead, cooks tempura and spring rolls. Adjacent to the fryer is a plate-warming area and pass-through oven below.
Behind the cooking suite is a prep counter, with drop-in sinks, undercounter refrigeration, and the door leading to the back storage room with an office, mop sink, fish file with a fish-prep sink, ice machines, dry goods storage shelving, and combination walk-in cooler/freezer. On either side of the central cooking line are areas with wait station and storage for serving staff. Behind this front room are hidden areas for the dish room (right side) and service bar (left side) servicing the restaurant as well as cocktail servers on the casino floor.
Another challenge for the team was designing Draper's and In-Fusion within a relatively small space given the volume of food the restaurants produce daily. "The main goal for both restaurants was to utilize the space as efficiently as possible, using equipment on the cooking line for both prep and during service, and highlighting the cooking areas for guest visibility," Boden says. "Both locations feature the cooking area as centrally located, with support functions surrounding. The customer views the cooking area in the center of the kitchen and sees the high-energy action of the chefs during service, but most likely does not think about the utilitarian processes that are happening behind the scenes. We know that these processes—food delivery, storage, vegetable and protein prep, and warewashing—are necessary, and we designed these areas to be convenient for chefs and support staff, but invisible from the customer's point of view."
"Because of the small footprints of the restaurants, we're using a remote system located near the front entrance of the casino," Rosendale says. "The remote compressors will allow us to save on energy to cool the kitchens and allows the kitchen spaces to be much quieter."
In addition to the remote compressors, Rosendale says that other sustainable practices include creating a 40-acre farm near The Greenbrier in Eagle Rock, Va., named The Greenbrier Farm. "We use the farm for about 80 percent of the produce used in the casino and hotel restaurants during peak season," Rosendale explains. In addition, The Greenbrier owns its own cattle company so it can process beef to the chefs' specifications.
If the past year is a clear indication, the Casino Club is helping The Greenbrier find its place once again among the top destination resorts in the United States. The restaurants' equipment is a support, allowing creative chefs to be efficient and productive in relatively small spaces. No doubt the owner and the entire staff will be challenged to stay at the top of their game to preserve a long-earned tradition. FE&S
Opened July 2, 2010, the 103,000-square-foot Casino Club at The Greenbrier offers gaming, boutique retail shops and restaurants including Draper's, In-Fusion, and Café Carleton. The club also contains Twelve Oaks and Greenbrier Royale. The 4,300-square-foot Draper's (which includes 1,900 square feet in the back of the house) features casual fare cuisine, 100 seats and operating hours from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. The 40-seat, 2,500-square-foot In-Fusion (which includes 1,200 square feet in back of house) features Asian cuisine and operates from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. for lunch and 6 p.m. - 11 p.m. for dinner. The 2,100-square-foot Café Carleton (includes 500 square feet in back of house) includes 60 seats and is open from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. It is named after Carleton Varney, president of Dorothy Draper & Company. The 2,400-square-foot Twelve Oaks lounge (which includes 700 square feet in the back of the house) offers beverages and 50 seats and is open from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. The 2,400-square-foot Greenbrier Royale provides services for high rollers from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Staffing: 800 FTEs, including 125 chefs, at The Greenbrier; 24 FTEs at the Draper's kitchen; and 8 FTEs at In-Fusion. Equipment investment in the restaurants: $900,000.