In addition to seeking out efficiency, Soucie selected equipment with basic controls. "The volunteer staff members come from varied backgrounds and have many different levels of competency," he says. "They have to learn how to use equipment quickly and turn out a large volume in a short period of time. They can't struggle with complicated equipment controls."
Since much of the menu relies on donated items, staff use the equipment to heat some food and then reconstitute it into new dishes, or to make items from scratch. The menu includes chicken parmesan, spaghetti and meatballs, chili, pot roast and salmon.
"The on-demand variable fan drive exhaust system is designed in conjunction with fresh air make-up," Soucie says. "These systems borrow fresh make-up air from other spaces and reduce the overall amount of air that must be heated. This keeps overall operating costs down during idle times, as well. Cartridges in the hood can be pulled out and run through the dishmachine."
Nearby, staff work at a chef's table and have easy access to utensils hanging on the pot rack. "We positioned hand-wash sinks strategically so no one is ever more than 15 feet away from a sink," Soucie says. The faucets operate by a foot pedal, so staff don't have to use hands to turn them on and off.
Once staff produce the food, they take it to the blast chiller, cold storage or service line, which contains a pair of three-well drop-in hot and cold units. Staff plate hot and cold food from left to right toward the curved part of the service line. Servers pick up plates and take them to the men sitting at tables.
"We don't have a trayline because we wanted to provide a dignified dining experience," Ferschweiler says. The dining experience begins the moment the men enter the building. They queue up, and staff direct them to tables.
A beverage station near the dining room holds dispensers for coffee, water and juices. Staff can roll out a nearby hot holding cabinet into the dining room for high-capacity feeding occasions such as Thanksgiving.
A scullery area contains a table for soiled plates and pans on the right side. Once wares have been cleaned in the dishwasher or potwashing sinks, staff place them on mobile drying racks on the left side of the room where staff have access to them during the next meal period.
The new Blanchet House of Hospitality continues to attract men in need and volunteers who want to serve their community. Ferschweiler sees great potential for the facility in addition to continuing to provide its current services — perhaps as a more sophisticated training institute to prepare men to enter the foodservice industry. Women may also be served here someday, though the setup might be difficult to arrange. Soucie believes the building can serve as an educational tool for people interested in the green roof, skylight bringing in natural light, and water recovery system. Whatever its uses, Blanchet House of Hospitality is a stellar example of what is possible when community members see a need and gather their resources to accomplish an aim that can serve generations.