A renowned family-oriented private club in Charlottesville, Va., Farmington Country Club resides nearly 4 miles from the University of Virginia and has 2,500 members, 450 staff members and $21 million in operating revenue.
The most recent design project features a replacement main kitchen to update equipment and meet members’ quality and variety expectations for food and services. This kitchen includes space for a chef’s table and cooking lessons. The project also includes a renovation of an existing kitchen, a complete overhaul of the courtyard serving all those functions, a new member elevator connecting the main level to the guest rooms, and renovations of various member-guest spaces and guest rooms. In addition, one of the club’s dining facilities, the Blue Ridge Room, was converted into a cocktail lounge and three-season dining room, while the former bar became a private dining room and wine-tasting room. Also, the club renovated the staff restaurant and dining room, staff lockers and a new staff entry.
To fully appreciate the most recent project, understanding the club’s history and prior projects shines light on the project designers’ decisions. The club opened in 1927, although some buildings date back to the early 1800s when Thomas Jefferson designed part of the iconic central structure, including an octagonal addition, which is now the east wing of the clubhouse and a World Heritage Site.
In its history, Farmington has undergone more than 30 additions and interventions but always with a consistent Georgian style rendered in red brick and white trim. “Having grown by accretion, the resulting layout is rambling, but the consistency of the architectural treatment, inside and out, are its glue and connective tissue,” says John Kirk, AIA, partner, Cooper Robertson, New York City. “As such, it is what I refer to affectionately as an exquisite mess. In short, it is a very sensitive setting, one that must be handled with kid gloves, a light touch and fine motor skills.”
In 2013, members of the Cooper Robertson architectural firm team completed a master plan and then continued to design their recommendations.
In 2015, The Blue Ridge Room was renovated and expanded, which provided an interim dining space while the next project, Southside Grill & Pub, which is the club’s year-round membership dining service, was under construction.
In 2016, Southside Grill & Pub opened with a new arrival/entrance area, a bar, a dining room, an indoor seating area and a covered outdoor dining area, all overlooking the first tee and warm-up golf range.
In 2017, the Blue Ridge Room’s outdoor dining patio and firepit were completed. Because of the success of the first two projects, Blue Ridge Room and Southside Grill & Pub, the demand for outdoor dining increased. This patio area offers stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, especially at dusk.
In 2020, a new main kitchen was completed. “The need for a new kitchen had been discussed for decades, so this project was a long time coming,” Kirk says. “The new main kitchen was constructed first so operations in the existing kitchen could continue to the best degree possible.”
The kitchen was designed to allow flexibility and capability to servicing restaurants, banquets and staff dining. It also serviced the Blue Ridge Room simultaneously while the next phase occurred. The main kitchen, parts of which had not been updated or renovated in more than two decades, needed to be brought up to the same level of first-class quality as the guest areas of the club.
“Recognizing that it would be many years before another major renovation was done, the club’s executive chef, general manager and the club’s membership all had a vision for a world-class kitchen to support their award-winning culinary team,” Kirk says. The main kitchen used parts of the existing kitchen along with a sizable addition to the building to create the spaces needed to support the ever-increasing food and beverage program.
The new kitchen is a two-story structure that abuts and runs the length of the south facade of the main dining room with its existing, soaring, arched triple-hung windows. “One interesting challenge was in the building exterior design,” says Sam Blodgett, associate, Cooper Robertson. “Since the architecture of the various club buildings is very Jeffersonian, the exterior of the new kitchen addition needed to match the facade, roof lines and building details.”
The architects also preserved the interior architecture of that south facade and with the new public-facing facade, clad in a combination of brick veneer and wood clapboard, created faux windows because major kitchen equipment backs up to the exterior walls. The windows contain dark-green wood shutters consistent with the character of Farmington. “These are light boxes, so they glow in the evening just like the actual windows adjacent to them in the existing ballroom,” Kirk says.
The renovation of the existing kitchen, which was renamed the Blue Ridge Room Kitchen, opened in early May 2021, in time to support Mother’s Day brunches. The kitchen serves the Blue Ridge Room and its patio when in season. This kitchen supports membership experiences such as chefs’ tables, cooking lessons, and wine tastings and pairings. Known as the infrastructure project, it began in 2019 and includes 6,700 square feet of renovation plus 13,600 square feet of new construction, for a total of 20,300 square feet over two stories. The renovation also houses the new Allergy Kitchen, along with the loading and trash dock, which greatly improved the previous purchasing and receiving process.
The design project also included renovation of the basement level with an employee locker room and an employee cafeteria and lounge called the Downtime Café. Employees also now have a new entrance into the building housing the new kitchen and time clock system, further improving the quality of their back-of-the-house experience. It also included a complete overhaul of the courtyard serving the new kitchen, Blue Ridge kitchen, the employee facilities and main dining room, as well as a new guest elevator connecting the main level to the guest rooms. Guest rooms received minimal but noticeable renovation. The design project also included components described earlier.
The project designers faced challenges with ADA and fire separation requirements. “Farmington rests at multiple finish floor elevations, and building codes required a complete fire separation between the new structure and the existing structure, representing serious challenges for seamless, unincumbered food and beverage operations,” Kirk says. “Through careful planning, clever design and technical acuity, we were able to overcome those challenges to great success.”
Keeping foodservices and other services fully functioning while renovating the kitchen challenged the design team. “COVID was an additional challenge for getting the project done,” says Sam Blodgett, associate, Cooper Robertson. “Fewer members came to the club at that time, but those who did relied on the services provided.”
Main Kitchen Food Production
After food arrives at a new and enlarged loading dock, staff place deliveries in a large central refrigerated area with a walk-in cooler, a walk-in freezer and dry storage.
Staff prepare menu items for banquets in the garde manger area, which holds an upright refrigerator, prep tables, prep sinks and a deli slicer. This area remains at 60 degrees F for safe food handling. “We’re preparing all menu items from scratch, so we need enough prep space for everyone to work efficiently,” says Michael Matarazzo, CEC, executive chef, Farmington Country Club, who was involved in every part of the foodservice design process.
The adjacent 600-square-foot pastry shop holds a 60-quart mixer, a double-stacked convection oven and a triple-deck artisan stone hearth deck oven. “Each deck of the oven features independent upper and lower heating elements and temperature digital controls, steam injection and a stone deck for producing high-quality from-scratch baked goods,” says Dan Bendall, FCSI, principal, FoodStrategy Inc., Rockville, Md.
The steam-injected oven will allow the culinary team to start its own house-made bread program. “Eventually we can be making 100% of our bread here,” Matarazzo says.
“This area was designed specifically to attract a top-notch pastry chef,” Bendall says. An adjacent chocolate room allows chefs to prepare delicious, elegant desserts.
A blast chiller sits outside the pastry room. “This piece of equipment flash-freezes and allows us to keep records of all the menu items placed in this machine,” Matarazzo says. “I’ve worked with a blast chiller before and know how important it is for safe food production.”
The hot cooking area contains prep tables configured so staff can work on the sides of the room and in the middle. Also on the hot line are combi ovens that staff use to cook bread, vegetables, proteins and menu items using the sous vide process. The line also includes a 45-gallon steam kettle for making stocks, a 35-gallon tilt skillet for cooking soups and sauces, and a French-top cooking range for simmering soups and sauces.
The hot cooking area also contains two convection ovens and two salamanders above three open-burner ranges for browning and finishing menu items. “The ranges feature top grates that allow staff to move pans freely around the range top as needed,” Bendall says. In addition, there is a flattop griddle for searing fish that staff often finish in the oven beneath. The flattop is also used for filet mignon, grilled cheese sandwiches and paninis. A chargrill heats fish and meats while the fryers with integrated filtering systems and Energy Star rating cook chicken, spring rolls and fish. Also, a large-capacity smoker produces some of the club’s signature smoked meats. The smoker can hold about 72 chickens or 70 racks of pork ribs. “A separate burner box and a convection fan ensure that the smoke flavor permeates the products,” Bendall adds. In addition, custom-fabricated ceiling-hung shelving raises shelving off the tables and maximizes worktop space flexibility.
A separate plating area has a walk-in refrigerator, an ice machine and a custom cooling well to chill soups and sauces. Tables with heat lamps provide ample space for staff to prepare banquet plates for up to 400 guests. “Having a separate space is very important to us,” Matarazzo says. “There is plenty of space for team members to move quickly and easily and not interfere with any cooking or food prep.”
The allergy kitchen, occupying about 180 square feet, is a unique feature not often found in local area restaurants. It contains a six-burner range, an oven, a fryer, a charbroiler and a dual-temperature refrigerator/freezer. For easy disinfecting, the area contains tile on the ceilings and waterproof lights. A surveillance camera tracks chefs’ activities. Anyone who enters must use a key fob and be certified in allergy food handling. “Right now, I’m the only one with a fob because of staff shortages,” Matarazzo says. “As more club guests request allergen-free menu items and we hire more staff, we’ll grow our services.”
The Blue Ridge finishing kitchen occupies 800 square feet. It contains a lineup of ranges including a plancha, open-burner ranges with ovens and refrigeration beneath and salamanders above, a charbroiler and two two-basket fryers. The custom chef’s counter’s heat lamps hang under double overshelves and undercounter refrigeration. The waitstaff service area contains a beverage counter, an ice bin, ice cuber, a water filter and drop-down heat lamps. Favorite menu items here include signature fire-roasted oysters.
“Overall, this project’s space has a good flow, allows excellent efficiency for production because staff’s steps are limited from point A to B, and provides all the resources we need to produce menu items and maintain good inventory control,” Matarazzo says. He adds that this project offered him tremendous freedom in design, and the outcome is a kitchen that functions extremely well.
“A single, large, centrally located dish room supports all the food and beverage areas serviced by the main kitchen,” Bendall says. The high-capacity dishwasher with tall wash compartment openings washes full-size baking pans as well as banquet and restaurant china and silverware. “A 15-foot-long dish drop table with glass rack shelving above ensures the dish area does not get overly congested,” Bendall says.
Adjacent to the dish room, a 3-compartment sink sits below a powered wash tank that pumps 200 gallons of water per minute over pots and pans, blasting away grease and grime while minimizing labor.
“The flow of turbulent, heated water provided by high-powered jets breaks down the baked-on food soil,” Bendall says.
Also, critical for space savings and equipment efficiency, an ice bin and cart system are centralized. Ice drops directly into mobile carts, eliminating safety concerns with handling. The 240-pound capacity carts can then be transported to a meeting room pantry or restaurant waitstaff service area as needed.
Along with offering members more services, the new additions and renovations help Farmington Country Club attract staff. “The culture here is great,” Kirk says. “It’s seen as a way to attract talent. Employees receive three meals a day, and they have their own cafe and entrance.” Members and staff appreciate finding the balance between preserving history and offering contemporary services to attract younger people whose expectations for food and service are very different than those of their parents.
About the Project
Full scope of project: New-build of a main kitchen with a pastry kitchen and allergy-free kitchen providing meals for banquets and two restaurants. Project also includes a renovation of an existing kitchen, a complete overhaul of the courtyard serving functions, a member elevator, and renovations of various member-guest spaces and guest rooms. In addition, renovation of Blue Ridge Room, which was converted into a bar, while the former bar became a private dining room and wine-tasting room. Blue Ridge kitchen provides space for a chef’s table and cooking lessons. Also, a renovated staff restaurant and dining room, named Downtime Café, as well as staff lockers and a new staff entry.
Opened: Phased opening started in June 2021 with last phase opening in December 2021
Scope of project: New-build of main kitchen and renovation of existing kitchen, plus renovation of Blue Ridge Room
Size: Kitchen, 10,300 sq. ft., including 800-square-foot Blue Ridge Room finishing kitchen but not including dishwashing
Seats in Blue Ridge Room: 120
Average check in Blue Ridge Room: $37 to $38
Total annual sales, food and beverage for entire club: $6 million
Daily transactions/covers in Blue Ridge Room: 70 to 75; Grill, breakfast, lunch and dinner, up to 400
Staff: 63 culinary staff
Owner: Member-owned private club
CEO/general manager: Joe Krenn, CCM, CCE, ECM
CFO: Julie Brown, CPA, CMA, CSCA, CCM
Club manager: Brandon Johnson
Executive chef: Michael Matarazzo, CEC
Architect: Cooper Robertson, New York, NY: John Kirk, AIA, partner; Sam Blodgett, associate
Interior design: Cooper Robertson and C2 Limited Design Associates, Norwalk, Conn.
Foodservice consultant: FoodStrategy Inc., Rockville, Md.: Dan Bendall, FCSI, principal
Equipment dealer: Singer/Ashland, Belcamp, Md.: Trae Harmon, project manager
Construction: Martin Horn Inc., Charlottesville, Va.
Dan Bendall, FCSI, principal, FoodStrategy Inc. Bendall’s work experience in foodservice design spans 41 years. He founded this firm 19 years ago. He has managed foodservice design projects in all in industrysegments, specializing in the hospitality market, and has worked in 29 countries.
Sam Blodgett, associate, Cooper Robertson. Blodgett joined the firm as an architectural designer 10 years ago. He helped design many of the firm’s custom, high-end residential projects as well as master planning and architecture projects for universities, schools and clubs domestically and abroad.
John Kirk, AIA, Cooper Robertson. Kirk joined the firm in 1989 and became a partner in 2000. He is a member of the firm’s management committee. Projects include the master plan for Lyford Cay Club in the Bahamas, The Stone Mill and cafe building at the New York Botanical Garden, and the renovation of the Inn at Perry Cabin in Maryland.
Michael Matarazzo, CEC, executive chef, Farmington Country Club. Matarazzo joined this club in 2014. He is also founder of Be Better Culinary Perspectives. He also held positions at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., the Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., and The Bear Mountain Inn in Bear Mountain, N.Y. In 2006, he served as captain of the U.S. Regional Culinary Olympic Team. He now serves as the lead advisory to the U.S. Army Culinary Arts Team.