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Cotswolds hotel chef slashes kitchen prep time after equipment switch

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An exclusive Cotswolds hotel has described how integrating a multifunctional appliance into its kitchen has transformed its catering operations from top to bottom. 

Manor by the Lake, based on the outskirts of Cheltenham, hosts multiple events throughout the year as well as needing to feed overnight guests, and required kitchen equipment that could deliver restaurant-quality cuisine for banqueting quantities.

Head chef, Norbert Schon, says that originally a traditional cookline was enough, but as the business has grown, that more traditional set-up became inadequate.

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Furthermore, the limitations imposed by their location made expansion of the facilities difficult.

“We’re in a Grade-II listed building, so we can’t knock walls through,” he explained. “That also makes it impossible to install the fire extinguishing systems a deep fat fryer would need, and the heat generated by the equipment made the kitchen quite an uncomfortable working environment. So we definitely needed to think of new ways of working.”

Manor by the Lake already had a Rational SelfCookingCenter 201 and considered getting a second, but in the end Schon realised there was more gains to be had from adding a VarioCookingCenter to his shopping list as well.

Consequently, the hotel has now installed a SelfCookingCenter 101e and a VarioCookingCenter (VCC) 112+ with pressure cooking capabilities.

He says the equipment has changed the way his team works quite considerably. “Making stocks used to be an overnight job; we’d have to have someone working all night, checking it every half an hour to make sure it hadn’t run out of water. It was very time-consuming.”

With the VCC now installed, that constant inspection is no longer required and the process is much faster.

“It has really streamlined our process for making stocks and jus. It also means there is less noise in our kitchens overnight, which is helpful for the guests staying in rooms nearby.”

The flexibility of the Rational equipment has led to Manor by the Lake changing a lot of its menu in order to maximise efficiency.

“The decreased cooking time, and the speed of changing between cooking processes, has really affected the way we do things here. For example, if we had an event with braised beef on the menu, we would have to cook that the day before, chill it, and then reheat it on the day. But now, we can pressure cook it for an hour and a half in the VCC on the day.”

Mr Shon said the hotel has also been able to cut prep time down from 12 hours a day to seven, while it has benefitted from the way that the units work together.

“We use the VCC to sear chicken and then transfer it to the SCC to finish it up. You get that beautiful seared colour, and it’s still wonderfully moist once it’s cooked.”

Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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