The Marco Polo lounge, where light items from both specialty houses and a raw bar could be enjoyed by people stopping in for cocktails or customers waiting for tables. The two restaurants share a gilded lion-flanked entrance and the open atrium-style lounge but have separate seating, menus, and staff. However, because members of a party in one restaurant can order items from the menu of the other restaurant, the kitchens must be a miracle of separate but cooperative activity.
Despite multi-course service and made-to-order preparation of 90 percent of the items on wide-ranging menus, only about 26 percent of the restaurants’ square footage is devoted to the back-of-the-house. The kitchen includes two fully equipped cooking lines, each with its own refrigeration, and a wide spectrum of specialized cooking equipment.
This economy of planning is possible because of three key factor
- Speed of cooking systems in both kitchens
- Lack of inhibiting cross traffic
- Shared dishwashing, dry storage, receiving, and prep areas.
About 90 percent of the Szechwan Palace’s 63-item entree menu is prepared in woks. On the Chinese kitchen’s custom-designed, five-wok range, a single chef with two helpers can put out five or six different dishes every three to four minutes and up to 15 portions of each dish can be prepared in a wok.
Teamwork and layout of the cooking station also speed up production
- There a chef’s helper chops and plates all the vegetables, meats, fowl and seafood for each dish, then hands it the wok chef.
- The wok chef drops the food into the sizzling wok, adds necessary sauce and seasonings which are on an ingredient tray next to his range.
Three or four minutes later
The dish is plated and handed down the line, and the wok chef brushes and rinses his wok, readying it for the next dish. The plated meal goes to a chef’s helper stationed at a 20-compartment garnish unit who then places it on the tray line for service.
Next on the cooking line is a Chinese smoking cabinet where duck for Peking duck is smoked a day in advance and appetizer barbecue ribs smoke throughout the service periods. Beside this oven is a knee-high range top for soups. Often the executive chef will be stationed here to oversee final garnishing of the more elaborate dishes prepared at both the wok and fry stations.
This slower traffic area is purposely positioned between the wok station and the appetizer station, the other very high production section at the front of the line. Because management anticipated the popularity of the Chinese appetizers for patrons of both restaurants, the lounge and catered parties, this station was designed for maximum flexibility and capacity. Two double fryers, a convection steamer, saute range, a microwave oven and a double door reach-in refrigerator allow two chefs to prepare everything from Shanghai spring rolls to pot stickers in enormous quantities.
A line parallel to the main cooking line has prep tables, a sink and several reach-in refrigerators where a chef’s helper is stationed to feed ingredients and utensils and take finished dishes from the chefs for carry-out packaging.
Traffic up and down the line is thus minimized, yet stations can be replenished and dishes delivered to the waiters’ stations on a minute-to-minute basis. Two entrances to the Chinese kitchen help keep service to both the main dining room and party rooms running smoothly.
To control traffic during service periods, pass-thru windows between the two kitchens are limited to a corridor in front of the walk-in coolers and another through the dish room. At these points, the order expediters of each kitchen can confer with both staffs to coordinate cross orders.
Stations In the Kitchen Area
In the seafood kitchen, the preparation system and layout is very different and considerably more compact. The saute station where many of the entrees are prepared is at the front of the line closest to the dining room and to the dishroom. This station is equipped with a compartmentalized steam table for sauces, under-the-counter refrigeration and a small work area. Though each chef in this line works independently, he is still able to prepare many dishes quickly because of the fast-cooking nature of most seafoods.
The next station, manned by a broiler chef, owes its efficiency to the extremely hot temperatures produced by the mesquite grill. Convection ovens and steamers are used in this kitchen for the same reason. Most seafood entrees are prepared by these methods in five to seven minutes.
Next along this line is a pastry oven used during nonservice hours to prepare desserts for both restaurants. The main prep area for both kitchens is at the end and at right angles to this line and is equipped with a large stainless steel work surface, sink, and shelving above and below.
Along the outside of the line is a steam table and tray counter opposite the saute and grill stations where waiters pick up finished dishes, and a rolling salad and pastry refrigeration unit.
Warewashing facilities, storage, and receiving areas are shared by the two restaurants. The compact dishwashing room is located to the front of the kitchens. It is equipped with a triple tank which works much faster than conventional machines. Pot washing for the Sandpiper saute station is efficiently managed without overloading from the Chinese kitchen where woks are cleaned right at the range. Receiving and storage areas are located at the very back of the kitchens.
Another difficulty caused by the two separate and diverse menus is cross contamination of food and cooking odors. As well as completely separate refrigeration, two high capacity ventilation systems were installed. In addition, all equipment has top mounted compressors to allow each piece a six-inch clearance from the floor for cleaning.