When it comes to executing the perfect event, chefs rely on an arsenal of specialty equipment for preparing, plating, holding and serving.
Like a painter’s brush or a carpenter’s saw, chefs must put their trust in a number of tools to properly perform their craft. Fortunately for them—and the members and guests for whom they cook—manufactures have stepped up to the plate with a variety of equipment options that can help them do just about everything, from perfectly roasting and holding ten beef tenderloins to puréeing a sauce into a silky smooth consistency.
When it comes to banquets, though, certain pieces prove more valuable—and useful—than others.
“There are a few pieces of banquet equipment that would be nice to have if I dreamed my biggest dream,” says Cris Carter, Executive Chef and Assistant General Manager at Parkland (Fla.) Golf & Country Club. “But a well-organized and productive banquet operation is made up of workhorses—pieces of equipment that are efficient, multi-functional and durable.”
Setting Up Shop
When Parkland G&CC opened its golf clubhouse in May of 2012, member dining relocated from the sports clubhouse to the new space. This freed up a 6,400-sq. ft., fully equipped kitchen for banquets, catering and more.
“Before we opened the new clubhouse, everything ran out of the kitchen in the sports clubhouse,” explains Carter.
|Tools of the Trade
Jean-Pierre Dubray has been the Executive Chef at The Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Coast, Calif., since the property’s pre-opening in 2008. As the resort’s F&B program has evolved to incorporate more local ingredients while serving an increasing number of guests, its banquet operation has become well-versed in weddings, group meetings, social events, executive retreats, and golf tournaments.Chef Dubray shared some insights with Chef to Chef into what pieces of equipment he believes are most essential to the resort’s banquet success.C2C: What are some of the most versatile pieces of equipment for banquets?
JPD: For both banquets and a la carte dining, high-quality pots, pans and cookware are essential. No aluminum.C2C: What piece of banquet equipment can you not live without?
JPD: A high-performance blender is essential.
C2C: What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to banquet equipment?
C2C: Do you do many banquets away from traditional spaces?
C2C: How are heating/cooling issues dealt with when normal utility functions might not be available?
Dividing the property’s layout between banquet and a la carte proved to be a blessing in disguise. “Not only are we able to run banquets from the space in the sports clubhouse, we were also able to convert some of that kitchen into a dedicated bake shop,” says Carter. “Now we’re able to do all of our own breads and pastries—something we didn’t have the space to do before—without getting in one another’s way.”
Parkland’s dedicated production kitchen has allowed the club to focus on—and grow—the banquet side of its operation. “We didn’t have to purchase a ton of new equipment when we made the switch, but we did need certain pieces that are geared more toward high-yield cooking,” says Carter.
For mobility purposes, induction cookers, which work by generating a magnetic wave at the cooking surface, were purchased. (The units actually produce no heat, but when you place a pan with magnetic metal on the cooktop surface, the magnetic wave heats the pan. The result is even, instant and controllable heat.)
“Induction is great for buffets, action stations or as a chafing-dish warmer,” says Carter.
In addition to the induction units, Parkland also purchased a combi oven, as well as a cook-and-hold oven with a patented, dual-heat system that brings food to a precise, uniform temperature and then holds it for hours.
“There was a bit of a learning curve with the cook-and-hold oven, in that it has so many capabilities,” says Carter. The oven’s features include high-yield roasting, steaming, poaching, vari-temp steaming, braising, rethermalizing, baking, low-temp cooking, bagless “sous vide,” and more.
“Blenders have also become integral parts of our operation,” Carter notes. “Everything we bought has earned its keep in just the past year.”
In addition to the equipment in the banquet kitchen, Parkland G&CC has found that a few key pieces are especially good for events hosted in non-traditional spaces, where it makes more sense to build a kitchen. Among the most important items for this purpose are the aforementioned induction units, as well as grills that use propane, reports Carter.
“We also worked with one particular manufacturer to have a custom portable buffet retrofitted in a more dated portable unit,” he says. “It’s one of the best pieces we have now. For events, mobility and portability are key, so it’s important to have the right equipment to handle those kinds of jobs.”
Barton Hills Country Club, Ann Arbor, Mich., takes a more old-school approach to off-premise events. “We build our menus around the kinds of equipment we can move and use,” says Renee Hogges, Executive Chef. “This means that grills, sternos, ice and holding units are our workhorses.”
Just as Carter relies on a few key pieces of equipment to handle Parkland G&CC’s $1.1 million catering operation, Hogges, who does about $800,000 in catering annually, has her own celebrated list.
“The pieces we rely on the most on the banquet side of our operation are bigger and better at handling higher-volume cooking,” she says
The superstars in Barton Hills’ 1,000-sq. ft. banquet kitchen are its four double-stacked ovens, extensive counter spaces, ten-burner stove, holding equipment and, of course, the steamer.
“Our steamer is our most versatile piece of banquet equipment,” says Hogges. “It can cook potatoes, hard-boil eggs and reheat pasta.”