Falcon and Williams help Darlington College bounce back from fire damage

New kitchen designed to help students experience the industry

In October 2016, Darlington College’s main production kitchens were destroyed in a fire. “The damage was far greater than we’d initially thought,” says James Butterfield, head of estates and facilities. “It was quite a shock when we realised we’d need a complete refurbishment.”

With approximately 1500 full-time and 1500 part-time students to keep fed, this unexpected refurbishment obviously required prompt action. As well as being a vital service for the college it is also part of its educational portfolio. “The kitchen is essentially split into two,” explains James. “One half is for the food served in our food court and coffee shop, the other half produces food for our restaurant, both of which are run by students, supported by staff.”

Conditions of the insurance meant that any new equipment had to be equivalent to the old gear. “We needed expert help in getting the kitchens back up and running as quickly as possible,” says James. “This is why we called in GastroNorth. We’ve used them in the past on smaller projects, so we know they’ve got the expertise to be able to provide exactly what we need”.

With these requirements in mind GastroNorth got to work, and chose equipment that would be able to handle the demands of commercial production while meeting the educational needs of Darlington’s students.

After careful consideration of Darlington’s requirements, equipment from Falcon and Williams was selected to handle the cookery and refrigeration, respectively. “We need extremely robust equipment,” says James. “An average day sees us producing roughly 800 meals, which is demanding enough, but when you consider that students aren’t the most gentle of users we really need something rock solid!”

The Falcon equipment selected for Darlington College’s kitchens covers all eventualities. Centring around two burner and two solid top ranges, there are also deep fat fryers and griddles. Three grills from the Dominator Plus series rounds out the selection. The solid top range is ideal for multi-pot cooking, and has a removable centre section to allow the use of direct heat if required. The four-burner model has individual cast-iron pan supports and uses a one-piece pressed hob, which prevents grease build up and makes the unit simple to clean. Both ranges have integrated oven units capable of holding 2/1 Gastronorm pans, and have a metal-to-metal door seal ensuring temperature is maintained in the oven, increasing efficiency. Deep fat fryer units have advanced temperature control and automatic filtration to maintain oil quality for as longer.

Williams equipment at the college includes a walk-in coldroom, cabinets and counters from the Jade range, an Aztra undercounter refrigerator and an Onyx salad prep counter. This provides a complete storage solution designed to keep ingredients in perfect condition through every stage of the journey through the kitchen. “The walk-in fridge is fantastic,” says James. “Last summer was really hot, but even under those conditions it’s able to maintain the correct temperature”. Previously Darlington had another brands’ equipment. Williams continually develops and improves its products and the college’s new refrigeration is a significant improvement. “We’ve actually got more storage space now, within the same footprint – it’s very impressive!”

A lot of Williams equipment can be customised according to the requirements of customers. “One of our counter units has been fitted with a marble worktop,” says James. “This is used to create a dedicated workspace for making pastries and cakes.”

The new equipment is already having an impact at Darlington. “Walking in to a burned-out kitchen wasn’t a great feeling,” says James. “But when GastroNorth handed over a new state-of-the-art facility six months later that certainly helped.

“Williams and Falcon make equipment that work excellently together,” James explains. “Being able to provide students with experience of using professional equipment in a real commercial kitchen gives their careers the right start, as well as helping to keep the rest of the college well fed!”

Falcon is the UK’s leading manufacturer and supplier of high-quality, commercial prime cooking equipment. Its extensive product portfolio includes gas and electric ranges, grills, fryers, chargrills, steamers, convection and combination ovens.

Williams Refrigeration supplies a wide selection of gastronorm cabinets and counters, prep stations, blast chillers/freezers, bottle coolers, bakery and modular coldrooms.

Williams and Falcon are both members of the ALI Group and design. They supply hotels, hospitals, schools, restaurants, bars and kitchens around the world. Visit www.falconfoodservice.com and www.williams-refrigeration.co.uk for more information.