Rational equipment dramatically cuts energy use at Middlesbrough College

New equipment helps college keep up with demand while cutting costs

With its striking modern campus overlooking the River Tees, Middlesbrough College is the largest college on Teesside. It currently has around 13,500 students and offers an extensive range of further education and higher education courses.

With over 1,000 staff, it’s no surprise that the catering department plays a vital role in the smooth running of the college. Catering manager Alister Wrigley oversees 58 catering staff servicing six outlets. “We have three main cafes, a sandwich bar, a fast food outlet, the college shop as well as the award winning Waterside Brasserie, which gives students the opportunity to gain experience of working in a professional foodservice environment,” he says. “It’s a very flexible environment, we do everything from commercial cookery to restaurant quality meals.”

The kitchens were recently refurbished and upgraded with modern equipment, including five Rational SelfCookingCenters and a VarioCookingCenter. “Our priorities were to get modern catering equipment that would help us to reduce energy use, and save time. Since the college opened in 2008 it has grown substantially, and our more traditional equipment wasn’t able to cope with the increasing demand,” says Alister.

When considering the equipment needed required to deliver catering service levels, Alister was already sure about what he wanted. “I’ve used Rational equipment in the past, so I knew how advanced it was. But once I saw how far they’ve come in recent years, the choice was obvious.”

Both the SelfCookingCenter and VarioCookingCenter are truly multifunctional appliances, capable of performing a range of traditional cooking techniques in a fraction of the space. The market’s leading combination oven, the SelfCookingCenter has a footprint of less than 1m² yet is capable of roasting, baking and grilling as well as steaming, poaching and stewing. The VarioCookingCenter is a multifunctional unit that combines the functions of a kettle, sous vide, fryer, griddle, bratt pan and frying pans.

“The new equipment has changed the way we work in a number of ways,” says Alister. “We have more available space in the kitchen – it gives staff much more room to work in, and they can concentrate on making the best food they can.”

Both Rational products use advanced control systems to monitor the cooking process, and make continuous adjustments in order to guarantee perfectly consistent results every time. For example, the SelfCookingCenter’s Hi Density Control uses sensors to monitor and adjust air temperature and humidity to enable it to cook perfect crisp crusts without drying out the product.

The SelfCooking Center’s powerful control system also lets it cook different foods at the same time, adjusting cabinet conditions and using alerts when staff intervention is necessary. “Knowing that we can fill it with the individual elements of a cooked breakfast, at the same time, and they’ll each come out perfect is fantastic, it lets our staff concentrate on more important stuff.”

Middlesbrough College has four SelfCooking Center 101 units, with a 10 1/1 GN capacity, an XS model, and a 61, with a 6 1/1 GN capacity. Each 101 can prepare up to 150 meals a day, while the 61 is capable of up to 100 meals, and the XS up to 80 meals.

The college also has a VarioCooking Center 112+, with the pressure cooking option. Its two 14 litre pans can be used independently, allowing for even greater flexibility. The patented VarioBoost system allows it to reach 200°C in two and a half minutes, which means it takes less time to get started and helps to reduce downtime between courses.

Built-in cooking intelligence constantly monitors the process ensuring nothing boils over, sticks or scorches. It even tells chefs when to make adjustments to dishes. This helps in keeping results consistent between batches. “We make everything from scratch, so consistency is vital. We can prepare soups or curries with the VarioCooking Center,” says Alister, “then quickly clean it before using it to cook rice or braise meat. It’s incredibly versatile!

“One of my favourite features is Connected Cooking, which gives me the option to centrally manage the systems and the cooking programs from a pc, tablet or smartphone. I can set the exact parameters of each recipe, then upload it to all the units. This means that everything will always come out the same, regardless of where it’s cooked.”

In addition to the refurbishment of the kitchen, the college recently opened a new site.  “Transferring our existing Rational programs to the new equipment helped us get set up more quickly, as well as once again helping to keep our products consistent,” says Alister.

Incorporating new technology into a traditional kitchen might seem difficult. “We’ve got some very experienced, talented chefs working here, but they can still be nervous about using new equipment but Rational offers comprehensive training to help with this. It’s been marvellous, I had a few training sessions and was then able to transmit that knowledge to the chefs,” says Alister. “Obviously as time goes on the chefs have more questions, so soon we’ll be doing some of Rational’s advanced courses, to enable them to get the most out of our units. We’ve also run sessions for students, to help them get used to working with the latest equipment.”

Another benefit of modern multifunctional equipment is the reduction in energy use. “Looking for new ways to reduce running costs is always on our mind,” says Alister. “Being able to consolidate the functions of a traditional kitchen suite into a few pieces of equipment will obviously have an effect on that, but the college’s estate department were very surprised at how much the use of gas, water and electricity has gone down in the kitchens since the refurbishment!”

Introducing modern equipment can be challenging, but the experience of Middlesbrough College has shown that choosing products from a company that provides comprehensive support and training makes it easy. “I’m so pleased we went with Rational,” says Alister. “We are providing students with the experience of equipment they’ll be using in the industry, and it’s helping to modernise our operation too.”

RATIONAL is the leading provider in hot food preparation equipment and, with the SelfCookingCenter and VarioCookingCenter, the company delivers all a commercial kitchen’s thermal cooking requirements.  Together, the two appliances offer the best cooking solutions.  For information and brochures, or to come to a free SelfCookingCenter Live or VarioCookingCenter Live demonstration, call +44 (0)1582 480388, freephone 0800 389 2944 or visit www.rational-online.com



Editor’s notes:


The RATIONAL Group is the world market and technology leader in the field of hot food preparation for professional kitchens. Founded in 1973, the company employs more than 1,100 people in Germany and a total of around 2,000 worldwide. Since the IPO in 2000, RATIONAL has been listed on the Prime Standard of the German Stock Exchange and is included in the SDAX.

The primary objective of the company is to always offer its customers maximum benefits. Internally RATIONAL is committed to the principle of sustainability, expressed in its policies on environmental protection, leadership and social responsibility. Year after year, numerous international awards testify to the exceptional quality of RATIONAL’s work.