Rational helps Balmoral Hotel keep its landmark status

Iconic Edinburgh hotel uses advanced cooking equipment to feed its guests

The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh is one of the most easily recognisable buildings in the city. Built as a railway hotel in the early 20th century, it has served as the temporary home for generations of visitors to the city, as well as being the ideal location for meetings, conferences, weddings and all kinds of celebrations. “We serve everyone here,” says executive chef Jeff Bland. “From your granny to the Queen!”

Catering at The Balmoral is a huge operation. “We have ten banqueting rooms, each capable of serving anything from 2 to 300 people. And we have to be able to use all ten simultaneously. There’s also a 221 seat brasserie, a 50 seat Michelin starred restaurant, and we serve up to 150 afternoon teas a day, and of course we have 24 hour room service. On top of that, we have 300 staff that need to be fed too.”

With such a wide range of requirements the equipment in the kitchens needs to be 100% reliable. “We have a lot of Rational equipment,” says Jeff.

The kitchens at the Balmoral include a diverse selection of Rational’s range. This includes ten combi ovens, a mix of VarioCookingCenters (VCC), SelfCookingCenters (SCC) and CombiMaster Plus units.

While the SelfCookingCenter units integrate Rational’s advanced software to control every step of the cooking process. The units at the Balmoral range from the XS, which is 55.5cm deep and 65.5cm wide, to the 202 unit, which can hold 20 2/1 Gastronorm pans and prepare up to 500 meals a day.

“We need to be able to prepare both very large and very small batches, often simultaneously,” says Jeff. “Having the same equipment in different sizes removes the worry that we’ll get different results.”

Complementing the combi ovens are five VarioCookingCenter units, including one with the pressure cooking option. The synergy between the VCC and the SCC has impressed Jeff. “The two machines work brilliantly with each other,” Jeff explains. “For example, we can braise meat in a VCC and then pop it in the oven on a slow cooking program overnight to finish it.”

Consistency of results was one of the major factors when it came to choosing equipment. “When you’re doing a minimum of 1000 covers a day, you need to be sure everything comes out exactly how you want,” says Jeff. “If you’re preparing 200 meals, you want 200 identical meals.” Even complex recipes can be prepared easily with Rational. “Once we had to make 300 soufflés, and we got 300 perfect soufflés! We were very impressed with that.”

The speed and efficiency of the machines was also important. “It doesn’t take long for the VCC to get up to working temperature, and the turnaround between batches is also very quick.”

This efficiency is also key in the SCCs. “With our old equipment, you’d be wasting time turning trays in the oven so everything would brown evenly, but the temperature in the SelfCookingCenter is so consistent throughout, everything gets cooked to perfection without having to make adjustments,” says Jeff. “It saves the staff a lot of time.”

There are other savings, too. “There’s less waste now, when the whole batch comes out as you want it, so you don’t have to over cater to make up for any shortfall,” he says. “We’ve also noticed a significant drop in the amount of energy the kitchens are consuming, which is obviously nice.”

With so many chefs trained on and used to working on traditional equipment, introducing modern technology can seem challenging, but Jeff was impressed at the level of support Rational offers.

“Like most chefs, we’re usually too busy and we were a little worried about how we’d have time to learn to use the new equipment,” he explains. “The training sessions Rational organises were fantastic in that regard, plenty of great advice.

“For example, before we did the training I was absolutely sure that I would never use the Rationals to fry an egg, but we learned during the session how you could make perfect fried eggs at the same time as everything else that goes into a fried breakfast. It was surprising, but seeing the results helped me to change my attitudes about what this equipment could do.”

Jeff is sure that as he and his staff become more familiar with their Rational equipment, they’ll discover more things they can do with it. “The more you use them, the more ideas you get for how they can be used,” he says. “We’re having new ideas every day now. Rational gives you food for thought!”

Rational at the Balmoral Hotel

Combi Masters: XS, 2×61, 201, 202

SelfCookingCenter: 2×101

VarioCookingCenter: five including 112T