Manor by the lake, Rational in the kitchen

Popular wedding venue streamlines its processes with Rational multifunctional appliances

Based in the Cotswolds, Manor by the Lake is an exclusive venue based in a Victorian manor surrounded by award winning gardens on the outskirts of Cheltenham. The ideal location for weddings, celebrations or business conferences, on any given day it will be hosting a variety of events.

Head chef Norbert Schon explains, “At our busiest we host multiple events, anything from small family weddings to two day events with hundreds of guests. We pride ourselves on our flexibility – we cater to everyone”.

The high tempo of work at the Manor is no reason to compromise on quality. “We all come from restaurant backgrounds,” says Norbert. “We want to make great food, and create great meals for all our guests.”

The drive to deliver restaurant quality with banqueting quantities means they require kitchen equipment that can produce large batches while maintaining consistently high standards. “When we started out, the traditional cookline was enough,” says Norbert. “But as the business has grown, that more traditional process was just not adequate.”

Furthermore, the limitations imposed by their location made expansion of the facilities difficult. “We’re in a grade 2 listed building, so we can’t knock walls through,” says Norbert. “That also makes it impossible to install the fire extinguishing systems a deep fat fryer would need, and the heat generated by the equipment made the kitchen quite an uncomfortable working environment! So we definitely needed to think of new ways of working.”

Manor by the Lake already had a Rational SelfCookingCenter (SCC) 201, so Norbert was already aware of the capabilities of Rational equipment. “We were looking at getting another SCC, but we soon realised the potential of using it in conjunction with the VarioCookingCenter, and once that possibility was in play, it became irresistible!”

It wasn’t long before Norbert took delivery of both a SelfCookingCenter 101e and a VarioCookingCenter (VCC) 112+. The VCC has pressure cooking capabilities, further expanding the possibilities it offers, within the kitchen environment.

“Our Rational appliances have changed the way we work quite considerably, already.” Says Norbert. “For example, making stocks used to be an overnight job; we’d have to have someone working all night, checking it every half an hour to make sure it hadn’t run out of water. It was very time consuming.”

With the VCC now installed, that constant inspection is no longer required and the process is much faster. “Yes, it has really streamlined our process for making stocks and jus,” says Norbert. “It also means there’s less noise in our kitchens overnight, which is helpful for the guests staying in rooms nearby!”

The flexibility of the Rational equipment has seen Manor by the Lake changing a lot of its menu in order to maximise efficiency. “The decreased cooking time, and the speed of changing between cooking processes, has really affected the way we do things here,” says Norbert. “For example, if we had an event with braised beef on the menu, we would have to cook that the day before, chill it, and then reheat it on the day. But now, we can pressure cook it for an hour and a half in the VCC on the day. You can’t get fresher than that!”

Every feature of both the VCC and SCC has been designed to help save chefs time, with the powerful control systems in both providing in-depth control over every step of the cooking process.

The two 14 ltr pans of the VCC 112+ can be used independently, with the patented VarioBoost heating system enabling it to reach 200 °C in two minutes. “It’s such a versatile piece of equipment,” says Norbert. “We use it for all kinds of things, every day. Obviously there’s making stocks, but it’s also ideal for preparing vegetables and pasta, even roasting.”

The SelfCookingCenter is equally powerful. “Being able to cook different dishes at the same time in the SelfCookingCenter lets us time each course precisely,” says Norbert. iLevelControl constantly monitors each rack within the SCC and adjusts cooking times to account for load size and how long the door is opened, guaranteeing perfect results every time. All cooking functions are controlled via a simple to use touchscreen interface, which allows precise adjustment of each variable according to your requirements.

Using both appliances together really allows them to shine. “That really shows how both Rational units work together,” he says. “For example, we use the VCC to sear chicken and then transfer it to the SCC to finish it up. You get that beautiful seared colour, and it’s still wonderfully moist once it’s cooked.”

The SCC at Manor by the Lake are the electric powered variants. “We now have no gas powered appliances in the kitchen here,” says Norbert. “The working environment is much nicer, the heat produced is minimal so it stays pleasant even at the height of summer. We’re also using less electricity overall, which must be good!”

The combination of time saving and efficiency created by using both Rational appliances together has had many positive effects at Manor by the Lake. “By cutting down a lot of the prep time, it’s helped to give me and my chefs a better work life balance,” says Norbert. “We used to spend roughly twelve hours on prep, but it’s closer to seven now on average. It’s impressed even our most traditional staff, which is not to be sniffed at!”