With 17,000 students, catering at Glasgow’s Caledonian University is a huge operation. The brand new main restaurant is part of a major rebuild, The Heart of the Campus project. “It’s called The Heart partly because it’s right in the middle of the campus,” says head of catering, Frank McCabe, “but also because it’s built round leafy courtyards where customers can relax in the fresh air – and because it’s designed to inspire social gatherings.” At the heart of any catering operation is the kitchen – and the heart of The Heart is built around cooking equipment from Falcon, with refrigeration supplied by sister company Williams Refrigeration, all of which was organised by Lockhart Catering Equipment.
“The restaurant reflects the rich ethnic mix of students here,” says Frank. “It’s essentially a food hall with a wide variety of different offerings, many cooked live – it’s great theatre. So we have everything from salad bars and sushi counters to burgers on the flame grill, pizzas, a soup station, deli bars, fresh fruit, grab & go merchandisers…”
So much front-of-house catering puts added pressure on cooking appliances. “They have to look good, be easy to clean and they have to be ultra-reliable,” says Frank.
“The decision to specify Falcon came down to four factors – quality was key, but also value for money. Going to the factory and seeing the equipment in operation was a real benefit. Finally, the expertise of the support service really pushed the button – demonstration chefs to show how to get the most from the equipment, and people to come on-site to help us when we need them.”
The catering is run by Cordia and initially Caledonian University’s new kitchen will supply The Heart restaurant and other catering outlets on campus. However, it has the capacity to expand and ultimately it may supply food for functions for Encore, Cordia’s hospitality arm. “With the Falcon combis and other prime cooking equipment, plus the Williams blast chillers, we can supply high quality, high volume cook-chill menus for large scale events,” says Frank.
Sustainability is at the top of the list of buying criteria throughout the university. “I have no doubt that we have reduced energy consumption in the kitchen by utilising new technologies,” says Frank. For example, the university has several Falcon energy-saving induction hobs. “Initially some chefs were sceptical, not having used induction. But you have to embrace change, even in the kitchen! Now the induction hobs are the first place they go to – they prefer them to a gas range,” says Frank.
The university is right in the middle of Glasgow, with the town centre literally 100 metres away. The quality of the university’s offering is essential and the equipment needs to be able to deliver. “We have to reflect, match and exceed what’s available on the high street,” says Frank. Which is one of the reasons for having four Falcon Infinity fryers in the kitchen. “To compete, we still have to offer chips. But it’s getting better. In the old days we used to get through thirty cases a day. Now we’re down to eight, reflecting the growing demand for healthier foods.”
As is standard with a modern kitchen design, there is huge emphasis on hygiene, food safety and avoiding cross contamination. “It’s great that modern equipment is so easy to clean – the Falcon appliances have ergonomic designs and rounded corners, and everything is on wheels so we can get under them,” says Frank. With increasing demand for halal foods, both the kitchen and the restaurant have separate halal areas, as well as a specialist chef, from the Punjab, to help meet the cultural and religious requirements.
For bulk cooking, Falcon supplied two Groen braising pans and a Groen tilting kettle. “They are brilliant for cooking big volumes, fast,” says Frank. “This being Scotland, there’s a passion for soup. We can’t supply enough – and it all has to be homemade. The titling kettle goes on first thing and it makes three batches of different soups during the day. We couldn’t be without it."
“When it comes to catering equipment, you don’t want to be worrying about it. It has to be reliable. You need suppliers with expertise, suppliers who give you confidence. Falcon delivers.”