Wednesday 30th September 2009 by C. Freeman
The kitchen at Brooke Weston has recently been overhauled and redesigned which has increased the food preparation areas and made it a more efficient workspace. The whole area has been refitted with new equipment including two steam and electric ovens and an industrial cooking pan which means that it's easier to produce the large quantities of casseroles and curries on the menu.
With breakfast and lunch to prepare daily for hundreds of people it is no surprise that that catering department runs to a tight schedule. The food is freshly prepared on site each day and great attention is paid to providing healthy and varied options. A total of 16 people work for Partnership Catering, with seven working wholly in the kitchens while the rest serve and help out in the restaurant. They are a close-knit team, headed up by Christine Gray, who is responsible for the organisation, administration and ordering. She and chef Dale Campbell devise different menus throughout the year, using seasonal ingredients.
Christine said: 'I have been here since 1992 and I first started as a general assistant so I have seen some big changes in the catering department. Each dish has to be carefully costed out and getting the right balance of food is always a juggling act, especially if there's unforeseen circumstances like many students and staff absent due to illness. Roast dinners and curries are always very popular but the vegetarian options are increasing in uptake and tomato soup is a big seller.'
The range of food on offer means that everything has to be timed with pinpoint accuracy and it means an early start and late finish. Chef Dale Campbell arrives on site at 06:15. He checks and unpacks deliveries from the butcher, baker and greengrocer before baking baguettes for the lunchtime service. Each day the restaurant prepares around 150 baguettes along with sandwiches and salads as well as a choice of hot meals.
Breakfast preparations get underway when chef Adam Sonn arrives at 07:00. Cooking on this scale is immense, typically 144 eggs need scrambling, 12.5kg of bacon is grilled and 320 sausages are baked daily alongside the tomatoes, beans and mushrooms.
While breakfast is being served lunch preparations are also underway with the progress of each dish being ticked off on a whiteboard behind the scenes. While 150 jacket potatoes are being baked, the salads are chopped and plated and the baguettes filled, wrapped and labelled. Debbie McCardie makes cakes and puddings to supplement the ones from the bakers and about 600 desserts are consumed daily.
The most popular main meals are Wednesday's roast dinners and fish and chips which are served on Fridays. As the staff and students typically get through a massive 45 kg of roast meat then it is cooked and sliced the day before. Other dishes, such as lasagne, tuna pasta bake and pies are also labour-intensive, being prepared in advance and then finished off on the day of serving.
Dale, who has worked here since 1996, said: 'The best new equipment is a bigger bratt pan and new steamers. All the freezers have been moved out of the kitchen to make room for another bench so basically there's three more food preparation tables which makes a big difference. I always work to a minute by minute schedule in my head and always have two or three things going on at once. By ten o' clock in the morning I want everything that's going out that day on or done.'
Christine added: 'I was really happy for the kitchen to be altered because it has made it so much better for the kitchen staff. The working environment in there is 110 percent better now. We've had a complete refit of everything. We always get a very good report from the Environmental Health Officer and my aim now is to get the gold award from Corby Borough Council because now we've got our new kitchen and our new flooring. With catering you are only as good as your team and we are good at what we do. I've got a fantastic team and now we've got fantastic facilities as well.'