Sense of Sustainability
A kitchen is more than just a place where food is stored and prepared. It has a large ecological impact on a hotel and hence, needs to be sustainable
By Pradeep Suvarna
A layperson might not consider designing a commercial kitchen a highly difficult proposition. After all, all that needs to be factored in is an area for food production, another for food storage, and one for food preparation, and one is ready to rock-n-roll!
This perception is not erroneous, given that kitchens were always considered to be a utilitarian space for food preparation. However, with constant innovation of appliances and ever-changing styles, over the past few years, these spaces have become the heart of a hotel, transforming into colorful and sleek areas. What’s more, the concept of live kitchens has led to the creation of modular spaces using equipment and products that are top-of-the-line.
At the same time, being in the cynosure of attention, the modern commercial kitchens also have to embrace sustainability to stay efficient and also be in sync with the overall discourse prevalent in the industry.
This is irrespective whether a kitchen is in a new build or a renovation. After all, did you know that kitchens have a major role to play in a hotel’s overall ecological footprint? Ask Chef Suvendu Roy, head chef, Hyatt Place Kalyani Nagar, who emphasised about this role played by a kitchen from the perspective of fuel and energy conservation, waste management, environmental purchasing and smart food production.
This is unsurprising, since a hotel’s kitchen is the heart of the food service operation where food and beverages are prepared, stored and plated. Hence, like Maqsood Jalikati, director of engineering at Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru pointed out, a combination of things such as material disposal, equipment, gadgets and operational processes determine the impact that the kitchen will have on the hotel’s environmental imprint.
For example, use of plastic, improper ventilation and excess energy consumption are some ways in which the environment can be negatively impacted. On the other hand, proper sewage treatment can help avoid water pollution, which is a positive influence.
According to Tanveer Kwatra, executive assistant manager, B&F of W Goa, by practicing the right habits hoteliers can conserve a lot of energy, water and resources. Also usage of ecofriendly chemicals is another way of contributing to nature.
A commercial kitchen can be more environmentally friendly if it follows sustainable operating practices from procurement to production, when it comes to management to produce. Talking about the steps taken by Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru to minimise its ecological footprint, Jalikati said that the company has undertaken various initiatives, which includes the installation of grease separators in the kitchen. “This help associates separate oil from water to ensure that the waste water is not polluted with the leftover oils and can be recycled. Additionally, the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) is used to clean the drain water and reuse it for air cooler and gardening. The UV lights in the kitchen hood purify the exhaust air, use green power and energy efficient equipment,” he added. It is because of these initiatives that the hotel has received the Golden Green and ISO 14001 certificates.
WIN-WIN FOR ALL
There are several ways to look at sustainability in kitchen design. On one front, there is food wastage, a longstanding issue that hotels have constantly tried to battle by using technology and educating the culinary staff. By addressing this issue, hotels can positively impact the environment and also give their profitability a fillip.
Then there is the investment in equipment that will help hotel kitchens to become more efficient. Chef Roy said, “High-end energy efficient equipment have reduced the cost and consumption of electricity and fuel to a great extent. Sensor-based cooktops and gas ranges save a lot of energy and fuel as do use of LED lights. Easy availability of produce and ingredients day have also reduced the use of cold storages.”
While Rajneesh Kumar, general manager, Courtyard Marriott Raipur agreed that fresh or frozen food storage solutions are a great example of sustainability, since it has not only increased the shelf life of food but has also reduced wastage. “Replacement of gas hobs with induction for daily operations is another one. Combi-oven cooking has reduced the energy consumption to almost 50% in many kitchens. In a nutshell, the advancement of technology in kitchen has significantly reduced the ecological footprint be it sensor lighting, intelligent demand control ventilation system, highly energy efficient cooking equipment to eco-friendly passthrough dishwashers, which have made the modern day kitchens a more environmentally sustainable one,” he added.
THE RIGHT IMPACT
While sustainability is always important for any hotel, unless it helps the property operate efficiently, it is redundant. Hence, when it comes to designing or building an efficient sustainable kitchen, it is best to take the inputs of the people who will be directly affected by the initiative – the culinary staff.
Sharing his recommendations on the top three rules to bear in mind while building environmentally friendly kitchens, Chef Roy suggests including energy-efficient equipment like dishwashers, hot plates, salamanders, refrigerators etc as well as using energy-conserving lights, in addition to a well-thought garbage and waste management system.
Kwatra of W Goa’ added, “The most important thing is to not complicate things while building a kitchen and choose the equipment wisely. Look at procuring good quality machines to save costs in the long run. It is also quintessential to have an efficient drainage system and consider installing a PNG systems instead of LPG.”
From a technical perspective, Jalikati believes that there are three important rules that need to be followed. The first is ensuring an appropriate HVAC design is followed for ideal air balance and ventilation. Secondly, the kitchen exhaust fan motors should have variable frequency drive controller to maintain airflow control throughout the day. “Additionally, it is important to make the best use of kitchen space by installing equipment at the right place to optimise functionality and enable their hassle-free service,” Jalikati noted.
PLANNING FOR HICCUPS
Even the best-laid plans tend to come apart at times. Hence, it is important to be prepared for unanticipated challenges and have contingency strategies to overcome these, when it comes to creating sustainable kitchens.
According to Sanjeev Nayar, general manager, WelcomHeritage, designers and architects at times lack understanding about the importance of kitchens and its impact on hotels in terms of delivery of F&B products to the ever demanding and knowledgeable customer. “With live kitchens becoming the order of the day, special attention has to be given to resource consumption, air emission, waste water discharge, waste management, biodiversity, noise and safety of in-house and external customers,” he pointed out.
Kumar agreed with this conjecture, adding, “The most common challenge is that the design helps in ensuring sustainable kitchen but, does not support ease of operations. Hence, it is important to consider the ergonomics of the work area so that it improves along with energy efficiency and reduction of ecological footprint.”
Having worked in kitchens for over 14 years, Chef Roy pointed out that hotel kitchens consume lot of energy. Also, lots of electricity and fuel is used to run the heavy equipment and large amount of fuel is required for deep fat fryers and in cooking. “Certain norms have to be followed while designing a kitchen, like provisioning for lots of firefighting systems, proper cooling and chilling units for storage of food. Also, there should be some planning for high-energy consuming pickup counters and heating lamps, etc.,” he added.
It is important to remember that hotel kitchens are built to last for years. Hence, when it is conceptualised, it is pertinent for hotels to invest in sustainable equipment and processes that will long-lasting.
Jalikati said, “While the right equipment can help in functionally and technologically meeting the prerequisites for sustainability, the right processes support in increasing the equipment’s life. Ensuring proper installation, regular maintenance and hassle-free access to the equipment aid in striking that balance. In the kitchen everything must be in its place and everything must be in its place.”
To create this balance, it is also important to create and communicate the sustainability policy with the culinary staff working in the kitchen. Chef Shrinivas Adam, executive sous chef, Meluha The Fern, An Ecotel Hotel suggested following the Metering policy where hoteliers can prioritise reductions and reinvest savings. They can also include plenty of automation with timers, PIR sensors and switches, so that associates can focus on their work, rather than this element.
“Show your staff the investments you are making and inspire them to change too. Scheduled maintenance programmes, because well-maintained equipment is safer and more efficient. Also, focus on the building fabric, for optimum performance and savings invest inside and out,” Adam added.
To understand how chefs and their team use kitchens and how hotels can adapt the kitchen design to meet their changing expectations, designers and hoteliers need to change the way they think. And they also need to involve chefs into sharing their feedback for conceptualising the kitchens.
Sharing his thoughts on this, Kwatra said that while it is quite crucial for hotels to work in sync with the chef, chefs should not take over and act as designers unless they have the knowhow. “There are a lot of aspects to a kitchen from MEP to safety aspects of a kitchen. One of the key decisions that I took at W Goa is to ensure that all sections in the kitchen have eye contact, which is very crucial for me to run a busy operation. I also feel the kitchens should not be overly spread out as it only makes matters more complex,” he noted.
Roy too felt that chefs are more involved in conceptualising a kitchen. “As a chef, I personally emphasize on making the cooking stations live where the guest have the liberty to choose what he actually likes to eat and that controls the portion size to hence helping by saving a lot of wastage in terms of ingredients and energy both,” he said.
As hotels become more sustainability conscious, kitchens are also evolving into more than just a food preparation and storage area, which presents both a challenge and an opportunity for designers and hoteliers. Everything has to sleek, yet sustainable; efficient, yet environment-friendly, it also has to be operationally resourceful. The canvas looks ready for designers and architects to start painting their concepts on, to make hotel kitchens become sustainable, differentiated and efficient for the long haul!