The new Food Laboratories at the University of Pretoria’s Department of Consumer Science, commissioned in April 2017, are the culmination of an ambitious vision to renovate three training kitchens and food science labs in one of the campuses’ historical monument buildings. Culinary Equipment Company, specialist kitchen project design company partnered with leadership at the university to design and equip the kitchens according to international best standards of quality, efficiency and performance; the configuration of the stoves allow for two students to share a stove as they have two ovens and sufficient space to cook using the four gas burners and one simmer plate allowing for a variety of food preparation to take place simultaneously.
The new “labs” consist of a large 60-student main facility, a smaller test kitchen and a food science laboratory. Boasting state-of-the-art range cookers with dual ovens and gas hobs as well as 5-pan combi ovens – all made in France by Culinary and configured especially for the requirements of the university – where within tight space constraints the ergonomics of the space allows for cookers to be shared between students, with each student benefitting from a complete range workstation for stove cooking and baking.
Dr Gerrie Du Rand, head of Food and Nutrition and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Consumer Science acknowledges that the scope and results of the project now gives the university enhanced capacity to provide “knowledge and skills training in the culinary arts and sciences to all students studying Consumer Science, Human Nutrition and selected Food Science degree programs at the University”. The new “labs” will be used to teach Basic and Advanced Food Preparation, Recipe Development, Consumer Food Research, Culinary Arts, Culinary Science and Quantity Food Preparation and Event Management.
From the outset Culinary shared the university’s vision of developing and equipping a world-class facility to educate and enrich the chefs and food scientists of tomorrow which culminated in years of deliberating every detail of the project.
Since the new labs were built in an historic landmark building much research went into the conceptualization stages and many site visits to various facilities and stakeholders, says Du Rand. Planning encompassed project ideas from various industry partners, inputs from other training schools both locally and globally, advice from appliance and equipment companies and a major input from Pretoria-based MEG Architects.
The old facilities were outdated and equipped with household appliances which did not provide a suitable training environment. Industrial kitchens of today are fitted with high performance gas burners and are sturdy appliances for heavy use. Therefore in order to reach internationally benchmarks each piece of equipment and furniture was designed to integrate seamlessly and emulate a professional kitchen similar to those found in the best global hotels or restaurants.
Focus was put on ergonomics; with trays and vessels transferring easily between hobs and ovens. Provision was made for powerful, intuitive and industrial-grade ranges while also ensuring that equipment was suitable for the rigors of research that will take place in the labs. Culinary’s CEO, Wehrner Gutstadt said that “…the company is extremely proud to be associated with a prestigious project and institution with whom we share values and vision for quality and educational excellence”.
Two additional large 10-pan combi ovens and two intelligent plate-detector salamanders were donated by Culinary Equipment Company to the value of R400 000.