Full Speed Ahead for Navy Temp Kitchen

Ktichens To Go mobile kitchen construction plows through time and weather constraints.

Navy mobile kitchen designANNAPOLIS, Md.—When King Hall, the main galley at 4,400-student United States Naval Academy was in need of renovation, the Naval Academy couldn’t shut down the entire building during construction. Because of the midshipmen’s detailed schedule, the foodservice department decided a temporary kitchen would be the best solution to keep things moving through the renovation.

But building the temporary kitchen was a challenge in itself. It needed to be completed during a 78-day period when the students were on break. The Naval Academy turned to Kitchens To Go to construct a 38,350-square-foot temporary kitchen, which will be in place for 18 months. Working with Barton Malow, the project’s general contractor, the team designed a facility with 10 cooking and panning modules, four clamshell griddles, 12 roll-in combi ovens, six 80-gallon steam kettles, separate bulk and day-issue refrigerators, freezers and dry storage spaces and two dishwasher modules. The facility also has a separate warehouse and receiving area, chemical storage, trash room and an administrative office complex that includes locker rooms and toilet facilities for the staff. The temp facility was deemed necessary after a study was done to evaluate King Hall.

Navy mobile kitchen design“A conceptual study was completed in 2008 to review the current processes and equipment of the galley,” Judy Campbell, Naval Academy spokeswoman, said. [Naval Academy protocol dictated that FSD work through the Public Affairs Office]. “Originally built in 1952, the King Hall galley was last modified in the mid-1990s, but no kitchen equipment was replaced and no major architectural work was done at that time. The kitchen equipment that was being used for food preparation in the galley was approximately 40 years old. The current renovation will ensure the galley’s equipment and functionality will be able to support modern foodservice requirements for the midshipmen for many decades.”

Features: The temporary facility features a 14,100- square-foot Sprung clear span tension membrane structure. The Sprung structure houses receiving, cold and dry storage and cold preparation space needed for the Academy to serve about 14,000 meals daily. Ralph Goldbeck, one of Kitchens To Go’s partners, said the temporary kitchen is split into two areas—East court and West court. The East court is where the majority of the foodservice operation is located, and the West court houses temporary office space and employee areas. The dining area of King Hall was renovated a few years ago, so the midshipmen are still able to dine in the galley while the food is prepared in the temporary kitchen.

Navy mobile kitchen design“This complex is made up of three components,” Goldbeck said. “One is a large Sprung structure, which is an aluminum frame membrane structure that is shaped like a giant A frame. That complex houses the cold and dry storage, trash area and the food preparation area at the base of the complex. The second part is a series of modular kitchen units that we use to prep and cook and there is an area for dishwashing. Then there is a series of interconnected passageways that we constructed to connect the two courts to King Hall.”

The flow of the space starts with the food being delivered to the receiving area, which leads directly to the dry and cold storage areas. The food is then issued out to the large preparation area where all the food is prepped. That area is connected to the modular kitchen complex. There are five 12 feet by 56 feet kitchen units that are connected, which is where the majority of the food production occurs. The food then moves into a panning area where it is placed into heated transport carts that are moved into the dining hall. Goldbeck said the project presented plenty of design challenges.

“They were looking for a temporary galley or kitchen that could feed 4,500 to 5,500 meals, three meals a day, seven days a week,” Goldbeck said. “Plus, they had a very tight time schedule. The project had to be bid, awarded and completed from December to March. The Naval Academy wanted the temp kitchen to replicate the existing galley so the transfer of operations from the existing galley to the temporary galley could happen without missing a beat.”

Space and time: Goldbeck said time was the biggest challenge as was the limited footprint they had to work with.

“When you’re putting a structure next to an existing facility, there are always obstacles—whether they are trees, buildings or roadways,” Goldbeck said. “We were asked to put a lot of equipment and storage requirements in a very small space. The temp kitchen is actually about 38,000 square feet compared to more than 50,000 square feet in the original space. To start, we evaluated the existing operation because we are using employees from that same operation. We set up a nice flow through set up where the food was delivered and stored and prepped in large volumes and then delivered to the dining hall.”

The Navy’s biggest challenge was deciding what battles were worth fighting.

“Storage space posed a challenge both in terms of the reduced warehousing footprint within the temporary facility but also in terms of available kitchen space as a whole,” Campbell said. “It was important for us to focus on what was needed in the space as opposed to what was simply ‘nice to have.’ The design of the temporary galley facilitates a more efficient use of space and the cooking technology has simplified food preparation.”

Weather woes: Because the project began construction in December, weather became a big issue.

“We ran into three record blizzards through the area that we had to deal with,” Goldbeck said. “This project was time challenged even without the weather. Normally the area gets a foot of snow in Annapolis, and I think we ended up with three feet of snow. After the snow was removed from the site, we had no choice but to continue to mush forward. We had to house employees on site and in surrounding hotels to be able to keep them nearby. There were times when we virtually had to take a truck with a snow plow and plow our way through the job site to allow us to keep making progress.”

Despite all these challenges, the team was able to complete the construction of the temporary kitchen on time.

“Even though the project start was weather delayed, it was completed on time, with no interruption of the daily campus life and, most importantly, not a single missed meal,” Bob Wyatt, vice president of the eastern region for Barton Malow, said in a press release.

“The Kitchens To Go team did an outstanding job, and the USNA’s kitchen and administrative staff of 96 were able to move into the new facility and continue feeding the brigade.”

Planning matters: As with any construction project, advance planning is crucial to success.

“To undertake a change of this nature, proper planning is critical and support from involved stakeholders essential,” Chief Petty Officer Joe Janosek, lead culinary specialist for foodservice at the academy, said. “But, as in all service industries, keeping the focus on how to deliver high-quality meals to the customer remains at the heart of the matter. Moving into a temporary kitchen is merely the means to an end; in this case, the desired end state is being able to complete a much-needed galley renovation.”

Goldbeck agrees that planning is what can make or break a project like this.

“I would say start as early as possible with planning,” Goldbeck said. “The more time you have to plan for a temp kitchen, the better job you can do. Try to set priorities for what you need to have in a temporary complex since you have to operate with less space. You have to have an efficient and compact operation. The Naval Academy worked with a foodservice consulting group, and they recommended changes to how they will prepare meals once the galley is renovated. We are utilizing several of those in the temp kitchen to take advantage of the space available but also to start a training program for the staff.The whole operation cannot miss a beat because the schedule was defined by the midshipman returning from break.”