Walter Thurnhofer: Equipment Master

The kitchen at 450-bed University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle is, for the most part, a 1959 classic. But, upon closer inspection, one finds some fairly sophisticated equipment—with more on the way—that represent the most cutting-edge elements the industry has to offer.

Much of this comes courtesy of Walter Thurnhofer, RD, LD, DHCFA, who came on board as director of food and nutrition services barely two years ago. Not unlike Superman, this mild-mannered operator—a veteran of 27 years in healthcare foodservice—turns into a persuasive and indomitable leader when the need arises.

Administrators at the university recruited him to run the department based on his 18 years experience at Portland (OR) Adventist Medical Center, as well as time spent at University of California San Francisco Medical Center, where he led the department of food and nutrition services in its transition from contract to self-op.

Since taking the job, Thurnhofer has focused on foodservice equipment improvements in a number of areas, including steamer capacity, temperature monitoring, tray heating and, most recently, blast-chilling. “I found a department [at Washington] that was running quite well, serving 5,000 to 6,000 meals a day including more than 4,000 in the cafeteria,” Thurnhofer says. “There was a good staff, dietitians and supervisors, so it was more a matter of taking what we have and making it better and better.”

Streamlined steam: First on the agenda was steam equipment. With a budget of $350,000, Thurnhofer replaced three 40-gallon steam jacketed kettles with four new ones and added two 12-gallon and three 6-gallon small steam jacketed kettles—nearly doubling the facility’s convection steamer capacity. “The cooks were handicapped in producing huge quantities of food on old equipment,” he recalls. “During the eight-week long renovation last summer, they had to cook exclusively in the oven, on griddles and in fryers, and we had to rework purchasing and rewrite menus for that period of time.”

He also implemented a fully automated temperature monitoring system following the NAFEM Data Protocol (see Oct. 15, 2004, FSD, “The Networked Kitchen,” p. 20). Monitors are installed on every refrigerator—including all floor stock refrigerators—freezer and hot box as well as the dish machine. All told, there are now approximately 125 sensors in place at a cost of more than $100,000.
At this point, Thurnhofer can literally sit at his computer—in his office or anywhere in the world—and pull up current temperature, or temperature history, for each unit for the past year.

Hone on the range: “We’ve also set up some parameters such as a 33°F to 41°F range for refrigeration,” he explains. “If a unit is out of range for more than one hour, it sends an alarm to plant operations and if they can’t fix it, they notify us. Now, when Joint Commission walks in for our records, there won’t be any scrambling. They can just pop into our computer and find day-long documentation recorded at 15-minute intervals of what action was taken. It also documents non-functioning equipment and indicates the need for repair or replacement.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

South Valley Preparatory School in Albuquerque, N.M., has launched a range of healthy eating initiatives to combat obesity, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

The initiatives are in response to a State of Obesity report that stated that nearly a quarter of 10- to 17-year-olds in New Mexico were overweight or obese in 2016. The school banned junk food on campus during school hours for both students and staff, and offers healthy seasonal meals in its cafeteria. Students also take weekly trips to local farms to get an inside look at where their food comes from.

While the school...

Industry News & Opinion

Food delivery company Good Uncle is expanding to 15 college campuses this fall, The Daily Orange reports.

The company plans to grow along the East Coast and is looking at opening at schools such as George Washington University, Pennsylvania State University, Villanova University and American University. Good Uncle hopes to open at 50 to 100 campuses by 2019.

Starting as a delivery-only kitchen in 2016, Good Uncle partners with local restaurants to recreate their popular dishes and then deliver them to college students. The company offers free delivery, no delivery minimum...

Ideas and Innovation
wahoo tacos

School lunch is heating up. As expectations rise in the noncommercial sector, the old-fashioned cafeteria has become a hot topic. Political pressure on schools has seesawed over the past eight years, and nutritional regulations on items like sodium and whole grains have been overhauled (and back again). Meanwhile, students, parents, teachers, administrators and policymakers are demanding more healthfulness and better taste from school meals, often for the same cost.

Yet the industry’s best are dedicated to getting better, even while looking to the future with caution. “There’s not...

Sponsored Content
WinCup product

From WinCup ® .

The shape of hospitality is always changing—and challenging. Take the boom in off-premise and takeout, for example, that is expanding foodservice beyond the four walls of the dining room. That trend is driving both commercial and noncommercial operators to rethink their packaging needs—from a practical operational standpoint as well as when it comes to addressing consumers’ needs and desires.

Take it away

The tide of takeout is rising: 49% of 18- to 34-year olds say they are ordering food to-go more often now than they were three years ago, with 36% saying...

FSD Resources