How one healthcare operator cut cooking time

The kitchen day is long, skilled hands are scarce and customers are demanding, most noncommercial chefs will agree.

kitchen back of house foodservice

One who appreciates cooking equipment that gets more done faster with higher quality is Nicola Torres, executive chef of The Garlands in Barrington, a retirement community in Barrington, Ill.

The Garlands is a resort-like retirement community for adults age 55 and older with a neighborhood feel and high standards of foodservice. Torres oversees dining operations there that feature everything from elegant fine dining to Sunday brunch, hearty grill fare and casual sandwiches, salads and pizzas.

In the Garland Café, a popular option for quick, casual bites, the compact, high-throughput Ovention M360 oven helps Torres produce a flavorful and varied menu in an extremely tight space.

“It is very handy, actually,” says Torres, a veteran culinarian who trained in European kitchens and groomed his skills in in major U.S. hotel companies. “For the type of operation we have in the café, it is perfect.”

The Ovention oven’s small footprint fits well in the tight confines of the café where larger equipment cannot. The oven’s catalytic converters also whisk away cooking emissions, eliminating the need for a ventilation hood. “It allows us to menu many things that we would not otherwise be able to do without space for a grill,” says Torres.

Menu highlights include a marinated beef tenderloin sandwich, oven-baked salmon slices atop salad greens, pizzas and grilled cheese sandwiches.

“One of the major advantages it gives us is quicker cooking time,” says Torres. “It can cook a salmon fillet, depending on the thickness, in five to seven minutes.”

The oven applies heat to foods with independent top and bottom blowers. That is useful for an item like pizza, Torres says, which has bottom heat applied to bake the crust and overhead heat to brown the toppings.

In addition to cooking items from a raw state, the oven also rapidly rethermalizes precooked foods like pot roast and meatloaf for sandwiches.

And advanced culinary skills are not required to produce consistent, high-quality results with the Ovention oven. The precise heat level and cooking time for an individual food, whether it’s a steak, pizza or a toasted sandwich, can be programmed with a preset button.

With the Ovention oven streamlining operations in the café, Torres spends less time supervising and training there and more time planning culinary flourishes like The Garland’s chef’s tables. These bimonthly, reservations-only events for 12-16 guests typically sell out for two consecutive nights. Torres prepares a five-to-eight course menu while leading a discussion about the culinary theme. Recent chef’s table themes have included Asian culinary trends and classical French cuisine with modern twists, the latter in honor of celebrity chef Paul Bocuse’s 90th birthday.

“Top-notch food is a must here,” says Torres. “Our members are typically professionals or business owners who have traveled extensively and have very good palates.” 

This post is sponsored by Ovention