Vision Commercial Kitchens has recently been a prize winner at the prestigious CEDA Grand Prix Awards in the Sustainability category
In 2002, four like-minded individuals, with vast combined experience within the industry and in their own fields of expertise, had a vision to offer clients a much more focused concept of what they believed the industry was capable of. Jack Sharkey, Craig Forrester, Phil Shea and Chris Rouine were driven by a dream, which resulted in the formation of Vision Commercial Kitchens Ltd.
“Today, Vision has grown to over an £8 million turnover company and is now one of the largest businesses in the UK designing, planning and installing commercial kitchens,” comments Jack Sharkey, managing director of Vision Commercial Kitchens. “We have a varied and impressive client base, covering a wide selection of market sectors across the UK including restaurants, hotels, schools, colleges, nursing homes, hospitals and garden centres. We offer our clients a broad spectrum of services ranging from a single equipment replacement to a full turnkey facility, and
everything in between, with access to all major equipment manufacturers in the industry and a comprehensive network of service and installation engineers across the UK.”
Offering full AutoCAD design and planning services, project management and installation and full after-sales service and warranty management, Vision’s capabilities are proven across a wide range of successfully completed projects with leading names in the industry such as the De Vere Group, Malmaison, Hotel Du Vin, Leon, The Marriott Group and various local authorities as well as numerous main contractors working in both the private and public sector.
Having scooped up the CEDA (Catering Equipment Distributors Association) overall Grand Prix Awards in 2007 for outstanding customer service for its work with Malmaison Hotels and Heathcotes restaurants, one of Vision’s most prestigious and significant projects was De Vere Deluxe Hotels’ Cameron House that won it the CEDA Best Sustainable Kitchen 2008. Working directly with Cameron House Hotel and director of food, Keith Shearer, to design, build and project manage the installation of the new kitchen and unique butchery room, the project presented a huge opportunity and challenge for Vision.
Located on the shores of the idyllic Loch Lomond in Scotland and set in 100 acres of wooded parkland, this 18th century Baronial Mansion is one the De Vere Deluxe resorts. Renowned for its spectacular setting, hospitality and extensive leisure facilities, the hotel has undergone a £60 million transformation including the refurbishment of the hotel’s main restaurant, The Cameron Grill.
Jack states: “This was definitely a very challenging project for us. The vision set by the client was to create a visual theatrical-style dining kitchen and atmosphere. So in ensuring the design was effective, functional and practical, we also had to ensure it reduced the carbon footprint of the hotel.”
The kitchen had to be moved in order to achieve all the benefits desired by the hotel, as it was originally situated where private dining is currently held. “It wasn’t possible to create the open kitchen aspect and butchery room with glass window in the original space, therefore the decision was taken to move it, and judging by the finished designed, I’d say we made the right move,” he adds.
“If the overall project was not challenging enough, the sheer size of it posed other problems including getting the equipment in. Due to the nature of the building and the location of the restaurant within the hotel, much of the equipment had to be brought in through the hotel roof. Vision was of course on hand to coordinate it all and I’m proud to say, it couldn’t have run more smoothly.”
Due to the open kitchen feature, Cameron House wanted to ensure that allequipment fitted in well and complemented the layout. Certain that a standard gas oven would not do any justice to this cutting-edge kitchen, the client chose the oldest form of cooking with the Josper Grill – a full charcoal oven with no supplementary gas supply. Jack adds: “In fact, there is no gas in the restaurant kitchen at all, which is all part of the deliberate effort to reduce the carbon footprint.” Vision has been mindful of the environmental impact of all the equipment throughout the specification process.
The open layout of the kitchen along with the self-cleaning extraction system creates a pleasant working environment for the Cameron House chefs to work in. “All the requirements we set out to achieve, we have done, which was only possible with a huge input from Vision – they found solutions to all the challenges we faced, which was excellent,” commented Keith.
As for the design aspect of the open hot plate, this was especially important as it means that the hotel is able to offer buffet breakfasts and light buffet lunches for corporate groups, whilst at the same time offer a full plated option at breakfast for those guests who want to be served.
Jack explains: “Nowadays customers are increasingly more inquisitive about their food and how it’s prepared, and Cameron House recognises this need andhighly encourages it. The idea behind the open hot plate was to allow interaction between the guests and the chefs. This also enables chefs to answer any culinary question, bringing chef and customer closer together. The double doors that go through from the restaurant into the kitchen are also wider than required, and allow guests to be invited through and enjoy a glass of champagne and canapés off the back hot plate.”
If the kitchen design was not cuttingedge enough, another revolutionary idea came in the form of a glass butchery cold room. This concept can be seen in a few areas around the world such as New York but rarely in the UK. “The idea was really to allow guests to see that the hotel is very proud of what is being served and has nothing to hide. Not only do the suppliers favour the idea of their products being on display, guests can also witness that they are really being served with the best and there is just no match for such total traceability.
“Using privalight glass, we are able to give the hotel the flexibility to choose when to allow guests to view into the room. For example, at the touch of a button, the glass frosts over at breakfast but is then visible again at dinner. The flexibility is exceptional and is not just a gimmick,” Jack adds.
Under normal circumstances, the client would usually define the desired ambience and overall strategy, but Vision was involved throughout the planning process and worked together with Cameron House all through the project. Given the outstanding success of the project, it is no surprise that Vision is already on track, working on two further kitchen refurbishments at Cameron House Hotel.
Following Vision’s success at the CEDA awards three years running, it was especially pleased to be awarded again for its work at Cameron House Hotel. The sustainability award recognises the efforts to reduce carbon emissions along with other ways of reducing the use of naturalresources. “To be awarded again this year is an honour and a real achievement for Vision,” Jack comments. “The judging panel is made up of the industry’s leading figures so for our efforts to be recognised again is fantastic. The sustainability award is one we are particularly proud to be awarded, as the judges were looking at how we had ensured the kitchen design was environmentally aware and, as a business, we feel this is vital in moving forward. As a company, we have always had an excellent reputation and to be recognised by such prestigious awards is a great accolade – it reinforces the level and commitment we have been delivering to our client base through the years.”
Working on a number of projects simultaneously, Jack highlights a current significant job: “We have been working on Searcy’s restaurant at St Pancras Station in London since the back end of last year. The client was looking for a kitchen that was both functional and practical, with a minimum life expectancy of 15 years and able to deliver to a busy restaurant that runs from 7am to late into the night. This is probably one of the largest projects we are currently working on at the moment. It is also one of the most challenging and demanding in terms of the stringent health and safety regulations at the station that we must comply to. The delivery schedules are also very rigid so we are only able to deliver equipment and materials at specific times.”
Being a company that constantly challenges itself to improve the level of service and expertise it offers its clients, Vision is one of the very few companies in the commercial kitchen market that is accredited to ISO 9001:2000. “We believe that very few commercial kitchen suppliers provide a truly customer-focused offering, which is why it is paramount that we stay true to our vision and retain our integrity,” comments Jack. “Our priority is not in expanding but retaining and improving our personal, hands-on approach – it is what we’re renowned for and strongly believe in.”
With thoughts on the future, Jack concludes: “In the next two to five years, we want to be able to enhance what we currently do and offer. Our main plan is to continue to deliver the excellent customer and after-sales service that we have gained an unrivalled reputation for and to continuously work to improve as well as enhance that reputation.”