Another consideration taken into account early in the process was local health department requirements. "We worked closely with the local health department to ensure proper flow of food both from a food safety and an organizational standpoint," Meyers says.

Once the design was complete, Smith says his team received competitive bids from all major construction trades in order to work within a tight budget. "We rigorously reviewed all proposed change orders to stay within budget," Smith says. Equipment for the kitchens is a combination of used, donated and new equipment. "The kitchens were designed to maximize efficiency," Whitney says. "When a server enters the kitchen it's a few short steps to the dish area or to pick up food."

The restaurant locations take advantage of the outdoor landscape through the use of floor-to-ceiling windows along their perimeter walls.

Central storage on the main floor acts as a hub for product distribution to various kitchens and restaurants. "A lot of space was allocated in the 1,200-square-foot central storage area because this is a teaching facility in which students get to try many different types of cuisine," Whitney says. "Also, manufacturers can bring in new items that they want COD to test or demo."

Some of the sustainable elements for this structure include eco-friendly dishmachines, variable-speed exhaust hoods, HVAC systems and some energy-efficient kitchen equipment. All the lighting is energy efficient. COD stresses recycling campus-wide, and multiple water-filling stations encourage visitors and students alike to reuse their drinking bottles. A rooftop garden on a terrace above the fine-dining restaurant features walkways and planters for growing herbs and vegetable projects in the future.

Throughout the facility, food safety is a priority, so there is a good amount of refrigeration. Sanitation also is crucial, so elements such as floor drains are placed directly under kettles for ease of cleaning. Students are responsible for keeping their work areas sanitary, which is part of their instructional training. "We're also teaching students about the financial value of keeping a kitchen clean," Meyers says.

The Skills Lab

The skills lab features 16 dedicated work areas. Each area contains a cooking suite that is open on four sides. Each cooking station includes a sink, an undercounter refrigerator, an attachment rack with overshelf, a convection oven, a four-burner range and a 12-inch grill. Two shared salamander broilers sit on the ends of the cooking suite. An island hood that covers the work stations is also open on all four sides to allow full visibility. The flexible demand-controlled ventilation system in the exhaust hood offers low levels of energy consumption. It identifies the current status of the cooking equipment—switched off, heating to cooking temperature or cooking in progress—and adjusts the exhaust flow rate to match the demand. If only one of the cooking ranges in the kitchen is operating, the flow rate of that particular exhaust hood is automatically adjusted to that requirement. The other exhaust hoods or zones will continue operation at a low flow rate.

The skills lab also contains a central instructor area with a space for students to gather. Behind the instructor area, another exhaust hood covers combi ovens, tilt braising pans and kettles. The lab also has a central ware-washing area with a manual pot-washing sink and table arrangement and an automatic corner warewasher. The lab has direct access to the receiving walk-in refrigerators and freezers and a direct door into the back kitchen of the fine-dining operation, Waterleaf.