Waterleaf Fine Dining

Waterleaf serves as a teaching kitchen for a class of 16 and also as a restaurant that is run by a private staff hired by COD and is open to the public. Waterleaf's check average is $25 with 20 customers at lunch every day and 60 customers Tuesdays and Wednesdays for dinner. This kitchen is fully self-contained with walk-ins, dry storage, beverage storage, offices, lockers, dish and pot washing, a stand-alone walk-in wine cooler and a full-service à la carte kitchen with a fully functioning chef counter and garde manger area. "The kitchen was set up with two sides and an island hood, which is very typical for this type of facility," Whitney says. "One side is equipped for preparation such as roasting stocks and baking. The other side handles the à la carte cooked-to-order entrée and appetizer items. There's no wall in between so there can be communication between the two areas."

This kitchen incorporates an exhaust hood's specialized demand ventilation system, which monitors the heat being created by the cooking equipment and only runs the exhaust at the speed that is required, Whitney says. "As more and more cooking comes online, the hood exhaust is increased."

To accommodate student learning and experimentation, equipment is durable. In addition flexibility is built into the system. "All the cooking equipment uses a utility distribution system so changes can be easily accommodated in the future," Meyers says. "The little details can make your life so much easier."

Wheat Café

Very similar to the Waterleaf facility, the casual-dining venue Wheat Café contains similar cooking, preparation areas, chef's table, ware and pot washing, waiter pickup and so forth.

Food is kept in a walk-in refrigerator, which also includes a freezer, until staff bring it out for production. Students use prep tables to prepare ingredients for the day's production. "Even though this prep area is for the restaurant we also teach garde manger here," Meyers says. "We have an incredible multimedia system here and in all our kitchens. Two ceiling cameras rotate 360 degrees and capture the instructor's comments and techniques in this area throughout the kitchen. We also have wireless microphones, Internet access, a DVD system, and four 37-inch flat-screen monitors that hang from the ceiling."

On the back cookline, staff use a double-stacked and single convection oven to roast and bake pastries and finish entrée items; a two-compartment steamer for cooking and reheating vegetables and beans; and a single-burner wok for Asian cuisine. A tilt kettle makes stocks and large quantities of soups, and a tilt braiser prepares large quantities of short ribs, stew, chicken and sauces. A combi oven roasts vegetables, meats and bones for mirepoix. "Water filters are attached to each piece of equipment requiring water in each laboratory," Meyers says.

Across from the combi oven, a natural gas-fired pizza oven bakes pizza and breads, and roasts meats. Adjacent to the oven, a charbroiler grills burgers, steaks, chops, salmon and other fish. Next on the line, a versatile pasta cooker with a large basket, portion-control devices and high-speed recovery gives the student chefs the ability to cook more than one type of pasta for any meal.

The equipment in this area also includes two six-burner ranges for sautéing and for cooking chicken to order, as well as for antipasto dishes and vegetables. A self-draining and self-filtering deep fat fryer prepares fries and appetizers. A flattop griddle, heated by steam for consistent warming, cooks burgers, sandwiches and breakfast items like French toast and pancakes.

Two steam table wells sit in front of the line. To the left and right are cold cabinets that provide refrigerated storage for à la minute menu items.

"From a chef's point of view, you can never have enough cold storage," Meyers says. "We could use more, but we're fortunate for the space we do have."

Behind the prep tables sit the three-compartment sink and conveyor dishmachine. Though there's no garbage disposal —they are forbidden in DuPage County since building codes do not permit them — two strainer baskets catch food as plates are scraped before they are placed in the dishwasher.

Amphitheater and Pastry/Bake Labs

The culinary market adjoins Wheat Café. It offers entrées, salads, sandwiches and other to-go items.

Another key instructional area is the demo amphitheater. "The key feature here is the exhaust hood over the island cooking area, which is the first of its kind in a U.S. culinary school," Whitney says. "In most demo kitchens, because of the tiered seating in the room, you typically see a big stainless steel hood box that is mounted six feet, six inches off the floor, which can obstruct the view. All you see here are the fire system nozzles that drop down. The hood is completely flush in the ceiling at 10 feet." The upper sections of the demo theater are lighted to allow for wine tastings.

The two pastry/bake labs on the second floor contain similar equipment, but the layouts differ due to the space planning. Again, each lab is designed for 16 students and each student has his/her own dedicated space. "Each workspace has access to storage overhead and below," Whitney says. Each lab contains two four-pan/four-stack electric bake ovens with stone hearths, a rotary oven and proofer, and common areas for scaling, mixing, open-burning cooking and ware washing. Each work area has utility outlets that can accommodate five-quart and 20-quart mixers, and portable induction burners. Both have blast chillers.

The lab's design includes large aisles to accommodate portable racks, portable two-inch granite-top tables, mixers and so forth.