After spending some time at other Ronald McDonald Houses around the country observing how residents and visitors used the space, Schildkraut determined this new facility would require not one, but two kitchen spaces. "We divided the third floor, which is entirely for foodservice, into three areas; about half of the floor consists of dining space, while about 25 percent is the residential kitchen and the other 25 percent is the commercial kitchen," Schildkraut says.
The commercial kitchen resides on the south portion of the third floor and features two commercial ranges in the middle and four residential ranges line the sides of the space. Volunteers working in the commercial kitchen can use both the commercial and residential ranges.
In the residential kitchen, located on the north part of the building, Schildkraut designed the space with four complete work stations (one residential range/oven, one dishwasher, one microwave and one sink each) arranged in a square with a common kitchen table in the middle. Refrigerators and cupboards for pantry items were set up along the north wall of the space.
"We set up the kitchen this way so that the families could come in and use the kitchen and also talk," he says. "The idea was to try to encourage and foster the families to provide useful support for each other." In this space, only residential cooking appliances were installed so that the families would be comfortable using them.
But to develop the volunteer kitchen, Schildkraut's team learned during their research trips that they might need to bump up the fire power. "We went to a Hyde Park Ronald McDonald House and observed a group of about 18 people from Southwest Airlines cooking a meal for the families residing there," he says. "The group brought in their own ingredients to prepare a full dinner for the families there and we asked them questions while they were chopping and preparing the meal."
Schildkraut's team asked what they like to eat, how they typically like to cook, how they liked or disliked the equipment in the space, among other questions. "One of the volunteers said they felt it was taking too long to boil a big pot of water."
At that point, Schildkraut knew they would need to include 2, 36-inch commercial ranges with 32,000 Btus per burner to cut the time in half when boiling water or cooking larger volumes. The inclusion of those ranges, though, meant the project suddenly required a commercial hood and fire suppression system. Schildkraut also mixed in some residential cooking appliances so families and volunteers could use the space for more casual breakfast and lunch prep, and to make the space more familiar to people who were not foodservice professionals. Two double door, reach-in refrigerators are set up near the cooking space to hold product.
All of the commercial-grade equipment for the project was donated by a variety of manufacturers. Regarding the residential kitchen equipment, the general contractor worked with an area retailer that had a partnership with Ronald McDonald Charities, Schildkraut says, noting that his team was not involved in the specification and purchase of those items.
Just off the commercial kitchen, a 20-foot-long buffet features top-level induction warmers and undercounter, portable warming cabinets for laying out the food and keeping it at food-safe temperatures as the families come through to eat. Given that the kitchen and dining room are not exactly next to one another, there would be no way to keep the food hot without the warming cabinets. The only other option would be to keep the food in the ovens, Schildkraut adds.
In addition to the main kitchens, Schildkraut built a couple of smaller residential/pantry kitchens on the upper floors to serve as separate kitchens for residents with special diets. One of the kitchens can be used for cancer patients who want to talk and cook together.