Gordon Dining  Event Center Unit Manager Barbara Phelan with some of the 80 and 100gallon kettles in the centers huge central production facility which supplies product across the campus
Gordon Dining & Event Center Unit Manager Barbara Phelan with some of the 80- and 100-gallon kettles in the center's huge central production facility, which supplies product across the campus.

UW-Madison's Food Production: Centralizing for Efficiency

University of Wisconsin at Madison operates a pair of highly efficient central production kitchens in its new marketplace facilities.

The LEED Silver eligible Gordon Dining and Event Center operated by the Division of Housing at the University of Wisconsin at Madison includes a brand new central production facility encompassing cook-chill capability that allows much greater menu flexibility at each dining destination on campus.

“We formerly had a central commissary where we prepared food from a central menu,” says Joie Schoonover, assistant director of housing and director of the Dining & Culinary Services unit of the Division of University Housing. “With the cook/chill system, we are able to utilize central preparation but have the ability for varied unit menus across campus. This enables us to have ‘destination dining’ so our customers can go where their favorite foods are being served.”

In effect, the central kitchen serves as a “vendor” that issues “sell sheets” detailing the products it has several weeks out. The chefs at the various dining facilities  can then decide which products they want to utilize when designing their menus. They can also put in “orders” for centrally produced dishes and recipe components that can be utilized in dishes prepared at the units.

For the residential dining side, the central production facility supplies about a third of its food production volume. Another third currently comes in premade from outside suppliers and another third is produced onsite at the various outlets.

The central facility also serves as a central receiving point not just for food and related deliveries but for other types of supplies as well. It runs three full-service vehicles across campus, plus one dedicated mail delivery van and two catering trucks.

There is another centralized production operation at the Four Lakes Market site for cold food prep where individual grab and go items are made. It produces some 400 sushi rolls a day for its own Maki Mono station and for grab-and-go cold cases around campus, as well as sandwiches, salads, parfaits, fruit cups and other packaged items for retail sale.

The venue also has a local food prep area that allows locally grown foods to be processed for delivery throughout campus. Efficient utilization of this capability has helped reduce the amount of food in weekly inventory while allowing freshly prepared food to be served daily, Schoonover says.