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"Rhubarb" food design is one of the UK's most sought after catering and event management companies, with an impressive list of high profile clients from the world of music, film, sport and blue chip businesses.

THE company, brainchild of owner Lucy Gemmell, is internationally renowned for its slick operation and professionalism, regularly preparing and serving 2-3,000 covers a day. The sheer magnitude of this daily operation obviously requires an inordinate amount of organisation and a highly efficient and methodically designed working environment.

"Rhubarb" food design spent its first seven years in a number of units scattered around a Battersea business park, meaning the kitchen simply became too small to work efficiently. Eventually, a 1970's print workshop was discovered in Wands-worth. An amazing 11,000 square feet, spread over 2 floors presented Rhubarb's project manager Bruce Bowie with the blank canvas.

The masterpiece is the 30m long production kitchen, with 7 full time chefs and up to 30 temporary kitchen workers and sufficient catering equipment, storage and workspace to service all client requirements. The production kitchen also had to look exceptional as it is sited adjacent to two glass-walled tasting rooms used by clients when compiling and sampling menus. Here, Bruce Bowie liased closely with Duncan Basterfield (at the time working as consultant chef and now Rhubarb's executive head chef) and the Nelson kitchen design team, working extensively on producing the perfect kitchen layout.

Streamlining the entire operation was the starting point. Around 50% of Rhubarb's food repertoire is canapés so a bank of bespoke, self-contained workstations was created along one side of the kitchen. Each has its own, sink, tabling, shelving and storage while cooking appliances such as a salamander, grill, griddle and hotplates are readily accessible. The canapés are then blast chilled prior to being moved to a vast cold room ready for dispatch.

The main cooking area is situated around the island and includes two electric combination ovens, a bratt pan, two boiling jackets, a three-burner wok cooker, two gas powered six-burner ranges with ovens, a chargrill and a twin-tank deep fat fryer. Amply and strategically spaced out, the layout allows chefs to move freely and work harmoniously.

While, Nelson included a full complement of all the required and anticipated commercial cooking equipment in the design layout, full consideration was given to the nature of Rhubarb's business meaning that future changes and additional catering equipment could be catered for. Therefore, only modular units were specified and several extra gas, water and electric feeds were added into the cooking island to permit future enhancements and additions to be accommodated easily.

The two outside doors at each end of the production kitchen promote natural airflow. This is further helped by a vast, custom-built extraction canopy, reputed to be one of the largest in London. The air supply system and extraction canopy are all connected to a state-of-the-art gas interlock system, complying with the latest safety requirements.

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