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Royal Armouries hooked on brilliant Chillogen

Gary Calder, who together with his colleague Neil Moore-McCarthy runs the banqueting operation at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, says he's an "old fashioned" chef. So when it was suggested that the museum should install Moffat's Chillogen banqueting trolleys, he wasn't interested.

"Never seen them. Didn't want them," Gary says succinctly.

But then Gary and Neil were taken to see a demonstration in a hotel's banqueting department and after talking through the pros and cons with the hotel chef they decided to give them a go. And now the story is very different. "They're brilliant!" Gary admits.

The museum currently has nine Moffat Chillogen banqueting trolleys, and so delighted is Gary that they are about to acquire 12 more. "We have a number of function rooms serving from ten to 800 covers and the actual museum itself can be hired for functions," Gary elaborates.

And their function business can be very busy. "Even in a quiet week we serve around 1,400 meals, but last Christmas we produced over 15,000 in just four weeks."

This level of business can leave a banqueting kitchen gasping, but not the Royal Armouries.

Chillogen works by combining chilled holding and regeneration in the same compartment. It blast chills the food, holds it between 2 Degrees Celsius and 5 Degrees Celsius, then switches automatically to regeneration at a preset time.

"Meals are cooked in our central production kitchen and blast chilled", Gary explains. On the day of service we load them into the trolley's refrigerated compartment and wheel them to the location.

OK, I know we could set them to switch to regeneration automatically but because I'm old fashioned, I prefer to be there and press the switch myself.

The Chillogen banqueting trolleys used by Royal Armouries are currently catering for nearly 700 covers at a time in the existing complex. The 12 new trolleys are needed to service the museum's brand new 1,500 seat banqueting complex, to open, which has its own purpose-built kitchen.

"The chef we met at the hotel demonstration told us which foods would cook and which wouldn't, " Gary adds. "So when we took delivery of our own trolleys, we took a week out to experiment with different cuts of meat and have designed our banqueting menus around those findings."

The Chillogen banqueting trolleys have cut Gary's need for serving staff by half, he says. And that's especially helpful, not because he wants to get rid of good silver service staff, but because it's very hard to recruit the best in the first place. Another huge advantage is that, when not being used for banqueting, they can be used as temporary refrigerators or hot cupboards as well.

"And the automatic probes and logging system provide due diligence cover in the event of any problems", he adds.

Chillogen works, in effect, like a mobile satellite kitchen, one that caterers can take to their customers. So the chef can load the trolleys in the kitchen, rapid-chill the plated food and then move it to the point of service at the function room. Here, at the time chosen, it will regenerate, fully automatically and at the place where it is needed for service. And if speeches overrun or guests are delayed, it will keep the food hot and in perfect condition until they are ready.

Chillogen banqueting trolleys are available in sizes to hold up to 90 ten-inch plates (with covers) or 60 plates. They operate from two standard 13 amp power sockets, allowing them to be used virtually anywhere. Three-phase power can also be used if required.

Posted by Kyli Haynes on Thu 8th Sep 2005