Central Makes Sense

It takes a lot of time, commitment and money to come up with a blueprint for a new municipal building, especially one to accommodate a large city’s correctional needs. And once that plan’s in place, it’s tough to change it. But the Denver City Sheriff’s Dept. and city officials let common sense and vision guide their decisions as plans for the new Denver Justice Center changed in the middle of the planning process.

When Ricci Greene Associates, New York, and Denver architects OZ Architecture, were hired to design the new downtown justice center, the architects brought in Steve Young and his team from William Caruso & Associates (WC&A), Englewood, Colo., to design the foodservice and laundry elements for 2,500 inmates plus staff and officers.

To discuss plans for the downtown facility, (officially named the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center) the principals met regularly at the Denver County Jail located 15 miles east of the downtown Denver. The county jail supports another 2,500 inmates for longer term sentences than the downtown justice center.

“The Denver County Jail, where we held meetings, is about 30 or 40 years old,” Young says. “During one meeting, I asked if we could tour the facility, which our hosts permitted. It was clearly run down and really showing age.” Young understood that even though the teams were meeting to discuss a new downtown justice center, the county facility would be in need of updating in the near future.

“The city was likely looking at two large corrections construction projects,” Young says. “We believed a centralized food production facility would make a lot of sense for them. So we asked the clients if they would allow us to do a study to find out. They said yes.”

Hold The Blueprints

The study, conducted in 2008, verified that building a central food production facility (or food factory) on the county site, and delivering food to <I>satellite<I> kitchens in the county and downtown jails would be the most economical way to feed all the inmates and staff . “It also would position the department to accommodate future growth,” Young says.

“A full production kitchen at each site would have required two full, city-paid kitchen crews, duplicate equipment packages, duplicate storage, duplicate delivery schedules, full correctional staffs and full management staffs,” Young explains. “By consolidating functions in a central facility, we knew they would realize tremendous savings.”

The study was considered and the plan approved by the City of Denver, which committed special funding to build the central food production facility and make the county and downtown jails’ kitchens satellites. Denver’s Mayor Hickenlooper appointed a special task force to lead the project. WC&A was commissioned to design the new plan for the downtown Denver Justice Center foodservice and laundry facilities as well as the food factory, which would be a brand new, 30,000-sq.-ft. facility adjacent to the County Jail.

Working in conjunction with Reilly Johnson Architects, Denver, WC&A designed the entire food factory from programming, building foot print and space planning, all food facilities designs, equipment selection and specification. It took 18 months to complete and opened in 2009.

A Clean Slate

“What really pleased us was the ability to start our design with a completely blank page,” Young says. “We had no constraints, no need to adapt the design to existing, odd-shaped or limited spaces.” As a result, the team was able to design every aspect of the central facility for optimal flow, efficiency and safety with adjacencies that made sense.

Semi trucks with ingredients back right up to loading docks where laborers run palletized shipments straight into dry and cold storage. The warehouse at the food factory has a 4-tier, high-density pallet rack system with “push back” racking so the shelves move on trolleys. “This system allows a huge amount of storage in little space,” Young explains.

Ingredients flow from storage to separate meat and vegetable prep areas (or into the fully equipped scratch bakery). Prepared meats and vegetables then flow into a 500-sq.-ft. ingredient control room, where ingredients are assembled for recipes.

Assembled ingredients then travel to a complete Cleveland cook-chill system (equipped with 200-gal. mixing kettles, a cook tank, rail/hoist system, tumble chillers, product pumping system and a cook-chill pit installation). From there, prepared food is stored in bulk in a food bank. WC&A specified Bally for cold storage in the warehouse, production walk-ins, food bank walk-ins and blast chillers.

“Cook-chill processing was a completely new concept for the department,” Young says. “We hired Susan Smith of Food Technologies, Inc. in Lakewood, Colorado, to train the crews on how to use and maintain the system.” The cook-chill system produces food that is more nutritious and consistent and a menu that’s more varied, and that’s a plus for special diets, which were very limited before. “Cook-chill enables the department to do its best cooking,” he adds.

Great Design Ideas

Some of Young’s favorite design elements include the ability to design each separate area of the factory with its own restrooms, offices and lockable doors so that inmate laborers and staffers never need to pass beyond their assigned areas. Officers can secure areas during lockdowns, too.

Another WC&A signature is an inmate check-in area. Every inmate laborer enters the facility through an area equipped with showers and a changing room. “They come in, shower, change into foodservice uniforms, don nets and gloves and are checked to ensure they’re not ill,” Young explains. “This area helps the department reduce the risk of cross-contamination.”

The food factory’s meal production capabilities—16,000 meals a day—feeds all of the inmates, staff and officers at Van Cise-Simonet downtown and Denver County Jail.

At county jail, crews transport bulk foods cold to the jail’s satellite retherm kitchen in Crescor custom, bulk-food transport carts. Inmate workers retherm foods in Cleveland combis and kettles and on 12 feet of Vulcan griddles. They tray up meals on three tray lines (including one dedicated to special diets) and deliver meals to inmates within the jail complex.

Crews load food for Van Cise-Simonet Justice Center into two refrigerated delivery trucks (new purchases). Again, staff delivers food in bulk to the downtown center’s new satellite kitchen.

Downtown Doings

The Van Cise-Simonet Justice Center took about 24 months to construct and opened in 2010. Because the kitchen was redesigned as a satellite retherm kitchen, WC&A devoted a large portion of space to cold holding.

“The crews receive food refrigerated in bulk; it has a shelf life of 28 days,” Young explains. “Refrigerated entrée meal holding capacity is five days and there’s room for three days of emergency meals.”

The firm again specified Cleveland combis and kettles and Vulcan griddles for retherm, and three tray lines, mirroring the county jail satellite. “We could have limited some of this retherm equipment in these satellites,” Young explains. “But the department is really committed to quality. The food simply tastes better rethermed in and on this equipment.” For example, the factory will ship batters to be baked off or griddled on site. “It’s more fresh tasting and hot,” he says.

The satellite kitchens, comprised of bulk cold and dry storage, retherm, tray assembly and warewashing (two Hobart flight-types in each), “take all the sharps out of the equation, too,” Young adds. “And that was a major plus.” Also, because most of these kitchen jobs only require dishing cooked food, less skilled—and less expensive—civil or inmate labor is adequate. In fact, Young estimates the food factory cuts the department’s labor needs by at least a third, and perhaps by as much as half. “And fortunately, the reduction’s been through attrition.”

Cold Insurance

Even with assurance of operational savings, Young credits the department and city task force for committing to the expense of a state-of-the-art remote temperature monitoring system. “So much of the success of this feeding program relies on cold storage,” he explains. “It’s imperative that cold stores be monitored.”

The system, installed throughout Van Cise-Simonet, county jail and the food factory, supports the department’s HACCP program by monitoring such functions as open refrigerator doors, Freon fluctuation and temperature fluctuation and sends alerts when trouble’s sensed. “The food factory only operates Monday through Friday, so if something happens over a weekend, they’re covered,” Young says.

The city’s Sheriff’s department and city task force officials have really proven themselves to be progressive and forward thinking, according to Young. “They have a vision of the future and were able to embrace the latest in food and meal production and delivery technology,” he says. “They’ll reap the benefits of reduced meal and labor costs long after they’ve seen a return on their investment.”


Untitled design 2022 07 13T114823.757

Patience Pays Off for a Reach-In Repair

RSI’s Mark Montgomery's persistence and patience is key in repairing an operator's failing reach-in cooler.

Henny Penny

Oil’s Sweet Spot: How to Get There and Maintain It

Like many in the world of foodservice, you may assume that cooking oil performance is at its peak when you first start using it — but did you know there...

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -


- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -