Foodservice Equipment Reports

DESIGN: LinkedIn’s View To A Thrill

There are open kitchens—and then there are open kitchens. Employees at LinkedIn’s 580 Mary St. executive offices in Sunnyvale, Calif., get to enjoy the latter of the two in the form of Elevate Café. 

Elevate’s kitchen and servery, on the building’s fifth—and top—floor, sit lightly in the expansive space. Customers standing at the servery entrance have a clear view of the kitchen as well as the distant mountains visible through the facility’s panoramic windows. In the seating area, matte-black ceilings with white drop-down elements, natural-wood cabinetry and polished floors enhance Elevate’s “almost outdoors” effect.

When foodservice design planning began for Elevate in June 2013, executives for the Mountain View, Calif.-based LinkedIn agreed that the logical spot would be the wide-open, 22,000-sq.-ft. top floor rather than a lower floor that already had been partially roughed in for foodservice use. They liked the panorama. LinkedIn’s main requirement—in addition, of course, to world-class food offerings from the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Bon Appétit Management Co. contract-management team—was to keep the view. 

Creating a kitchen and servery without walls, risers or other view-blocking verticals fell to a team that included LinkedIn Project Manager David Henderson and F&B Manager Joseph Peterson; Bon Appétit District Manager Markus Hartmann; and Richmond, Calif.-based Cini-Little Int’l. Design Consultant Nahum Goldberg. Further input came from Bon Appétit General Manager Michael O’Neil and Bon Appétit Executive Chef Dale Ray.

“We walked the space, sketched out ideas and tried to think ‘low profile’ for the entire project,” says Goldberg, whose corporate-dining design clientele includes Adobe, Google, The North Face and Twitter, to name a few. “In the end, we situated the kitchen on the far end of the space with the servery in front. Now you can stand in the servery and literally see all the way through kitchen operations to windows at the back.” Elevate opened in February 2014. 

“The design instantly brings everything together as one,” says Ray, who serves as corporate executive chef for all of Bon Appétit’s LinkedIn accounts. “Because the whole kitchen and servery are surrounded by glass, you see all the cooks and chefs at work. The energy is awesome; there’s very much a restaurant feel here.”

See-Through Kitchen 

To meet building-code requirements with regard to occupancy distribution across the top floor, architects were generous with the kitchen footprint. “We used the extra space to create a glassed-in meeting room in one corner with space for up to 20 people,” Goldberg explains. “The company uses it for dining events, culinary events, executive meetings and more.” Sliding glass doors separate the room from kitchen bustle, while a flat-screen monitor can be used during the presentations.

Adding extra lounge areas, multiple seating spots and meeting spaces across the remainder of the floor helped architects meet occupancy code requirements and dovetailed nicely with Elevate’s mission to feed “Mind, Body, Soul.” State-of-the-art audio/visual systems throughout the space transport employees to a high-end culinary experience. 

Planners relied on technology and a few sleight-of-hand design tricks to create the practically wall-free kitchen. Keys to their success started with specifying low-profile and undercounter equipment throughout.

“No kitchen equipment stands higher than 53-in. Most of it stands 48-in. high,” Goldberg says. “The hoods are ceiling-mounted and come down to about 80-in. above the floor. All the space from 48-in. off the floor to 80-in. above the floor is unobstructed.” 

For serving counters, drop-in hot/cold units paired with adjustable glass/stainless food shields retain the clean, minimalist look. Even hand sinks get the inset treatment, which allows them to be discreetly deployed along the servery counters as well as in cooking and prep areas.

For the not-so back-of-house, designers used a low-wall utility cabinet system (UCS) to supply all utilities to the main back-to-back cooklines. Gas, plumbing and electric hookups are housed in a long, stainless cabinet 9-in. wide, 46-in. high. The UCS takes the place of a structural wall and speeds installation and future changes by making hookups and line runs readily accessible. 

A central water filtration system mounted in the back-of-house provides quality filtered water to the combis, coffee equipment, ice maker and baking station. “A central filter system saves on installation, maintenance and space,” Goldberg says.

The demand-control-ventilation hoods rely on temperature sensors to automatically adjust fan speeds as needed—saving on energy costs by limiting exhaust requirements during off-peak times and reducing kitchen noise levels, too. The hoods hang down just far enough to hide from public view a series of ceiling-mounted drop-cords that deliver electricity to equipment in the far-back prep area. 

For kitchen details such as floor drains, which require ventilation to the outside, plumbers managed to “route the vents to adjacent walls so no ventilation risers were visible,” Goldberg explains.

Flow Follows Function 

Designers paid special attention to how product flows through Elevate’s kitchen and servery. Product deliveries arrive at the kitchen’s staging/receiving area (located just above the dishroom on the floorplan). Cold items either are stowed immediately in the walk-in or sent on to the de-boxing area for washing and prep. The de-boxing area features large prep sinks and a large salad dryer, plus a compost-only trash bin for vegetable and fruit scraps.

Volume food production takes place at the hot-prep line, equipped with a 40-gal. pressure-braising pan, 40-gal. tilting kettle, 6-burner range, a pair of smokers and a combi oven. Hot-holding cabinets keep food at peak quality until service. Some of the hot-prepped food, however, is blast-chilled in the undercounter unit, located at the far end of the line, for use the following day.

Short-order and finishing work takes place along the cook line, equipped with a pair of high-efficiency fryers, a 6-burner range, griddle, charbroiler, 3-deck pizza oven on a low custom-made stand and another combi oven. 

Stations Supreme 

For the servery, the design team specified equipment flexible enough to meet the needs of a regularly changing menu and show-stopping enough to lure LinkedIn employees with a little culinary pizzazz. As with the cook lines, all of the larger equipment pieces in the servery are mounted on casters with quick-release utility hookups for easy cleaning and rearranging when necessary. 

Starting on the left of the L-shaped servery upon entering, dining options begin with the World Food Station, anchored by a circular 30-in.-dia. Evo grill. To its right, a counter inset with heated shelves and display lights highlight additional international food selections. Next is the Kebob Station, where an American Range kebob broiler with built-in rotisserie slowly rotates skewers of meat and vegetables. 

The Pasta/Ramen and Sushi stations are directly in front of windows. Pasta/Ramen is anchored by a trio of induction cooktops for finish-to-order showmanship. The induction units are flush-mounted into a custom-designed counter with an on-display cold rail mounted to a low-boy refrigerated-drawer unit. On the back counter sits a pair of high-speed (microwave-enabled) panini presses. The Sushi station shows off vinegared rice and fresh fish and seafood in a countertop refrigerated display unit; chefs dish up cooked rice from the large rice cooker on the back counter.

The Salad/Deli/Soups station gets its own free-standing island. Hot/cold drop-ins, frost-tops and soup wells make up the bulk of this station. 

The dish and tray return area, just beyond the start of the servery, has a multi-tier pass-through window and a trash sorting station that enables guests to pre-sort their waste items into compostables, recyclables and landfill trash.

“The station delivers just the right amount of transparency to the dishroom,” Goldberg says. “A friendly ‘thank you’ or ‘have a great day’ from the staff inside round off an exemplary and elevating dining experience.”

MENU/SEGMENT: Corporate dining
LOCATION: Sunnyvale, Calif.
FOODSERVICE OPERATOR: District Manager Markus Hartmann, Bon Appétit Management Co., Palo Alto, Calif.
COVERS/DAY: 1,000 meals
SERVERY SIZE: 1,600 sq. ft.
KITCHEN SIZE: 3,500 sq. ft.
NO. OF SEATS: 200, including adjacent lounge area
HOURS OF OPERATION: Elevate: 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; Coffee Shop: 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
EQUIPMENT PACKAGE: $1.3 million (includes coffee bar and break rooms)
PROJECT PROGRAMMING & DESIGN: Nahum Goldberg, Cini-Little Int’l., Richmond, Calif.; Project Coordinator Luke Elkos, Cini-Little Int’l., San Gabriel, Calif.
ARCHITECTS: Sherry Carroll, Reel Grobman & Associates, San Jose, Calif.; Kevin Jones, Kenneth Rodrigues & Partners, Mountain View, Calif.
DEALER/INSTALLATION: Bethany Strohecker, East Bay Restaurant Supply, Oakland, Calif.
CONTRACTOR: Rachel Carrasco, Vance Brown Builders, Palo Alto, Calif.

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