Grande Cuisine at Leonardslee Gardens

Athanor’s reputation for quality and reliability stretches right across the globe so it was no surprise that when Executive Head Chef Jean Delport, recently arrived from South Africa, was looking for a cook suite as part of the brand new kitchen planned for the Interlude restaurant at Leonardslee House and Gardens he headed straight for Grande Cuisine’s door.

“There was no kitchen in existence at the building, so we literally had to create one using a couple of rooms at the front of the house,” says Jean. “However, because of the building’s Grade II listed status, we needed it to fit within an existing space, and this left us with a bit of a conundrum – how to accommodate all the equipment that we needed without having to knock down walls and ceilings. Whilst it was relatively simple to position the smaller, individual items of equipment it soon became obvious that the suite would have to be bespoke. It had been a while since I had done any research into cooking suites but once I started looking online and asking around amongst my peers one brand kept coming up, Athanor.

Although I was familiar with the Athanor brand I had no knowledge of Grande Cuisine and so I didn’t really know what to expect from them. I needn’t have worried. It became very obvious from my first meeting with the GC team that they understood exactly what I was trying to do. It was so refreshing to talk to a company that wanted to work with me rather than against me.

The constraints imposed by the Grade II status meant that a cook suite powered by gas, and the associated extract system, was not an option. Having been brought up cooking on gas, the prospect of cooking on an all-electric suite filled me with a certain amount of trepidation! Again, I needn’t have worried. The inclusion of an Athanor Plaque within the bespoke four metre long suite meant that essentially I had a solid top on which I could cook directly or indirectly as required. In fact, the Plaque has turned out to be my favourite part of the suite as I can use it as a multi-zone, multi-temperature cooking surface for everything from small pans to large pots, as well as cooking on it directly of course! With the addition of two multi-zone induction hobs, built-in single well fryer, roasting oven, and hot holding drawers, as well as a salamander, it’s safe to say that I am now a convert.

The suite has enabled us to develop the menu and make the very most of the ingredients we use, many of which are either grown, raised or foraged from within the Leonardslee estate.  The suite has enabled us to serve them in the best way possible, from “holding” products better and longer, to improving our á la minute service. Having been to the Athanor factory to see the suite being built, I know it is not only going to be reliable it is also going to last for a long, long time.

It’s not just the form and function of the Athanor that I love, it’s all the other benefits. The use of induction means that the kitchen environment is cooler than any other I have ever worked in and I have never come across a cook suite that is easier to clean at the end of service. Switch it off, wipe it down, job done. No waiting for the surfaces to cool down first.

If I look at what we have now it’s actually pretty amazing because what Grande Cuisine have actually managed to do, despite the site restrictions, is create a suite that does more than I ever thought was possible for less than I expected to pay.”