For $5 million, you, too, can have a kitchen like the Duquesne Club's




Kitchen renovation for a suburban family of four, two of whom do most of the cooking and meal prep for weekday meals and snacks plus one company dinner a week in a dining room: $50,000.

Kitchen renovation for 134-year-old, members-only club with eight a la carte dining rooms, 40 cooks (and more during the holidays), serving 700 meals a week plus you-can't-begin-to-imagine how many parties: $5 million.

That's how much the Duquesne Club spent on its recent kitchen upgrade.

The club was voted the country's No. 1 city club of America in 2006 and has held the title of the Top Private Club in the United States since 1996, according to Club Leaders Forum magazine.

No pressure, no pressure, but wouldn't a new kitchen workspace improve efficiency and performance?

Executive Chef Keith Coughenour worked on the kitchen renovation plans with consultants and builders for two years, start to finish. Construction was executed in four phases so the club could stay open throughout. Cooking, serving and entertaining were never interrupted. If there are "war stories," nobody's telling.

The club's kitchen is organized following the "kitchen brigade" system instituted by Auguste Escoffier, where each position has a station and specific responsibilities. One quiet afternoon shortly after its completion, Chef Coughenour gave a show-and-tell tour. Here's how the kitchen footprint works.

Garde manger. That's the French term for the station at which cold buffet dishes are prepared and other foods are stored. There are under-counter refrigerators and state-of-the-art everythings. Some of the items prepared there are salads, pates, appetizers and decorative platters. During the busy holidays when 20 chefs do nothing but make hors d'oeuvres all day, this huge area should feel roomy.

Complete cooking islands. Dining has changed in recent years from plated courses to a more a la carte menu. Two island stations accommodate four cooks, two on a side. Each cook has a convection oven, a plancha (sort of a griddle), a shoulder-high water faucet and a salamander (a narrow broiler that looks like a giant CD changer). Rather than place pots on separate burners, cooks can pull pots on and off heat on flat, wave-top grills. Another island accommodates pasta, soup and saucier stations. On all of them, the hoods are strong enough to suck up a big man carrying a sack of potatoes.

Clean up. The islands are perpendicular to one large pot-washing area, so that the racks of All-Clad pots and pans remain in the area where they are used. Cook pots are pressure-washed by what look like hot-tub jets.

Bulk cooking. The banquet line faces the islands. Here, all ovens and counters are on wheels for flexibility. Nearby is a bulk food area with a freezer and two coolers, each as big as your bedroom. The butcher station takes down carcasses into manageable, recognizable cuts and roasts. Feet and bones are saved for stock.

Soup production. The 100-gallon stock caldrons burble away constantly. Poultry carcasses, peelings and root vegetables are simmered in one, browned meat bones are in another. For fastest cooling, hot soup is transferred into tubular 2-gallon plastic bags which are then lowered into an aquarium-ish tank filled with 34-degree water. (The soup bags look like finless sausage-fish.) When cool, the bags are packed in cartons and carted off to the big freezers and refrigerators in the basement.

Fish fridge. What looks like a massive filing cabinet turns out to be the fish refrigerator, each drawer labeled with its catch: tuna, salmon, and probably one for the signature Virginia spot, nee black bass.

High tech. Over there is a Cryovac machine which is used for protein that will be cooked sous vide (in a vacuum-sealed pouch). Here's a band-saw, there's a braiser, and next to it is a combination steamer-dry heat oven. Dwarfing them is the blast-chiller, as big and solid as a bank vault. Just beyond are six electric deck ovens, each with top, bottom and back heat.

Dish washing. Excuse me, but here it is called "ware washing." This crew has state-of-the-art equipment, too -- power soakers, power gushers, minute-washing cycles and conveyor belts.

Dessert. Feel the cool air. The pastry station is bigger than most restaurant kitchens. Whippers, whiskers, mixers, scales, creamers and reamers are built for precision and high production. One cake mixer could double as a Tilt-a-Whirl car at Kennywood Park. A large chocolate room -- solitary, windowless and temperature-controlled -- is where chocolate is tempered and desserts are finished.

Funny, isn't it, how the chocolate room just happens to share the wall adjacent to Chef Coughenour's office?

We know Chef has a sweet tooth.

Although we didn't see a pass-through, maybe when he presses a certain brick, a tiny door opens and he can reach for sample mousse and truffles.




Marlene Parrish can be reached at mparrish@post-gazette.com or 412-481-1620. First Published October 4, 2007 4:00 AM




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