Renowned Michelin starred chef Tom Aikens has just opened his first UK Tom’s Kitchen outside of London, at the ritzy new Mailbox Centre in Birmingham. As with his other Tom’s Kitchen restaurants, the menu is very seasonal and largely based around British classics and comfort food – anything from fish ‘n chips to sausage and mash to steaks, stews and burgers.
The restaurant is chic, stylish and hard-working – and the equipment has to match. “We’re open seven days a week pretty much every day of the year, from 6am to around midnight,” Tom says. “The equipment definitely takes a bashing, that’s why we chose Williams. I know I can rely on a Williams fridge because they’re robust, strong and can take a bit of a hammering from our lovely chefs! And it’s so nice to have a kitchen that looks immaculate. With Williams you definitely get that, the units fit in so well.”
Appearance is important, the more so since customers can see into the kitchen. “Plus it’s nice for my chefs to work in a really good looking kitchen.”
There’s a significant mix of refrigeration products at the restaurant. “Another reason we chose Williams is the breadth of different systems they offer,” says Tom. “Williams units on site take in a variety of counters, including compact space-saving models, along with an upright cabinet, prep station and blast chiller.”
The kitchen was installed by Salix.
“Working with people that understand a chef’s requirements really helps– they have the industry knowledge, having collaborated with so many different chefs, with so many different types of equipment and different spaces, in order to make a kitchen work,” says Tom.
“Here in Birmingham we have the restaurant itself plus the separate deli, which has a slightly different food offering and is open all day, for breakfast, mid-morning snacks, lunch and afternoon tea. In the restaurant we also have two private dining rooms, plus a fully operational bar that serves food, too. We also do events, using the foyer for larger functions.”
“In terms of the kitchen space here it is small and compact, but in terms of the output, it produces a lot. The refrigeration has to work hard. I know Williams products can withstand pulling and slamming doors (which is my pet hate!).” Food safety is another critical issue. “Williams temperature control makes sure things are always at the right level.”
“Working with Williams has really helped us get the best out of our kitchens.”
Jade HJC2 two-door counters
“We have a mix of counters with drawers and doors,” says Tom. “Some of them are reverse units, with refrigeration systems on the left side, because of the configuration of the kitchen – which just shows how Williams were very happy and prepared to change things in order to fit with the flow of our kitchen. The functionality really works and helps with the quickness and ease of service – stopping chefs bumping into each other! It all helps make the kitchen work well.”
There are seven HJC2 Jade counters in the restaurant, three of which are reverse units. The remainder have standard configurations, with the refrigeration system on the right hand side. Five have banks of three drawers instead of doors.
Onyx CPC3 prep station
“The Williams prep-station is used for the cold larder section,” says Tom. ”It’s designed so that chefs are looking down, which makes it a lot easier for them to pin point where ingredients are. It keeps ingredients really well chilled.”
The CPC3 is a three-door counter with 320 litres of chilled storage. Its work surface has tilted ingredient wells, with room for seven 1/3GN containers. Its ‘curtain of air’ chilling system ensures ingredients are always chilled safely while offering easy access for chefs.
WBC30 blast chiller
“I have to say the blast chiller is used a lot in the kitchen – every single section uses it,” says Tom. “From the larder when they make duck liver parfait terrine, the meat section when they’re doing slow roast shoulder of lamb, the pastry when they’re doing breakfast goods and cakes that need to be carefully chilled, and the deli as well – there’s a multitude of different things.”
The WBC30 can chill 30kg of food per 90 minute cycle. Its 1-2-3 control panel is easy to use and offers the choice of hard chilling, for dense foods, and soft chilling, for delicate products. It can handle hot food right up to 90°C, chilling down to +3°C in 90 minutes. It offers the option of temperature probe-controlled chilling.
Jade HJ1 single door upright cabinet
Like all the Williams fridges at Tom’s Kitchen, Birmingham, the Jade HJ1 benefits from extensive upgrades the company introduced across its range as part of its ‘refrigeration for the real world’ initiative. They range from advanced castors, which enhance manoeuvrability, to a radical rethink of the internal airflow, which improves efficiency and food safety. Its thicker insulation not only improves efficiency but also makes it even more robust.
However, an ingenious design means that, even with the thicker insulation, the unit still fits the same footprint as before, which is a boon for space-saving.
“Sustainability is an important part of what we’re about,” says Tom. “Which is another factor when it comes to us being very careful with our sourcing.
We always try to get the best in terms of our products. We can be very demanding and difficult in ensuring we get the right equipment!” The Jade HJ1 is a Gastronorm GN2/1 cabinet with a capacity of 620 litres.
Amber A135 single door counters
Tom’s Kitchen in Birmingham has two Amber A135 undercounter cabinets – a fridge and a freezer. The A135 is a space-saving unit measuring just 606mm wide by 577mm deep and 805mm high. It has an internal capacity of 135 litres.