Keeping Parks Cooking
The Best Kitchen Equipment and Design Features

For many patrons, food and drink is an integral part of the amusement park experience. Even those who can barely stand to pull themselves away from the attractions that brought them to the facility in the first place need sustenance eventually. The trick then for culinary staff is to deliver fare that is both delicious and capable of being served up quickly. Kitchen equipment and kitchen design features contribute mightily to the success of such an effort. Without proper tools and an efficient traffic pattern, even the most competent kitchen help will be hampered in their attempts to keep patrons happy. Read on to discover what chefs and managers at four theme parks rely on to keeps things humming in their own facility’s kitchens.

Patrons stopping by the Hungry Dutchman Café on the grounds of Nelis’ Dutch Village in Holland. Mich., can enjoy authentic Dutch dishes as well as many American favorites. Café Manager Lydia Luyendijk and her staff count on several key pieces of kitchen equipment to serve up Dutch food specialties such as Metworst (pork sausage), Erwtensoep (pea soup), Saucijzebroodjes (pigs in a blanket) and Banket (almond pastry) as well as more typical American fare such as hamburgers, hotdogs, brats and more. “We have to be really, really quick. Sometimes a busload of people walks in, like 40 people, so we must be ready with all those items prepared to keep up with the customers,” Luyendijk said.

Executive Chef Aaron Banks of Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville, Ky., photographed in front of the attraction’s Bayside Grill. The park conducts both seasonal preventative maintenance and monthly checkups on its kitchen equipment, according to Banks.

The Hungry Dutchman Café relies on two small ovens in their back kitchen as well as several microwaves and professional crock pot units for their famous pea soup. Once an item is prepared in back and comes to the front of the house, they utilize professional steam pots, out of which they serve customers. Another piece of equipment that Luyendijk identifies as essential to their kitchen operation is a slicer. “We slice our own turkey, ham, tomatoes, onions, cheese, etc. and we clean it and take it totally apart after each use.” They also use a sanitizing spray and a lubricant to keep it running properly. While some might consider a small kitchen a drawback, Luyendijk said her cooking area’s compact size actually enhances efficiency and promotes smooth operations. “We also have a nice heating cabinet that we use during the really busy season, like tulip time at the beginning of May. We’ll use the hot cabinet to prepare some of our items and always have something ready to go when the crowds arrive,” she said.

At iPlay America, a leading indoor theme park in Freehold, N.J., their pizza oven and fryers are their most important pieces of kitchen equipment. “Between handling hundreds of kids’ parties, group outings and just the public in general, we rely on our pizza oven and fryers to pump out countless pizzas and wings every week,” said Samantha Unglert, director of operations. Preventative maintenance is the name of the game at the park to keep all kitchen equipment in tip-top shape. “Everything is continuously cleaned, inspected and maintenance is performed. The pieces are torn down and inspected every week,” Unglert said.

The fact that there are essentially two separate kitchens at iPlay America boosts efficiency and promotes smooth operations. It is the best design feature of their kitchen and it gives them the capability to produce food for multiple types of service. As Unglert stated: “We have both a main line and a banquet line, enabling us to support our full-service restaurant, multiple parties, banquets and concessions at the same time.”

Numerous pieces of kitchen equipment get a daily workout at Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville, Ky. Each plays an important role in keeping customers’ varied appetites satisfied. The deep fryers are always frying, the char-grills are always grilling and the double-deck conveyor belt pizza ovens and combination cooking ovens have their own jobs to do. Of course, regular maintenance keeps the whole operation in motion. “At the beginning of each season, we conduct preventative maintenance on each piece of equipment. We replace parts when needed and conduct follow-up checks each month,” said Executive Chef Aaron Banks.

The clamshell grill at Kentucky Kingdom can produce more than 480 burgers per hour. “It has increased our productivity by 65 percent, allowing our team members to handle additional tasks during operating hours,” said Executive Chef Aaron Banks, who is shown here operating the unit.

It is something of a coincidence but one of the best and most efficient design features at Kentucky Kingdom just happens to belong to a piece of equipment as well. It’s the clamshell grill that staff utilize at the amusement park’s Bayside Grill food stand. The dual-sided grill can produce more than 480 burgers per hour. “It has increased our productivity by 65 percent, allowing our team members to handle additional tasks during operating hours,” said Chef Banks.

It should hardly come as a surprise that the char-grills, fryers and pizza oven factor prominently at Darien Lake Theme Park Resort in Darien Center, N.Y., too. The patrons at this Western New York State attraction clamor for all the usual theme park favorites plus some regional additions – beef on weck, anyone? The char-grills are maintained through annual calibrations and replacement of parts as needed. Revenue Director Michael Botticelli noted the best method for keeping replacements under control is to clean the grill every day. The fryers are subjected to daily filtering and a weekly clean-out.  Meanwhile, the pizza oven also gets calibrated annually and its internal oven space is cleaned weekly. “That way we make sure all the pizza we serve throughout our entire season is of consistent quality,” Botticelli said.

The main kitchen at Darien Lake Theme Park Resort is divided into four distinct areas – four distinct hubs of activity, if you will. There is a hot food line which is the main line for service to the dining room. It is complemented by a secondary line for prep which also handles breakfast buffet production and special events. Then there is a separate dishwashing area plus a large, dry storage room. “Our space and layout is really what makes it easy to keep everything organized and keep things moving,” Botticelli concluded.

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