A CREATIVE KITCHEN: The full story behind the Jamie Oliver Group’s search for the ultimate ‘showpiece’ kitchen

There are not many occasions where you would expect to walk through the doors of a corporate office and find yourself encountering an all-singing, all dancing bespoke Charvet cooking suite. But then again there are not many organisations like the Jamie Oliver Group.

When the business moved into a brand new office space close to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in North London three months ago, a key requirement was to have a professional kitchen installed just a dough ball’s throw away from the main entrance and reception desk.

“We always wanted a commercial kitchen to be at the forefront of the new office and this is very much a showpiece space in the sense that it is the first thing you see when you enter the building,” explains Rob Hannington, facilities manager at the Jamie Oliver Group and the man tasked with overseeing the office move, including the construction and delivery of the kitchen.

“I think that any visitor that walks into any company wants to see what’s going on, and that is the whole concept here. Any visitor instantly gets a small glimpse of how our business works — food is at the forefront of it.”

The new HQ is home to more than 130 staff, all of whom work across the company’s wide portfolio which includes recipe books, TV, social media content, licensing and marketing — essentially everything non-restaurant led. Key to the design of the kitchen space was versatility.

The group wanted to create a catering area that employees could use to prepare lunch and socialise — and which could potentially morph into a canteen-style area in future — but also somewhere that could comfortably host external events, fundraising activities, media launches and R&D activities.

The commercial kitchen at Jamie Oliver Group HQ will be used for functions, events, training and staff dining.

Menu development work for the restaurant businesses, which include Jamie’s Italian, Fifteen and Barbecoa, typically takes place at live sites, but there will be opportunities for these brands to utilise the facility for such purposes in future, as well as for training kitchen staff.

“It has been designed to be a completely versatile space,” confirms Hannington. “That is something that we have tried to create with all of the areas within this office.”

The flexibility of the kitchen is heavily linked to the ethos of the entire office set-up. Consisting of two floor plates — a lower ground space spanning 10,000 square feet and an upper level comprising 6,000 square feet — the interior layout is geared towards driving creativity and encouraging internal engagement. Few people in the company now have their own desks, which ensures extra space overall but more importantly breaks down any physical barriers.

This kitchen is very much a showpiece space in the sense that it is the first thing you see when you enter the building”

“We came from quite a siloed building previously, which created challenges in the sense that people didn’t know each other. So when we moved it was essential that we could create areas for staff to thrive in creatively because in essence we are a creative, consultancy-focused company,” explains Hannington.

The decision to install a full-scale commercial kitchen directly opposite the entrance to the building was taken early on in the process. “From day one we looked at what we wanted to do and we knew we wanted to achieve a commercial feel in the inside of that kitchen so that it could be used for different purposes and then we looked at brands that we could potentially purchase from.”

Charvet also gave its input and, working closely with Hannington and the team, put together different options for gas and electric. This was dictated by the design of the building, the overall finishes required and its multi-purpose use, explains Ian Clow, sales director at Charvet.

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The gas-fired suite features multiple cooking applications.

“As it was going to be for both internal staff usage and functions and events, it had to deliver on both levels: smaller components that allow the staff to use it comfortably and adequately, and then the professional chef requiring that bulk and the main drive of being able to feed a considerable amount of people. As a result we have got smaller burners in there and then larger, punchier burners, planchas and traditional solid tops for more of a restaurant scenario.”

The decision was made to opt for a gas-based titanium one-piece top with a bespoke ‘vibro’ finish. Fortunately the nature of the site meant that the kind of extraction headaches associated with many London sites were avoided.

“We had our ventilation and canopy company looking at how we do that, but luckily the building is two-storey so getting it up and out to atmosphere wasn’t too much of a struggle,” explains Hannington. “And we gutted the building so we were able to look closely at how it was designed.”

This particular suite came into the site in one piece as opposed to being delivered in sections”

The suite itself comprises a chargrill with Charvet ‘Diamond’ bar grid, an 800mm salamander with ceramic plaques, pasta cooker with steamer facility and digital temperature control, and a traditional gas solid top. In total there are three open gas burners — two rated at 6kw and one large 10kw with a wok adaptor stand — and a chrome-finished plancha, as well as three traditional Charvet 2/1 gastronorm ovens.

Additionally, the suite contains a series of integrated equipment including a Precision two-drawer refrigerator and three Alto Shaam hot-holding drawers.

Every effort was made to tie the aesthetics of the suite in with the building, while achieving a clean and classic look to create a “stand-out” piece of kit. Black enamel panels coupled with solid brass trims, door handles, protection rails and control dials give it a completely bespoke appearance.

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The suite was hand-built at Charvet’s factory in France and shipped to the UK in one piece.

Charvet is renowned as one of the most iconic heavy duty cooking equipment brands on the market, and a firm favourite of revered chefs and top dining establishments around the world. It produces all its equipment in a purpose-built factory at the foot of the Chartreuse mountains, where its tradition of manufacturing premier kitchen equipment dates back almost a century. Fully customised suites typically take 12 weeks from customer sign-off to delivery. Despite measuring 3900mm x 1400mm, the suite at the new offices met few logistical problems.

“This particular suite came into the site in one piece as opposed to us delivering it in sections,” says Clow. “We had good access that allowed us to bring it straight in and deliver it straight onto the floor for them. If we can avoid welding on site then we always prefer to, but it is not always that way!”

Having seen the project through from start to finish, Clow admits that viewing the suite in situ in a non-commercial, non-high street location is a “real eye-opener”. Hannington certainly agrees: “We genuinely wanted to create that ‘wow’ factor when you walk in the door and I think we have got that with everything that is around the kitchen — it is a sort of jigsaw puzzle with a key piece at the centre,” he concludes.

Spec sheet

• The cooking range installed at the London-based media HQ of the Jamie Oliver Group is a Charvet bespoke suite, also known by the French as “piano”.

• Sized at 3900mm x 1400mm, it was delivered and installed as a one-piece finished unit, including stainless steel plinth and with all integral services fully factory-installed to fit the site.

• Bespoke design details include black enamel panels with brass trims, door handles, protection rails and control dials.

• Key appliances include ovens, chargrill, salamander, pasta cookers, solid top, gas burners and plancha.

• Integrated equipment includes Precision refrigerated drawers and Alto Shaam hot-holding units.

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