As three Green Needham members stepped into the massive 19th century “castle” full of quirky niches and rumored secret passages, we could scarcely believe that we were on our way to see a state-of-the-art cafeteria. Our research into creative local solutions to food waste had brought us to the Noble and Greenough School in Dedham. Our destination was the recently completed LEED-certified addition, an airy light-filled space adjoining the cozy dark rooms of the original building. There we were treated to an hour-long tour by Matthew Burek, who works for Flik Hospitality and oversees food service at Nobles. Matthew’s passion was evident as he explained the features of the new kitchen and dining area, which provides up to a thousand meals a day during the week, including hot entrees and salad bars.
Matthew started by pointing out a poster which illustrates how they purchase regionally sourced food through Sid Wainer & Son. To avoid wasting this food, a Green Team works on education efforts to reduce the amount of food that is taken but not eaten.
Next we moved to the dish washing room. When finished with lunch, students put dirty dishes on a conveyor belt where food waste and napkins are scraped into a “Somat” machine that compresses the remains and removes the liquid, reducing the weight by 75%. The compressed food waste travels through pipes to a back room where it is deposited into a barrel and later picked up and converted to bio-fertilizer.
Dishes which have been scraped are then put into a long continuous flow dish washer (like a carwash!). Dirty plates and glasses enter at one end and go through on a conveyor belt to the other end where they emerge clean and dry. Water in the machine is recycled, using only 15 gallons a day.
The large kitchen area is efficiently designed with a single huge venting hood containing six separate dampers, each with its own sensor so it opens only when needed. Several walk-in freezers and refrigerators include energy-saving devices such as “air curtains” that blow down air to keep in the cold when the door is opened. There are four vaporized steam ovens which can boil an egg, bake a cake, roast a turkey, cook a frozen roast chicken in less than 20 minutes, and everything in between. There is also a large stainless steel frying pan/pressure cooker which cooks quickly, reducing energy use. Used cooking oil is captured directly from fryolators and is picked up for conversion into biodiesel.
The bright dining area has three stories of windows with shades that are operated by electric power and high windows that can be opened when extra ventilation is desired.
The operation has earned a 3-star rating from the Green Restaurant Association, a certification that is renewed each year upon inspection. It was inspiring to see what is possible when it comes to food service design and to know that Matthew Burek is so proud to be directing such a facility.