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USC’s Grand Slam Behind scenes at the new Ronald Tutor Campus Center, a 13,000-sq- ft. production kitchen serves chain outlets, fine dining, a bar/nightclub, a marketplace and the banquet hall.


By Janice Cha

ome projects are big. And some are BIG. When teams from the University of Southern California, R.W. Smith & Co. and architectural firm A.C. Martin Partners got together to begin work on the new Ronald Tutor Campus Center in Los Angeles and its foodservice operations, it was clear this one would be in the latter category. It would have to serve a huge student body, numerous outlets and diverse cuisines. It would have to do it cost-effectively, and it would have to look good. Opened in the summer of 2010, the Tutor Campus Center makes quite an impression. The grand, Italian-style building draws students, faculty, staff and visitors with its arched windows, domed rotunda and grand piazza. And its foodservice operation, like the university itself, offers something for everyone. At the top of the line is fine-dining restaurant Moreton Fig, created in partnership with acclaimed California restaurateur Chef Bradley Ogden. There’s also Lemonade, a retro-chic café developed by Los Angeles caterer and Chef Alan Jackson; Seeds Marketplace, with a gourmet selection of grab-and-go foods and grocery items; and a Food Court anchored by California Pizza Kitchen, Carl’s Jr., Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Panda Express and Wahoo’s Fish Taco. In the lower level is a longtime USC favorite, a nightclub and bar called Traditions. Also on the lower level is an 8,900-sq.-ft. space ballroom with banquet seating for up to 700. Supporting the myriad food concepts—from chain to self-op,

In the USC’s Tutor Center production kitchen prep area [above], a combination of undercounter pulpers and self-cleaning floors help keep the area neat. California Pizza Kitchen is one of the outlets supported by the prep kitchen.



fine dining to quick-service, is the Tutor Center’s behind-scenes production kitchen. The space, nearly as long as a football field, operates 22 hours a day with the precision of the USC Trojan Marching Band.

Tutor Center Timeline & Team Now starting its second year of operations, the Tutor Center comprises roughly 25% of total university dining, including catering and special events, for the 37,000-student university. First-year revenue figured approximately $11.37 million. As with any project of this scope, planning was a group effort. The Tutor Center’s dining operation strategy began in ’06, led by USC Hospitality Services Associate Senior V.P. of Auxiliary Services Dan Stimmler with the support of former Hospitality Director Scott Shuttleworth. Shuttleworth was succeeded mid-project by current Hospitality Director and USC alum Kris Klinger, who joined the school in ’09 from Compass Group. The production kitchen and all food outlets were planned by longtime foodservice design veteran Art Manni of R.W. Smith & Co., Costa Mesa, Calif.,

while drawings were created by A.C. Martin Architects, Los Angeles. Construction began on the day following graduation in ’08, orchestrated by Sylmar, Calif.-based building firm Tutor-Saliba Corp. (USC alum and company Pres. Ronald Tutor donated so significantly to the project that the building was named in his honor.) The Center opened for business in July last year.

Big Challenges Planners had plenty of up-front challenges with the Tutor Center project, including tight deadlines, major last-minute design changes, stringent clean air regulations, multiple-level foodservice operations and narrow service access, to name a few. For starters, designers had less than a year to complete and approve drawings. “We had to submit drawings to the city by year-end ’08 in order to operate under existing building codes,” Manni says. “The ’09 building codes were considerably stricter and would have been much more expensive to comply with.” The second design hurdle was a change

EQUIPMENT LIST Prep area: Berkel vacuum-packaging machine Cres Cor mobile proofer Hobart vertical cutter-mixer InSinkErator pulper Randell/Unifed Brands ice cream freezer • Traulsen pizza prep tables • Traulsen roll-in refrigerators & freezers • • • • •

Cooking areas: • Alto-Shaam roll-in blast chiller

Alto-Shaam roll-in combi oven Amana microwave oven Blodgett/Middleby conveyor pizza oven Blodgett/Middleby double convection oven • Cleveland Range/Manitowoc double convection steamer • Cleveland Range/Manitowoc 60-gal. tilt kettles • Cres Cor cook-hold cabinets • Electrolux pressure braising pan • Gaylord exhaust hoods with UV and water wash • Gaylord ventilator control cabinets • Hatco fry dump station with ceramic heat lamp • Montague charbroiler • Montague griddle • Montague oven-range • Montague stock pot range • Pitco/Middleby fryer batteries with filter system • Wells/Middleby hot food wells • • • •

Other: • Cambro shelving • Carter-Hoffmann/Middleby

UV-enhanced hoods that vaporize grease particles are a key part of making sure Tutor Center hoods exhaust pre-cleaned air out to the campus. The prep kitchen’s mobile tables have ready access to electric power via retractable ceiling-mounted outlets.


banquet carts • Fisher pre-rinse spray valves • Hobart flight-type warewasher • Meiko pot washer • Salvajor scrap collector • Sani-Floor floor troughs with programmable controls • Custom walk-in coolers & freezers

USC Ronald Tutor Campus Center Production Kitchen















“Eagle, a broadline manufacturer of commercial foodservice equipment, is pleased to sponsor FER’s Unit/Kitchen Design feature. To learn more about us visit”

from university-created quick-service concepts to national chain brands—after construction was underway. The last-minute change stemmed partly from student requests for well-known names such as California Pizza Kitchen and Panda Express, and partly from practical constraints. “We just didn’t have the personnel and time we needed to create so many self-operated concepts from scratch,” says Klinger, who joined USC about a year before the Tutor Center was due to open. “We decided to do two of our own concepts—Seeds Marketplace and Moreton Fig—really well, and rely on outside branding expertise for the rest.” “We had already installed [food court] hoods and walk-ins when the university brought the franchised concepts into the mix,” Manni adds. “Our CAD department had to work closely with each branded concept to make sure the space worked for them and their equipment.” Another hurdle was presented by USC clean air regulations. With the Tutor Center located in the middle of campus, it was crucial for all ventilation hoods to be exhausting pre-cleaned air. The solution here was to install UV-enhanced hoods that vaporize grease particulates, along with various pollution controls for smoke and odor.

Among other hurdles: Calculating food movement logistics within the multi-level foodservice layout of the Tutor Center. Pallets arrive at the mezzanine level and are brought down to the basement for distribution, prep and some pre-cooking. Then they’re transferred back to upper levels for service in the various food outlets. Complicating food supply movement are narrow service corridors dictated by the building’s long, narrow footprint. To avoid transport bottlenecks, designers added two extra elevators to streamline deliveries within the building.

Production Kitchen Tour The Tutor Center production kitchen’s overall footprint is Lshaped and BIG—did we mention BIG?—measuring 200 ft. from end to end and covering 13,000 sq. ft. in all. At peak production times, up to 100 associates work here. The layout was designed with product flow in mind. Food deliveries are moved from the dock on the mezzanine level down to the temperature-controlled receiving area in the basement. This is where pallets are staged, broken down according to invoices for later use by the nine food outlets, then transferred into coolers or dry storage further down the corridor. The receiving area is anchored by a pair of service elevators—



one dedicated to carrying prepped food and supplies up to the north end of the food court, the other used solely for ferrying trash and soiled serviceware back down to avoid cross-contamination. The ice machine area is also located here for easy ice distribution to service areas. Just past the ice machines is a bank of six massive walk-in coolers and freezers. CPK, Lemonade, Seeds and catering each have their own dedicated coolers; FACT BOX Wahoo’s and Panda share a cooler, and the MENU/SEGMENT: freezer is used by all. In addition, a dedicated Moreton Fig walk-in College/University is located near the prep kitchen area, while a Traditions walk-in is adjacent to the production PRODUCTION KITCHEN SIZE: 13,000 sq. ft. kitchen area. “Separate but equal” applies in food producDINING OUTLETS: California tion as well as storage. Klinger and his team rely Pizza Kitchen, Carl’s Jr., on checklists, color-coding and lots of labeling Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, to keep concept supplies and smallwares Lemonade, Moreton Fig, Panda straight. “We created production smallwares Express, Seeds Marketplace, checklists for each prep and cooking station Traditions Bar & Grill, Wahoo’s serving the various concepts. It’s up to the cooks Fish Taco and the Campus to make sure that whatever tools they use get Center banquet hall. washed and returned to the stations before they MEALS/DAY: 8,000 leave,” Klinger says. Color-coded tags on smallwares and pans REVENUE, 2011: $11.4 million also help keep things straight. “Each concept has its own specific set of smallwares, but food- STUDENT POP.: 37,000 service staff tends to use whatever happens to be closest at hand, usually the pans,” Klinger KITCHEN EQUIPMENT says. “This becomes an issue when a certain PACKAGE: $5.76 million venue needs a specific amount of food preKEY DESIGN PARTNERS: pared, and none of its pans are available.”

the troughs wash food debris into catchment screens for end-of-shift collection. The gratings are sized so they can be run through the warewasher. “The floor-wash system saves on worker time and water that would otherwise be used in washing mats or cleaning floors,” Klinger says. “And the slightly springy grating material seems to help reduce worker fatigue.” Just past the prep area, the passageway makes a left turn. If you look to the right you’ll find another service elevator used for sending food up to the south end of the food court venues. This elevator also supplies catering trucks making deliveries to other campus food outlets. The kitchen’s main scullery area, across from the elevator, cleans kitchen pots and pans with the aid of a continuous motion warewashing system. Also in this corner is a dedicated walk-in USC: Assoc. Sr. V.P. of Auxilfor Traditions. iary Services Dan Stimmler; Prep, Floors & Big-Batch Cooking Food then moves from prep straight into the former Dir. USC Hospitality adjacent cooking area. The cooking area feaMoving on from storage toward prep, the banScott Shuttleworth; current tures high-volume production equipment: tilting quet dishroom on the left is placed well to Dir. Hospitality Kris Klinger pressure braisers, combi ovens, blast chiller, a accept soiled dishes from the nearby 700-seat Foodservice design: R.W. banquet hall. Also here is where you’ll find the Smith & Co., Costa Mesa, Calif. dual bain-marie/ice bath and roughed-in space for future cook-chill equipment. main waste pulper plus the cart- and mat-wash- Architectural design: A.C. The final area of the production kitchen is a Martin Partners, Los Angeles ing stations. smaller cooking area at the short leg of the “L”— “The pulper unit accepts food-waste scraps, Construction: Tutor-Saliba this area is dedicated to serving Traditions bar which are broken down and then processed Corp., Sylmar, Calif. orders, as well as room service and catering finthrough the extractor to expel water,” Manni ishing. A small warewashing area adjacent hansays. “This reduces waste weight by as much as WEBSITE: dles soiled dishes from Traditions. It’s a good 85% and saves on trash collection fees.” Immediately across from the long bank of walk-ins is the prep way to keep sporadic workloads from complicating bigger-volarea. Key equipment there includes fixed work tables, prep sinks, ume production, and it’s handy to the outlets. choppers, food processors, a vertical cutter-mixer and numerous mobile work tables for flexibility. The tables all have access to Tutor Center Looks Ahead electric power via ceiling-hung retractable outlets. In an unusual Klinger is already looking at growing the Tutor Center production move for the prep area, designers included an undercounter pulp- kitchen’s output. “We’re working this year on making the kitchen a 24-hour operation starting next fall,” he says. ing system here as well. Also expected to be added as demand grows will be the cookOne thing visitors tend to notice during a tour of the production kitchen is its floor and how clean it stays even during the heat chill production equipment. “We have the space for it all—we just of culinary battle. The floor in front of all prep and cooking areas, need to purchase and install the equipment,” Klinger says. For now, though, the USC’s Tutor Center production kitchen as well as in the dishroom and scullery, features a non-skid grating material set above shallow floor troughs. Water jets set flow in has plenty to keep it busy.


Lemonade was created by Los Angeles caterer Chef Alan Jackson. For a 3D tour of the Tutor Center, visit www.usc. edu/student-affairs/ construction/virtual_tour.

USC's Grand Slam  

Behind the scenes at the new Ronald Tutor Campus Center, a 13,000 sq. ft. production kitchen serves chain outlets, fine dining, a bar/nightc...

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