The Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, VA, has a long, storied history.
The main house, or Clubhouse, which was first built in the 1750s, is a large, impressive brick structure with white-pillared portico, emblematic of Colonial architecture of the region—in fact, while he was president, Thomas Jefferson was involved with the design of the one of the spaces. Over the years, the club has built additions and outbuildings to accommodate new functions—a fitness center, pool facilities, guestrooms (there are 40), dining room, ballroom, gathering spaces, a bar and a restaurant. With more than 30 additions, the composition was confusing and did not meet the club’s ongoing needs.
Those needs included providing food service for both club members and catered events, but the haphazard additions made for a bit of a logistical nightmare for the back-of-house kitchen, food prep and storage areas.
“The club was in woeful need of new kitchen facilities and back of house for years, but still produced a good product,” said John Kirk, partner, Cooper Robertson, the architecture and design firm tasked with creating a master plan of short- and long-term improvements, including the kitchens and other back-of-house areas.
There were a number of logistical problems with the old design. “One of our favorite stories is that the dishwasher was right outside the main event space,” he said. “So, after dinner, they had to wait until the event was over before they could run it, which means they’re paying overtime to run the dishwasher, which was too noisy to run if the room was occupied.”
The kitchens also did not have enough capacity to run a catered event and serve meals in an adjacent member dining room, meaning that it would lose potential revenue. On top of that, in order to deliver items from the dessert kitchen to the dining room, the desserts had to be wheeled passed a set of 1,500-degree ovens, causing the ice cream to melt before it reached guests.
Another problem was that all of the walk-in coolers were located outside. In addition to being impractical, they were also an eyesore. “The way the club grew the kitchen was at the heart of it, kind of where you where you want it,” said Sam Blodgett, associate, Cooper Robertson. “So everything’s looking into this space. With the dumpsters, coolers and grease storage container disposal outside, the fitness center, guestrooms and people driving by would get a primetime view of people taking the trash out. One of the biggest successes was just cleaning up the exterior of the space.”
In order to handle these problems, Cooper Robertson’s design focused on creating a more functional and beautiful kitchen space with better connections to the rest of the club. Exterior work included improvements to bring the kitchen structure more in line with the rest of the facility. Key program elements include improved staff spaces (locker rooms and an employee cafeteria) that have boosted staff hiring and retention.
The work significantly improved internal kitchen logistics and BOH efficiencies through the creation of two full kitchens with shared support spaces and a separate plating area, allowing the club to host multiple, separate events simultaneously for the first time in its history.
There is also now direct grease piping, so an employee doesn’t have to manually remove waste at the end of each meal.
Cooper Robertson also upgraded the purchasing and receiving flow with new operation and storage facilities, accessed with a Dormakaba card key system. The new design added a service lift and full walk-ins off the loading dock.
Finally, adding specialty spaces and equipment allowed club leadership to expand the membership menu and create a richer experience for guests with offerings such as a chef’s table and group and individual cooking classes. Specific spaces now include the Garde Manger, Allergy Kitchen, Pastry Shop and Blue Ridge Kitchen, with new equipment including an indoor smoker (hot & cold), an Ironox Blast Chiller and the pastry shop’s new deck oven.