The domestic kitchen at St Nicholas had served its purpose for a quarter of a century, but was starting to show signs of wear and tear. The church committee were faced with a decision: to make a few small adjustments to keep the kitchen fit for purpose, or renovate the space entirely.
They decided on the latter, embarking on a project to upgrade the kitchen into a semi-commercial space that would open new opportunities for the church. Here, Alexander Dunn, then Church Warden at St Nicholas, tells us how Steelplan simplified the process and created a kitchen tailored to the church’s needs.
St Nicholas’ was in need of a kitchen upgrade that could not only cater for the congregation, but also the local community. It needed to be hard wearing enough for parties and corporate events, but still feel accommodating to church regulars.
It was a visit from the local health authority that sparked the committees’ interest in redeveloping the kitchen – but not for reasons you might think. “The kitchen actually passed most of the standards set by the local authority,” explains Alexander. “For a well-used domestic kitchen, it had done very well over 25 years, with only a few very minor recommendations. But after the visit we thought: well, actually, we would like to take it to the next level and make more use of the space.”
As is often the case with church kitchens, Alexander and his committee didn’t want a fully commercial kitchen, but they did want a step up from an MDF-based domestic model. What the Church needed was something in between, that could be hired out for events but wouldn’t feel intimidating to regular church groups or charity bake sales.
FINDING A SUPPLIER
Alexander spearheaded the project, searching the internet for local companies that could supply commercial-grade kitchens with a domestic sensibility. It proved harder than he first expected.
“Only four or five companies were able to give us quotes for anything near what we wanted, and most of those tended to be more commercial than we were really hoping for”, says Alexander. “We quickly decided to go with Steelplan, as their quote was by far and away closest to our brief.”
Steelplan Kitchens could offer a steel shell kitchen, with a colourful aesthetic and appliances that were easy to use for everyone.
“I thought that Ian [Badis, Steelplan Kitchens Design & Consultancy] must have had a background in food preparation, because he just seemed to think of everything,” says Alexander. “His working knowledge of a semi-commercial kitchen was really impressive, but he didn’t pressure us into making any snap decisions. His sensible comments and friendly manner made his advice all the more welcome; it was so refreshing to work with someone who had such intuitive knowledge in their field.”
Steelplan’s thorough quotation process ticked all the right boxes for Alexander and his church. “Whatever Ian quoted came in on budget, down to the smallest details,” says Alexander. “The time frame was also spot on, with everything running exactly to the schedule Ian gave at the start of the project.”
The kitchen has already seen plenty of action. Every Tuesday, the space is used to prepare food for St Nicholas’ Open Lunch, a weekly event attended by members of the Church community, and every Sunday, when the congregation gathers for tea and coffee after Sunday service.
The kitchen has also opened the door to new opportunities for the church, allowing the hall to be hired out for a wide range of events, including two wedding receptions and several birthday parties. The largest event it has supported so far was the Church’s own interregnum to welcome their new Vicar to the parish last year: an occasion attended by over 150 people.
“We’ve even had a chef in full chef’s whites – hat and all,” says Alexander, “which we’d like to see more of. I’m hoping that the kitchen can eventually be used to host a regular cookery class, as it would be a great use of the space.”
“We’ve had nothing but admiration for the kitchen from visitors,” says Alexander, “and we’ve all been very impressed with the construction. It’s already clear that it can withstand an awful lot of wear and tear and will last long into the future. One area that I feel particularly pleased about it the colour scheme. There was a great range of colours available for the units, which meant that I could be creative.
“One of the best things about it is its flexibility. Ian has advised that should the needs of the kitchen change over time, Steelplan are on hand to help us adapt it and keep the space evolving to our purpose.”
The Church St Nicholas Church, Thames Ditton
The space A decent sized kitchen area with serving hatch, adjacent to the church hall
The project To upgrade a well-used domestic style kitchen into a semi-commercial space
Steelplan’s solution A steel carcass with polyester coated steel doors, in Mint
Food prep: Stainless steel worktops throughout made to site dimensions, with welded in sink bowls.
Cooking & heating: Four ring gas hob, four function single-width electric fan oven and commercial microwave.
Commercial dishwasher (cleans dishes in a matter of minutes) ergonomically positioned for easy access.
Tea and coffee: Wall mounted water boiler: can pour up to 60 cups of hot water in an instant.