Culinary savoir-faire

Vincent Charoy, Director of the Épône central kitchen: “We cook balanced and tasty meals for children and senior citizens"

Vincent Charoy
Opened in January 2020, the new central kitchen in Épône in the Paris region, is a modern and innovative kitchen that prepares balanced meals for children and isolated elderly people. Read the testimonial of the Director of the kitchen, Vincent Charoy, who explains how the kitchen works.

Can you describe the Épône central kitchen in a few words?

Vincent Charoy The Épône central kitchen opened at the end of January 2020. Located in the Yvelines, the kitchen prepares 18,000 meals per day, mainly for school canteens and the elderly in Paris region. The kitchen’s highly committed team comprises around one hundred people with very varied profiles: cooks, storekeepers, order pickers, delivery drivers, as well as people who work in purchasing and those in charge of client relations.

Like our teams, the kitchen is very modern and recent which enable us to do a real job of sourcing our provisions at the local level: 20 to 30% of our purchases are sourced locally and come from farms, orchards or cheese factories located in Yvelines or other departments in the Paris region. The recruitments were carried out via a partnership with GPSO (Grand Paris Seine & Oise) who we are still working with to identify local suppliers.

The kitchen is very modern and recent which enables us to a real job of sourcing our provisions at the local level.

Vincent CharoyDirector of the Épône central kitchen

How are meals prepared?

VC The central kitchen functions like a traditional kitchen, but with larger volumes. Our latest-generation equipment enables chefs to offer more products that are cooked on-site: soups, purees, gratins, compotes, pastries, etc. The vegetable preparation area allows fresh and / or organic vegetables to be washed and cut on-site, in complete safety and in accordance with strict hygiene rules.

Once prepared, the dishes are cooled to 10 ° C in less than 2 hours. These dishes can therefore be eaten two to three days later, while retaining their original savor and nutritional value. In Épône, around 80% of dishes are delivered to nursery and elementary school canteens in ten towns (Levallois, Herblay, Poissy, Mantes-la-Jolie, Chanteloup, etc.), and 20% are ordered by municipal social service action centers for delivery to seniors' homes. Meals are then reheated on-site before being consumed.

For the elderly, it is important to cook meals that are appetizing, in terms of taste, and appealing to the eye. We work with seasonal products, fruit purées in particular are homemade and we use fresh apples without added sugar. We also try to package meals in such a way that the shape and color of the packaging stimulate the appetite!

What innovations have been introduced?

VC All innovations in the kitchen have already been tested by Elior on other sites. Thanks to modern equipment, we can work on new culinary techniques while offering ergonomic and safe working conditions to employees. Some repetitive tasks with no added value have been eliminated in favor of quality, thus eliminating employee exposure to musculoskeletal disorders. For example, we are testing a technological innovation to assist seniors to place their orders: once the individual delivery slip has been scanned, the meal preparer picks the dishes chosen by the senior citizen from the lockers which are designated by a light signal. This allows us to gain in reliability and customization.

In the kitchen, we use several major innovations that enable us to make quality meals: the vegetable preparation area allows us to wash and cut fresh fruit and vegetables, the centrifuge makes compotes from fresh fruit, the pastry workshop is equipped to prepare desserts on-site, and the combi-ovens make it possible to adapt the type of cooking according to the produce in question (slow cooking for fish, steam cooking for vegetables, and night cooking), etc.

Respect for the environment is also very important at all levels. Equipment has been designed to be energy efficient: a glycol water cooling system for the cold rooms and when recycled the hot water is used for air treatment. Energy efficient blast chillers cut energy consumption by 40%. Recycling is also essential and all of our bio-waste is sorted and recycled. Beehives, a vegetable garden or an orchard could even soon see the light of day!

Throughout the project, we have kept the quality of life at work in mind, carefully choosing the kitchen equipment, offices, relaxation area and terrace.

In the kitchen, we use several major innovations to prepare meals of quality.

Vincent CharoyDirector of the Épône central kitchen

How did the kitchen function during the lockdown?

VC We had to adapt to the unprecedented sanitary context stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. This involved stopping the production of school meals and significantly increasing the percentage of home meal delivery which rose by 50%! Although our teams were new, they were able to respond to this new challenge barely a month after start-up and respect the strict sanitary measures linked to the pandemic. This meant producing meals with a D + 3 maximum, that is to say that the meals could not be consumed more than three days after being cooked. It took only a few days to make 1,000 more meals a day, and find additional home meal-delivery drivers to satisfy the increased demand from seniors: real proof of the reactivity of our teams and our logistics partner, Sogaris!


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