Setting up the kitchen to cook for 20+ toddlers

Joined Jan 2, 2018
Hello folks, I am new here and looking for advice on how to set up a private school kitchen for success. The kitchen in question will be used to service 20, 1-2 year old's (eventually up to 50) for Lunch Only. Standard fare would be sandwiches, soups, salads, and pasta. We will also be baking the occasional loaf of bread to serve with our soups. Thus far we are considering the following basic equipment:

Knives, Cutting boards, Convection Oven, Small Steam Table 28', Salad Spinner (what size?), Baking Pans, Soup Pot, Saute Skillet, Sauce Pan, Ladle, Whisk, Spatula, Tongs, etc.

We are also thinking we might need a bigger fridge as well as all we currently have is a standard home fridge. As you can probably tell by now we are pretty new to this and so any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Joined May 5, 2010
Welcome to ChefTalk Emmanuel.......

You don't say where you are located.
I think the very first thing you need to do, if you haven't already, is seek the advice of your local health department before you make any purchases.
Anything you have in this kitchen must be of commercial quality.
So, for instance, you simply can't go out to a store and buy any old pan or ladle or soup pot.
These items must be "up to code" to use in your kitchen.
Your stove and ovens must have a venting system and the way you do dishes must also be up to codes.
Again, if these things have been thought through.....GREAT......if have a lot more homework to do than just establishing cooking utensils.....
Joined Jan 2, 2018
Thank you chefross for the welcoming and for the much needed advice. The school is located in Brooklyn NY. I do believe we had an inspector come in and check that we had the proper venting system and fire equipment set up. What I did not know was that I needed every piece of equipment to be of commercial grade. I will double check all this with the health department.

I did make a list of things I mean to outfit the kitchen with; I will just need to make sure its of commercial grade. I am wondering if this is enough to serve 20-50 1-2 year old's. What are your thoughts?

- 2-3 Dexter Chef Knives
- 2 Bread Knives
- 2 Pairing Knives
- 2 Cutting Boards
- 2 Large Steel Utensil Holder (Doubles as hot food storage)
- 2 Medium Steel Utensil Holder (Same as above)
- 6 Mini Glass Bowls (For prep)
- 3 Glass Bowls (For prep)
- 1 Large 9 Inch Scoop Colander
- 1 Large 10 (maybe more) Quart Pasta Colander
- 1 Steel Ladel
- 1 Steel Whisk
- 2 Steel Spatulas
- 1 Steel Tongs
- 2 Medium Sized Steel Mixing Bowls
- 2 Large Sized Steel Mixing Bowls
- 1 Salad Spinner (how big?)
- Electric Hand Mixer
- 1 12 Quart Stock Pot
- 1 8 Quart Stock Pot
- 1 5 Quart Deep Saute Pan
- 2 Large Saute Pans
- 2 3 Quart Sauce Pan
- 2 1-1/2 Quart Sauce Pan
- 3 Muffin Pans
- 2 Baking Pans
- 3 Loaf Pans
- 1 Square Pizza Stone (I bake Loaves here too)
- Ziplock Bags
- Plastic Wrap
- Aluminum Foil
- Parchment Paper (or Silicone Baking mats)
- Kitchen Rags
- Red Sanatizer buckets
- Rags
- Aprons
- Hand Soap
- Bleach
- Garbage Bags
- Step On Trash Bin (16 x 16 x 17"-24")
- Several Pantry Storage Containers or Large shelf pantry Unit

- Double Hot Plate Electric Burner

- Small Steam Table (what size?)

- Convection Oven (second oven)

- Dough/Batter Mixer (whats the smallest commercial grade mixer?)

- Nice Sized Blender

- Nice Sized Food Processor
Joined Feb 17, 2010
That's a good start, skip the glass bowls, leave those for the housewives. Last thing you want to do is break one and have to throw everything in its vicinity away.
I would have a few more tongs, spoons, rubber spats, ladles, etc. you can never have enough.
You need to have a commercial refrigerator, at least a single door, just think of how much milk you would have on hand, or juice etc. Just that will take a bit of your space.
You also need the room to keep ready to eat foods on a separate shelf above, uncooked or raw foods. Read your local health guidelines, there is a pecking order as to where food is stored in a fridge.
Joined Oct 31, 2012
I agree with chefbuba. NO glass bowls. Stainless steel are readily available and cheap enough. Also more tongs,spatulas, etc.
Commercial equipment of most kinds is built to withstand much greater use and with ease of cleaning/sanitizing in mind. When deciding on equipment that you aren't sure meets a regulatory standard, ask yourself is it able to withstand the rigors of a commercial operation, using it at least once a day, every day the school is open all, all year and most likely washed in a commercial dishwasher? Despite best intentions, best practices, equipment tends to take a beating.
Also, some method or service to keep the knives sharp. They will dull quickly. And a couple more cutting boards will be needed.
First though, I would come up with some kind of menu planning. Not really much point in buying equipment you won't need and having no equipment you do need. So... decide what particular foods and food issues the kids might have, write down the menu and how the menu will accommodate those needs, then revise your equipment list.
I would include about twenty or more commercial sheetpans and a rolling speed rack. Sheetpans useful for everything and the rolling rack is great for transporting those loaded sheetpans. In NYC there must be plenty of used equipment places. Delancy st. comes to mind but there must be some in Brooklyn.
Joined Dec 18, 2010
In addition to chefwriters very profound suggestion to buy equipment based on menu planning, please include serving size in that assessment. Kids that age just don't eat much... and I can't help but think that the pot and power tool list is almost ridiculous. Maybe even some of the other items are being overestimated. 50 kids that age will eat half a sandwich each. And, maybe, consume 3 or 4 ounces of soup each. The total amount of food for kids that age just isn't' that much. to be honest, they might just as much enjoy 50% of a Happy Meal. ;) The one category of item I think you may be underestimating is the cleanup. No matter how many cleaning rags and buckets you buy... you'll need more with that many toddlers. :)
Joined May 25, 2015
I think you overestimate what these kids will eat also. Salads? Bread with soup? Sandwiches? Most kids that age eat plain pasta with butter, chicken fingers or nuggets, pizza, mac & cheese and maybe a boiled hot dog. And don't forget to stock up on juice boxes.
I don't see you needing half of what you have listed.
Joined Feb 18, 2007
In addition to all the other excellent advice given regarding the kitchen equipment, you probably need a bigger trash bin, a broom, a mop, and a mop bucket; you need a hand sink in the kitchen and paper towel/soap dispenser specifically for the hand sink. You might also want to consider a separate, smaller fridge just for juice and milk for the kids' consumption (separate from what you use to cook with). Pay special attention in your menu to allergy issues and how you will accommodate them in your food prep/storage. Do the teachers and other staff bring their own food (and where would that be stored?)?
Joined Oct 31, 2012
I just realized. One to two year olds? Do they even need eat solid food? I genuinely don't know. Don't have kids.
Can't imagine there would be much cooking at all for that age.
Joined May 25, 2015
You are correct. My experience with my family- multiple parents with lots of kids- they barely eat solid food, parents have to cut everything up into tiny pieces and feed it to them like a bird. They are extremely limited as to what they like and even then they must be coaxed to swallow a few mouth fulls. Their attention span is very limited. They subsist mostly on sweet juice drinks.
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