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An Evolving Kitchen

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In a tidy brick industrial complex in Downers Grove, Egg Harbor Café’s biggest kitchen is set up to dice, mix and bake large batches of consistently delicious signature foods. This new commissary began providing local Egg Harbor Café’s with prepared jams, dressings, salsas and more in August 2015. A refrigerated truck distributes the food to 16 EHC restaurants four nights of the week. Graham Hallen directs commissary operations with the goal of using the best ingredients available, maintaining premium standards and safeguarding great values, while providing a growing number of Egg Harbor Café menu favorites to our local kitchens.

On a Friday morning after the week’s last delivery has rolled out, the commissary sparkles. Touring the kitchen, Graham points out an industrial Combi oven, a large jam dispenser, supersized mixers and other equipment that ensure optimal efficiency and quality. Graham has developed innovative systems for producing consistently excellent foods in large quantities. Mayonnaise and spice mixtures are automated, for example, while chicken is hand-tossed into salads. Early learning stages were not without a few bumps. On one day, an oven stopped working; the next day, a dicing machine decided to shred. Summer intern David Mospan recalls, “Each day of planning brought new opportunities for solving problems. We always found a way to make things work that fit into Graham’s commitment to Egg Harbor Café’s vision.”

Amid daily activities, the commissary is much more than its machines and processes. Everyone at the commissary has worked at Egg Harbor Café and is invested in supporting the local restaurants. Since operations began, EHC service manager Brooke Hurley came on board to help with planning and development as new products are introduced.

Graham is optimistic that the commissary will also support Egg Harbor Café’s passion for sustainability. The EHC delivery van makes stops at Glenview-based Harrison Poultry Farms to pick up fresh, antibiotic-free, cage-free chicken for all of the restaurants’ chicken salads. The van also swings by Zapp’s Dancing Grains for the good carb breads used in the popular “Start Smart.” Graham believes that improved distribution capacities will allow Egg Harbor Café to partner with even more small, locally-resourced companies.

Graham lives in Des Plaines with his wife Lisa, an Egg Harbor Café regional manager, and their 18-month old daughter Charlotte. In his free time, he enjoys broomball and woodworking. With the new commissary, Graham hopes that he is helping to build something that will evolve and succeed in supporting each Egg Harbor Café to serve its local guests.

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