Unilever Studio Gourmet

Client: Unilever
Project completion: October 2009

The briefing was to develop the architectural and interior design for Unilever Brazil Training Center and Experimental Kitchen, making them reference kitchens for the markets where they operate. This project began on our architecture division and was extended to our design team since it presented opportunities for designing furniture for food preparation and exclusive equipment. These kitchens for the Food Solutions and Foods divisions – professional and retail markets, respectively – previously operated separately and were then being restructured in a new and shared area: the Studio Gourmet.

The activities that take place in the Studio Gourmet vary from training and qualification of customers and professionals in the food service market, culinary workshops for customers and guests, products testing and innovations research, development of various recipes, and others. It consists of two professional and two domestic kitchens, a tasting area, cabins for sensory analysis, a lounge and a library and it is located at the Unilever Brazil headquarters. The highlights are the Kitchen Station and the Cooking Island which are exclusive equipment, and the furniture designed for the domestic cooking and tasting area.

THE CHALLENGE

The former Unilever unit in the neighborhood of Jabaquara had separated domestic and professional kitchens. Since they were to be built in a new and integrated area, it was essential that they reflected the concept of the project. But keeping the technical individuality of each of the areas was equally important as well as creating an identity that respected the particularities of each of these spaces user. Fully understanding the processes developed, focusing on the user and analyzing the facilities and equipment was our challenge in proposing innovative and meaningful solutions.

THE TRAJECTORY

After two full days of ethnographic research at the site we found many opportunities. The theoretical operator training was then done in a showroom with school desks from which little of the chef’s preparations were seen. At the same time, the 16 mobile stations were prepared in the kitchen for practical classes. Those stations were limited to stainless steel countertops with one drawer and one shelf for pots and pans. Following the chef and students during these two classes was crucial because we could then develop the Mobile Station Kitchen concept for complete food preparation. The station is particularly suitable for showcasing products to customers and chefs who prefer separate spaces, as well as being taken to external events since it is mobile.

We observed the employees training practical activities that were focused on cooking. It was an adaptation of 6 united ranges, which favored group work up to 12 people – a fact that was appreciated. We noticed they had some difficulty handling large pots because they were unbalanced on the grills. In response to this activity we proposed the Cooking Island that had induction heating plates as its main technological innovation.

In the Experimental Domestic Kitchen we followed the work of the cooking specialists who are responsible for developing recipes with items from Unilever’s non-professional product line. They develop up to nine simultaneous recipes per day, preparing them completely according to the briefing issued by the product management team. When the recipes are all done the specialists’ team meets with nutritionists and managers for tasting and analysis. They use trays arranged on a long bench to separate the recipes ingredients and the most used equipment are the gas ranges, the microwave, the mixer and the blender – they are all household appliances. Based on our own analysis, we developed a unique furniture design for these operations.

THE RESULTS

Unilever Food Solutions has become more and more prominent on its market promoting various activities within the Studio Gourmet. In addition to staff training and products demonstration for customers, gourmet bloggers are invited to visit the space:

 

… chefs share their culinary experiences:

and talks are held with recipes being offered to the customers:

In this pleasant and professional area the brand can get closer to its customers and strengthen its philosophy.

CLIENT’S TESTIMONIAL

We needed a furniture line that would adapt to the different layouts. The proposal included counters with casters that facilitated transport as well as mobile stands of different sizes that provided different room set ups without losing the functionality needed in the kitchen. Electrostatic hoods allow project discussion meetings to occur during preparation because the exhaustion efficiency with minimal noise does not interfere with room sound.

The kitchen stations allow training programs with different group sizes and also personalized products use demonstration on trade fairs and company’s events. We have a very low rate of accidents with burns due to the adoption of induction plates replacing the gas range.

Consumers and customers visiting the space express enchantment and recognize our culinary expertise that is also present in this layout and furnishings.

Betania Gattai, Customer Service Manager| Unilever Food Solution

Awards

KITCHEN STATION

IDEA Brasil 2011 | Silver

SENAI SP Excellence Design 2010 | Silver 

IDSA 2011 | Finalist

Design Excellence Brazil 2011 | Selected for the exhibition

SENAI SP Excellence Design 2010 | Selected for the exhibition

COOKING ISLAND

25° Prêmio Design Museu da Casa Brasileira (2011) | Winner

SENAI SP Excellence Design 2010 | Silver

IDEA Brasil 2011 | Bronze

IDSA 2011 | Finalist

CREDIT

Front of the house project: Athié | Wohnrath Corporate Architecture