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  • Writer's pictureZ Group Architects

Part 1: Q + A on Commercial Kitchens with Gus Gustafson

Updated: Mar 6

In this multi-part interview series, we are discussing kitchens, both commercial and residential. The Interview for this month’s topic covering commercial kitchens and have been conducted with our President, Jim “Gus” Gustafson. Specifically, we will be discussing Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant.

Here is a little background on the project. Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant seats 850 and is the largest of Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort’s on-mountain restaurants (larger, in fact, than Sam’s Knob and Elk-Camp restaurants combined). It perched half way up Snowmass Mountain at a 10,640 foot elevation at the top of Alpine Springs Lift. When everything was stripped down, exposing all the massive wood columns and beams, the space was revealed into almost cathedral-like volumes.

The renovation, along with 2000 square feet addition, has been extremely well-received by the thousands of visitors each year, as well as the Ski company and the family-owners of Gwyn’s. The rustic character has been retained with 2 new levels of refinement; the Marketplace servery has become much more efficient and the expanded bar, lounge, and gourmet dinner areas bring a casual, yet luxurious, Apres experience to all entertainment and dining spaces. A bar, a wood burning stove and big screen TVs, as well as satellite bar and coffee station downstairs are favorite Apres destinations.

Q: Gus, when remodeling an existing commercial kitchen what are the foremost considerations when putting a modern kitchen into an old space?

A: “Foremost issues of the commercial kitchen are operational logistics and efficiency, as well as functionality within the kitchen. Operational logistics start with the desired menu and include the methods of customer interface.”

Q: With Gwyn’s you also designed a new cafeteria flow. No longer the snaking queue but a little more freeform. Tell me more about this change?

A: “As far as we know, Gwyn’s had been one of the last major on-mountain restaurants to retain a traditional cafeteria line. As always, with this magnitude of change, there was significant concern and consideration regarding this new approach, but it seems that all are now happy with the flow of the new Servery and its inherent functionality.”

Q: There’s a sit-down restaurant at Gwyn’s, as well as an indoor and outdoor bar. What was your strategy in designing to facilitate all of these service elements?

A: “All of the restaurant operations (cafeteria, gourmet restaurant, and bar-food) are supported by the same kitchen. Service such as food delivery and storage, as well as trash removal are also shared. But having a 100+ seat, sit-down gourmet restaurant, as well as a 700 seat cafeteria, is fairly unique for on-mountain ski restaurants.”

Q: Tell me about an aspect of this project that you’re particularly happy with?

A: “The whole team (architects, operators: Gwyn/George/Whitney, the Ski Company, and the contractors) is pretty happy with all aspects of the project. One feature that we think has been particularly successful has been maintaining the character of the building and the quality of food service, while delivering a complete overhaul of the restaurant operations and physical renovation and addition to the structure – and all within one off-season period.”

We will be continuing to interview our team and sharing our insights on architecture and design. So… Stay tuned!

Learn more by visiting the Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant project page. Read about other Ski Co project from our blog on “Unique Solutions to Unique Projects: Aspen Skiing Company“.

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