Anatomy Of An Island Suite

For the best tips on designing an island suite, we turned to J. Russell Stilwell, FCSI, Principal of Next Step Design, Annapolis, Md., who has designed hundreds of these compact powerhouses over the past 30 years. Island suites, which must always be built perpendicular, not parallel, to the service window or pass, have the ability to combine multiple linear feet of cookline into a compact, and most importantly, collaborative unit for the culinary staff. “There’s a point where a long cookline becomes counter-productive when the distance prohibits communication between staff,” says Stilwell. Nothing beats the efficiency of a well-designed island suite, which enables chefs to update one another as their preparations work their way down the line and out to service.

See the following for more tips.


  1. Pass-thru (and see-through) salamander lets everyone keep an eye on dishes finishing and eases flow and communication across the suite.
  2. Pot fill faucet saves steps and time.
  3. Utility cabinet provides centralized access to gas, water and electrical connections.
  4. Range oven with a heat-sink base (high-mass oven) retains heat when chefs are adding and removing items at a fast pace throughout the service.
  5. Enclosed curb base keeps out debris and eases cleaning.
  6. If the design permits, include a pot/utensil rack at the hood perimeter.
  7. Surround the island-style central filter bank hood system with conditioned, gently-introduced makeup air and plenty of task lighting.
  8. Tubular vs. solid overshelf allows heat to escape yet still holds and preheats sauté pans.
  9. Belly rail for 1/9-size pans keeps ingredients at hand and expedites the cooking/saucing process.
  10. Supporting mise en place, such as an adjacent refrigerated counter, supports fast production.
  11. Unified solid stainless top provides an easy-to-clean landing/work space for hot pans and plates.
  12. Build-in specialty equipment—planchas, pasta cookers, bains marie, wok ranges, induction tops—that the staff needs to execute the menu.
  13. Island-style central filter bank hood system.
  14. Supporting wall-shelf with printer shelf and built-in ticket rail centralizes order management.
  15. Unified flue riser collects and directs effluent from all equipment.
  16. Include utility outlets for small plug-in equipment such as mixers, choppers and stick blenders.

As originally printed in FER Magazine

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