The Department of Parks plans to convert the kitchens of its lodge dining rooms from electric appliances to gas, resulting in reduced energy costs and more flexible menus, Parks Commissioner George Ward said today.
In parks where natural gas lines are available, the Parks Department will run gas lines to the kitchens; in other localities, propane tanks will be installed. The department plans to start the conversion soon.
The move to gas is a logical step for a park system that intends to improve its food service.
"I have been in the restaurant business more than 25 years and have never used any professional equipment except gas, as do all the restaurants around the world I have ever worked in or visited,” said Bob Perry, the department’s director of food service. “Converting to gas will allow the resort park restaurants to develop new menus and restaurant concepts that will reflect the local culture, use more local products and attract more local guests all year round."
Food tastes better when grilled with gas, and the new appliances will allow the dining rooms to offer sautéed dishes, pasta, grilled dishes, and other menu items that can’t be properly prepared now, Perry added.
The conversion to gas will save the park system money, Ward said.
Currently, the electric stoves in park kitchens contribute to increase energy consumption because they might be turned on and left on all day. State-of-the-art, propane-powered equipment would deliver improved energy efficiency and enable park staff to turn stoves on and off as needed to meet demand, resulting in a much improved approach to managing energy use.
Comparing two parks of similar size and food volume, General Butler State Resort Park has an all-gas kitchen, while Barren River’s is electric. Barren River pays $100,000 more a year annually for electricity and General Butler than does for gas and electricity combined.
The department will seek matching grant funds from the Kentucky Propane Education and Research Council for the initial installation of tanks and lines. The council promotes the safe, efficient use of propane. Matching grant funds would be used to help reduce the cost of switching and to demonstrate the advantages of using propane in commercial kitchens.
New gas appliances are relatively simple devices that will also cost less to maintain, he added. On average, each park spends about $2,000 a year to repair electric kitchen appliances, he noted.
“We believe we can be an outstanding marketing outlet for the advantages of gas appliances,” Ward said.
The estimated cost to bring gas service to lodge kitchens is about $6,000 to $8,000 per park, Commissioner Ward said. Initially, the park system will buy ovens and grills for its kitchens, then add other appliances as funds become available. The older equipment must be replaced.