Ahh, ever since my days on the sailboat, I have had a love affair with stainless steel. I know you are just shaking your head at me, wondering what the hell I am talking about, so let me explain. Stainless Steel = Amazing. Understood?
From left to right, Ryan, Ravi, and Ray discuss logistics and answer any final questions.
When something is exposed to the salty elements of the ocean, wind, sun, and waves day after day, year after year, and ceases to rust, well, to put it lightly, “You had me a hello.” Thus, I (and you as well!) can appreciate the craftsmanship, knowledge, and specialty of Seaport Stainless, builders of shimmering, custom-made, kitchen equipment for the food service industry. Translation: They are outfitting Prospect’s kitchen with any and everything stainless. Which is a ton of stuff.
Father and Son, standing in front an expensive "toy."
These guys do it all. And when I say guys, I mean father and son team Ray and Ryan Doving. Ray started the business, and completed their first major job in 1977. Like any son, Ryan went off to experience his own life for a while. After graduating from UCSD with a degree in Computer Science and working three years as a software engineer, he eventually migrated back towards the shop (where I am sure he spent his earlier years welding things he wasn’t supposed to, or taking the dogs on long walks). Now he actually gets things done, as he is the lead CAD guy, manning the brains of their new $600,000 Bystronic CNC laser cutter. Gulp. 600K. That’s a lot of dough. But hey, you gotta keep growing to stay ahead of the curve. And ahead they are.
"Oh, what's that? You need an inch of solid steel cut by noon? No problem."
"Fine cuts aren't a problem either."
Ryan and Ray were kind enough to lead us around the premises, and show off all the cool toys and some of the current work. Walking onto the shop floor, the first thing I noticed was how clean everything was for an industrial trade. Panning left and right there were kitchen hoods and countertops in varying stages of completion. It seemed as though everything had a “Prospect” written on it somewhere – including half the finished pieces in the warehouse. We all migrated toward one piece, and Ravi asked questions about functionality, refrigeration specifics, and requested some minor alterations. Smiling like a giddy kid on Christmas morning, his stoke is palpable. It’s been great to watch him bounce with more energy now that the restaurant is really coming together. I can tell you, all he really wants to do is get back in the kitchen and make amazing food.
A few more questions about the goods.
Hang on Ravi, your kitchen is almost there! These are actually photos of Seaport's first big finished job in 1977.
Heading around for a loop and back over to the laser cutter, we got a peek into the guts of this machine to watch it in action. Under the hood of this thing is like looking into the future. Glowing purplish blue, CO2, Helium, and Nitrogen are combined under a vacuum and pumped through glass tubes. As they travel to the tip of the laser cutter, it’s hit with a high dose of voltage. The result: Freakin’ Laser Beams. As the material passes under the laser, it’s instantly cut, and never really gets too hot. It’s all very scientific.
Look! It's the internet! A series of tubes and pipes. Just look at all the information! Nope, just gas in a vacuum being combined and sent to cut inch thick steel.
Is that nitrogen, or are you just happy to see me?
If you could see this machine pump out whatever you want it to make, your jaw would drop to floor like mine. Not only does the speed and efficiency startle you, but the astounding finesse of its accuracy will blow you away. Once a sheet of metal is laid down and put into place, the mechanized dance begins – at a blistering speed. The arm works its way back and forth, from corner to corner with a quickness that no human could ever equal.
Once fitted on the tray, the steel is ready to go.
The point where the laser is actually cutting the material is 1/8000 of an inch, and the super intense beam can blaze through up to an inch of solid steel. Plywood isn’t an issue either. In fact, this thing can cut through pretty much anything it wants. James Bond wouldn’t stand a chance…unless it was Sean Connery…then just maybe!
At the helm, Ryan controls the progress of the cuts. For the lighting nerds out there, I was at F11 @200th with three lights. One up high and gridded tight for the guys faces. Once behind Ryan's head lighting the inside of the laser cutter. And the third camera right lighting the front of the cutter.
But in all seriousness, it was a pleasure to visit the grounds and meet a family run business. They’ve been around for over 30 years, but you know, they still face challenges like everyone else. It’s only through hard work, planning, and perseverance that Ray and Ryan have come through these times with more business than ever before.
My kind of people.
That’s what life is all about.
So untie the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor, and catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain
And don’t forget your stainless.
See you down the road.