When it comes to the Smallwares Competition, it seems the judges’ eyes are always caught—and held—by products that combine effectiveness, durability and food safety.
And so it was this year, when seven judges arrived at the Skokie, Ill., headquarters of Foodservice Equipment Reports on July 12 to choose the best of the best.
The four operator judges included Kevin Appleton, executive chef/faculty at Robert Morris College, Chicago; Robert Bearman, Aramark’s retail director for Loyola University’s Watertower campus, Chicago; Heather Blume, general manager at Chicago’s Hotel Allegro; and Jay Lovell, executive chef/owner of Lovells of Lake Forest, Lake Forest, Ill.
On the dealer side, we welcomed three professionals: Monica McCabe, table settings specialist for The Boelter Cos., Lincolnwood, Ill.; Scott Pusateri, national account manager for The Wasserstrom Co., Columbus, Ohio; and Sophia Rosillo, category manager for kitchen and buffet smallwares, Edward Don & Co., North Riverside, Ill.
At the crack of 9 a.m., judges were instructed to go forth and rate products based on five aspects: uniqueness or innovation in their category; service to the industry; food and labor safety; durability; and, where applicable, aesthetics.
Eligible smallwares include hand-held, non-electric kitchen tools designed for commercial foodservice, ranging from cookware and food prep tools to cleaning devices, food safety items and the like. The products had to be new to the market as of the May 2005 National Restaurant Association Show. Products in the final competition had been pre-screened in an earlier editorial judging session to eliminate those that did not meet the criteria.
Shake, Rattle And Roll
Some of the products required a little showmanship, such as the waterproof scale that was dipped repeatedly in a bucket of water to show that it could still weigh after a dunking. Or the battery-operated “touchless” towel dispenser that had a long spill of paper toweling in front of it by the time the judging ended.
Gloves and mitts were tried on by every judge; pan handles and prep tools were subjected to “stress” tests by a few of the more muscular judges; and throughout there was much back-and-forth discussion of product design.
Although wildly different from each other, the winning products stood out thanks to a combination of factors. Durability and strength won big points for Chicago Metallic’s pair of bakery pans and Vollrath’s sturdy short ladles. Durability and cleaning power carried 3M’s Purple Scour Pad into the winner’s circle. Food and labor safety were front-of-mind for DayMark’s SiliGloves and Food Handler’s Nitrile Gloves.
And let’s not forget Cooper-Atkins’ Coolit-Rite Thermometer, which also earned kudos from the National Restaurant Association’s Kitchen Innovations Awards program this spring. On the innovation front, a couple of simple tweaks jumped common kitchen products from “ho-hum” up to “wow, that’s handy!” status—namely, the Camwear Colanders by Cambro Mfg. Co., and the Ingredient Bin with a hook for the scoop, by Rubbermaid.
Read on for full details, in alpha order by manufacturer, on the nine products that made the final cut this year.
And The Winners Are…
It was a small, lavender, rather scratchy item that impressed many of our judges early on. “Easy to disinfect, rinses well, dries quickly—and the color’s nice, too,” were a few of their comments about 3M’s Scotch-Brite Purple Scour Pad. The open-weave pad’s tough coiled fibers give you faster scouring with less scratching and easier rinsing than just about any cleaning product on the market, the manufacturer says. Use the purple pad, wet or dry, instead of steel wool pads. It’s ideal for pots, pans, stainless steel, countertops and more. The pads are also okay to use with nonstick surfaces, soft or clear plastics, fiberglass or highly decorated surfaces.
Cambro joins the winner’s circle again this year with its new Colanders for Camwear Food Pans. The concept is simple: a couple of nesting rectangular, clear plastic food pans, the top one with holes for easy drainage. “It’s a great way to keep sliced tomatoes and lettuce fresh,” said one of our operator judges. Ditto for storing fresh fish on ice—water drips through the holes and away from the product. The tough, polycarbonate colanders come in 3” and 5” depths (matching Camwear 4”- and 6”-deep pans), and in half-, third-, and sixth-size hotel pan sizes. They can handle a temperature range of –40°F to 210°F, and are dishwasher safe.
Bakers will appreciate the next two winners, a pair of specialty baking pans from <I>Chicago Metallic<I>. First, the Mini-Fluted Tube Cake Pan is an 18” x 26” oversized baking pan that turns out 15 4”-diameter cakes at a time using either cake, muffin or quick bread batters. The heavy-duty baking tool is formed from 22-gauge aluminized steel, and the company’s renewable Silicon Glaze release coating boosts efficiency since you won’t have to re-oil the pan every time it goes in the oven. That, plus the wider center tube, reduces the amount of waste caused by product sticking to the pan.
Chicago Metallic’s second winner is a set of baking pans with PermaClean Non-Stick Coating. This optional two-stage coating, available for most of the company’s pans, lets you eliminate the use of oils, parchment papers or nonstick silicon mats. And in the process, you’ll have less food waste since baked goods are no longer sticking to the pans. Coated pans are easier to keep clean, and are safe for dishwasher and pot sink, as long as you dry them thoroughly after washing.
On the food safety front, our judges were wowed by a new product from Cooper-Atkins Corp. The Coolit-Rite Thermometer monitors food as it cools, freeing your employees to do other work in the meantime. An alarm sounds when the food temperature drops below 41°F or the FDA’s four-hour cooling time limit expires. The LCD displays the final temp until cleared and counts up to show you how much time has passed since the alarm sounding. The waterproof thermometer has a temperature range of –4°F to 302°F and a timer range of nearly seven hours.
We think the next item bears a resemblance to an oversized crab claw, and we mean that in a good way. The SiliGlove from DayMark is a large, red, three-lobed silicone mitt designed for anyone working with rotisserie products. SiliGlove lets you safely remove cooked chickens from the spit without damaging the product or your hands. The mitt, which goes just about up to the elbow, includes a removable, washable liner and together they allow you to handle foods of up to 450°F.
Next up in the hand-protection category are FormFlex Nitrile Gloves submitted by Food Handler. These form-fitting cerulean gloves give you enhanced dexterity, grip and fingertip sensitivity in a durable yet disposable package. The gloves are resistant to animal fats, so they won’t break after working with raw meats and shellfish. The judges praised the gloves for their fit, color and ability to stop cross-contamination.
“Clever!” and “Love the hanging scoop!” were just a few of the compliments from our judging panel about Rubbermaid Commercial Products’ new Ingredient Bin System with Scoop. The bin features a patent-pending scoop-hook system that lets you store the scoop inside the bin without it touching the product. And with the scoop dangling just beneath the lid, you won’t waste time hunting for one the right size. Clear lid covers let you I.D. bin contents at a glance, while a clasp keeps the lid securely on the bin. Underneath, 3” casters let you roll the bin to where it’s needed.
And finally, there were the Short-Handled Ladles from Vollrath Co. “They’re strong and nice enough for front-of-house if necessary,” commented one operator judge. These compact 6” ladles are designed to provide easy access in tight spaces, where the usual long handles would be awkward or messy. The ladles feature one-piece construction, a limited lifetime warranty and bowl capacities clearly stamped in both ounces and milliliters. The handles come in stainless or with a black Kool-Touch coating. Choose from seven bowl sizes ranging from 1 oz. to 6 oz.
By the end of a busy day, portioning scales sometimes look like they’ve been through a war. Wouldn’t it be nice to just toss your scale into the dishwasher? Well, now you can, thanks the introduction of the HLWP Waterproof Digital Scale by A&D Weighing. Our judges saw this scale get submerged in a bucket of water and continue to work just fine. The HLWP features a stainless steel, waterproof, dustproof casing, making it ideal for any wash-down environment. The HL-3000WP can be powered by battery or electricity.
A duo of entries arrived from Amco Smallwares. First, the Garlic Press and Slicer, which does double-garlic duty. Place the clove in one chamber, press, and voila: eight perfect slices. Use the other chamber for garlic crushing. And on the avocado-slicing front, Amco presents the Avocado Slicer & Pitter that does exactly what its name implies. The nylon loop on one end dislodges the pit, while the wire end slices and scoops the fruit. Both are dishwasher safe.
Judges perused another handy service idea from Cambro Mfg. Co.: the Camliter Pour Spout Lid. The container’s raised-notch lid pours smoothly while keeping the contents covered to reduce the risk of contamination. The snap-fit design holds the lid firmly in place and makes the unit ideal for juice and wine in buffet settings, or for restaurant table service. Also from Cambro are the easy-grasp, angled Lugano Tongs. The one-piece tongs are heat-resistant up to 300[deg]F and come in black, beige, white or clear with a 2-yr. warranty.
CDN makes it easier to monitor refrigerator and freezer temps with the Audio/Visual Refrigerator/Freezer Alarm. A 39” probe attachment lets you check the temperature without opening the door. The freezer alarm goes off when the temp rises above 15°F, while the refrigerator alarm activates at 45°F and above. Great for peace of mind on the food safety front.
A microfiber mop head with washable refills is the star of the ErgoWorx Touchless Microtek Cleaning System from Continental Commercial Products. This lightweight, touch-free system lets you change mop heads using an automatic discharge frame attached to a separate discharge bucket, so you eliminate the need for contact with dirty or contaminated mops. Each Microfiber refill can clean up to 400 sq. ft. before needing laundering. The system’s bright yellow buckets fit most janitorial carts.
It’s a pen! It’s a thermometer! It’s both! Cooper-Atkins Corp.’s new Write-Temp ballpoint pen and bi-metal thermometer design means your chefs will never be at a loss for a quick temperature check or jotting a note. The dial thermometer is stored alongside the pen shaft. A handy recalibration wrench attached to the top guarantees accurate readings. Chefs can measure temperatures and document them with the same tool.
Cuisipro/Browne Halco submitted a rainbow of tongs—the Stainless Steel Locking Tongs with Silicone Ends, to be precise. These tools combine strength with nonstick pan-friendly “gripability”; the silicone ends tolerate temps up to 575[deg]F. A locking mechanism keeps the tongs closed for storage. Available in 9½”, 12” and 16” lengths and in five colors: yellow, red, blue, black and orange. Also from Browne-Halco: a complete line of induction-ready Thermalloy 18/10 Stainless Cookware, featuring heavy-duty construction, stay-cool hollow handles and a 6mm aluminum bottom for good heat conduction.
What with knives, cutting machines, fire and hot surfaces, kitchens can be hazardous to one’s health. Which is where the First Aid Program from DayMark Safety Systems comes in. This all-in-one, wall-mounted first-aid cabinet is stocked with a full compliment of OSHA-compliant supplies, including bandages, burn cream, first aid tape and more. Best of all, the kit’s at-a-glance monitoring system makes it easy for you to keep it refilled. DayMark also sent in the elbow-length SteamGlove, whose sturdy watertight material protects against temps of up to 225°F. Its SureGrip fabric reduces slippage without reducing mobility.
TacTix Gloves by FoodHandler are soft, pliable and durable—everything you’ve always wanted in a disposable glove. Their form-fitting design provides the fingertip sensitivity required to do delicate culinary tasks. And the nicer “hand-feel” and performance mean that your employees are more likely to use the gloves, and less likely to become a vector in food-borne illness.
A “cutting edge” entry from FreshMarx/Paxar: the EasyCut RSC box opener. This little gizmo ups the safety factor of the common box cutter. Hanging on a lanyard, the cutter features a blade that bends rather than breaks (so no stray blade bits flying about the kitchen), and a blade length adjustment so you don’t cut too deeply into food boxes. FreshMarx also submitted a handy Food Ingredient Labeler. The device lets your employees legibly date-stamp and I.D. prepped food in a fraction of the time it would take to hand-write and apply a label, says the company. The gun prints the food name, date or time; just dial in the correct info and fire away.
Hand smells, be gone! That’s the mantra chanted by fans of Zilo-Soap, made by Frieling. This little bar-shaped item is made of ridged plastic inset with a disc of stainless steel alloy. The disc reacts with water and oxygen to neutralize stubborn odor-causing molecules left by garlic, fish, cheese and other ingredients. Available in six colors, Zilo-Soap sports a lifetime guarantee.
“Versatile,” said a judge about the HotHandle Handle Holder from Lamson & Goodnow. Eliminates the need for chef’s towels, said another. The silicone cover slides neatly over standard metal cookware handles, and is sturdy enough to withstand temperatures up to 67°]F—making it ideal for pans just out of the broiler. Choose from 6” or 5” lengths in gray, red or black.
Lincoln Foodservice Products/Enodis submitted a pair of smallwares: the new Redco Wedgemaster II and Optio Cookware. Tomatoes, citrus fruit, onions and potatoes surely cower when faced with the Wedgemaster II, which can cut into six or eight wedges with a single stroke of the blade. The sharp blades mean less food waste, faster prep speed, no training required. Meanwhile, the Optio Cookware line lets you choose from several sizes of fry pans, stock and sauce pots, and domed covers. Aluminum-clad bottoms spell quick, even heat distribution, while 18/10 stainless construction spells longevity.
HACCP-approved color-coded knife handles made their competition debut with four of Mundial’s top-selling blades: the 8” cook’s knife, the 10” serrated slicer, the 7” santoku and the 7” Granton-edge santoku. Each of these knives now comes with handles in red, yellow, blue or green—perfect for avoiding accidental knife-borne cross-contamination. The polypropylene handles include built-in antimicrobial protection.
Here’s the latest can-do can opener from Nemco. CanPro Compact cuts along the side of the can so that the lip stays intact and keeps the lid from falling into the can. For you food safety mavens, know that the cutter never touches can contents, and there are no metal shavings to fall into food or jagged lid edges to handle. A locking mechanism lets the device handle 10# cans easily. Choose from permanent-mount or under-counter clamp-mount models.
Pelouze/Rubbermaid sent along an EasyWash Portioning Scale. Once the housing has been removed the scale mechanism can be placed in the dishwasher. Parts remove easily with no tools. Scale features include a large platform with drip rail and quick-tare rotating dial. Pelouze also submitted its Food Prep Thermometer.
From Rubbermaid Commercial Products comes a new line of stainless steel Preparation Tools, including triangular-shaped Tri-Ladles that reach right into pan corners; a handy slotted serving spoon with flat sides that also let you cut and scrape; and a triangular-shaped slotted portioning spoon.
San Jamar fielded an utterly and completely thorough hand-washing device in the form of the Kleen-Brush System. Kleen-Brush attaches to a gooseneck or pipe faucet so it’s always available and won’t get lost. Swing the brush in place beneath the water stream and it’ll help you dislodge dirt and bacteria and send them down the drain. Also from San Jamar: the Venue Napkin Dispenser, whose higher napkin capacity, transparent cover and one-at-a-time dispensing save you money; and the battery-operated Tear-N-Dry Touchless Roll Towel Dispenser.
Here’s one for the simple-but-effective category: The Squeeze Bottle Holder by Server Products helps you keep the condiments and sauces in your squeeze bottles colder longer. How? A simple wire rack topped by a metal covering with two or three openings for the bottles. The rack fits neatly inside a 1/6-size cold table pan. It’s that metal covering keeping the bottles colder, in case you were wondering. Keeps warm air out.
Tote ice in style with Traex/Libbey’s Safety Mate Ice Porter. This pale blue plastic container features an easy-grip handle at the bottom, a molded pour spout and a hook for hanging or drying. The polyethylene tote holds nearly 6 gals. of ice, and is NSF listed.
Ever try washing a brush-style baster? It’s hard to get ’em 100% clean. Enter Snappy Baster, the disposable pastry and basting brush by Tucel Industries. The snap-on, snap-off brush heads are ideal for food prep and ready-to-eat menu items. Choose from 2” low-heat or high-heat brush heads in red, white or blues.
Go straight from storage to bar with Update Int’l.’s Flow-N-Stow Pour Bottles. The three-piece system starts with a wide mouth container plus lid for easy storage. At showtime, simply unscrew the lid, screw on a pour spout, and you’re ready to serve. Lids and spouts are available in six colors. Choose from 1-qt. or 2-qt. sizes. Also from Update: Pro-Grip Kitchen Tools, a line of seven time-saving gadgets including a melon-baler, cheese plane, grater, kitchen shears and apple corer.
More nifty spoons from Vollrath Co. in the form of Heavy Duty Stainless Steel Basting Spoons. Their durable 18-8 stainless steel shafts and bowls resist corrosion or bending. The three-sided spoons include one straight edge for cutting and serving food. Colorful molded-plastic handles are ergonomically friendly.