Innovators Answer NRA's Call
By: The Editors
Once again, the National Restaurant Association's Kitchen Innovations program shines a spotlight on products that promise to alter the way your kitchens function. Think efficiency and better ways to approach common challenges.
To say the National Restaurant Association's Kitchen Innovations program has been a success would be an understatement. Now in its fourth year, the program has named 77 product honorees to date, including this year's recipients reviewed in our sidebar here, all 25 of which you'll be able to see during the NRA Show May 17-19.
Of course, the KI program can only be as good as the R&D efforts of the industry's innovators, who have dedicated themselves to new equipment designs with impressive results in recent years. As calls for greater efficiency, functionality and ease of use have grown more urgent, suppliers have responded in all categories, from cooking and steaming to cooling, holding and refrigeration.
In short, these days if you can't find an innovative, energy-efficient piece of equipment to do a specific task, you're not really looking.
To continue your product education, read through these pages. Here we bring you the technical details on the '07 KI honorees, in alphabetical order by company. This group includes some familiar supplier names and some new entrants, and you'll be able to find all of these products at this year's NRA Show, too, by seeking out the companies' individual booths on the show floor.
Recognition also goes to this year's panel of KI judges, which included Dan Bendall, FoodStrategy Inc.; Martin Cowley, Disneyland Resort; William Eaton, Cini-Little Int'l.; Robert Forrester, Restaurant Industry Solutions; Foster F. Frable Jr., Clevenger-Frable-LaValee; Rick Gentry, Aramark; Robert Marshall, McDonald's Corp.; and Kathleen Seelye, Ricca Newmark Design.
Thanks to the seasoned experience of these operators and consultants, we all have the chance to gain in-depth, hands-on knowledge of 25 more forward-thinking products at this year's NRA Show. See you in the KI Pavilion at Chicago's McCormick Place.
FRYER DESIGN SETS EFFICIENCY STANDARD
A design that increases the surface area of the heat exchanger and an enclosed forced-air modulating burner both help the Fry-Tech ASF-75G achieve an efficiency rating of 71%. That rating, confirmed by testing at the PG&E Food Service Technology Center of San Ramon, Calif., makes the ASF-75G the most efficient gas fryer in its class. Features of the 73-lb. model include a Btu input rating of 120,000, a frying area of 15" x 22", built-in controls for ignition and flame rectification, solid-state dual controls with programmable memory and manual operation, and a mobile trolley for oil disposal. The unit is ETL listed and comes with a 7-yr. limited fry tank warranty. The ASF-75G fryer's energy report is available at this FSTC page: www.fishnick.com/publications/appliancereports/fryers/.
COMBI OR SMOKER? YOU DECIDE
Have space for one oven but need both a combi oven-steamer and a smoker? Check out the Combitherm Smoker. This boilerless, countertop unit uses patented smoker technology that allows you to smoke hot or cold and then revert to standard cooking, all without flavor transfer or residual smoke, says Alto-Shaam. Models are available in gas or electric, and all come with Alto-Shaam's EcoSmart technology for reduced energy and water usage. Standard features include an automatic steam venting system, which allows steam to vent before the cooking time expires to protect the user from burns when opening the door. Other features include a control panel with a 7[deg] angle slant toward the oven itself so the panel is out of the way when adding or removing pans. HACCP documentation software and a recessed door that slides back and out of the way are options.
CHILLER MONITORS YOU PRODUCT AND ADJUSTS
ChillStar's Intelligent Food Recognition technology won the KI judges' hearts for its ability to automatically adjust blast chilling cycles. Relying on a multi-sensor probe, the unit monitors temps in the core and at the surface of food to prevent surface freezing. ChillStar's chilling and freezing units offer one-piece construction with coved internal corners, CFC-free expanded polyurethane insulation, a hinged fan cover for easy access, and a diamond-polished inner floor for good hygiene. Units accept 18" x 26" x 2½" pans and offer a full complement of digital controls. All controls and parts are accessible from the front of the cabinet.
NEW WAY TO ELIMINATE ORGANIC WASTE
The Bio Hi Tech system uses a two-stage biological process to entirely eliminate organic waste. Wastes are first broken down through biological decomposition by an environmentally responsible process that results in all solid materials being converted to liquids. Any waste remaining after decomposition is dissolved in water that is added to the machine by a computer-controlled device, and this liquid is then easily disposed of by drain. The decomposition phase of this process leaves the waste liquid extremely low in organic material when compared with other types of disposal machines, making it suitable for use everywhere.
Bio Hi Tech America LLC
HALF-SIZER MAKES CLEANING A SNAP
Blodgett/Middleby rolled into the KI Pavilion with the half-size XCEL-50E. Calling it the first "self-cleaning" electric convection oven, Blodgett says that various new featuresan easily removable bi-directional blower wheel and baffle, welded stainless liner with large coved corners, protected gasketscan dramatically reduce cleaning time. Other features include a more efficient heat exchanger to save more energy than previous Blodgett models, an adjustable multiple-speed motor, a steam-assist feature, a wash-down hose and drain. You also get a fully welded angle-iron frame; stainless front, top and sides; and dual-pane glass windows.
IT DRIES AND SHINES SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO
Attention, hotel and banqueting managers: If your staff's drying and polishing thousands of pieces of cutlery every week, you should think about ways to automate the process. Campus Products has done just that, and come up with the Silvershine Cutlery Drying Machine. The CDM dries, polishes andin a nifty final touchsanitizes as many as 12,000 pieces/hr. Cutlery agitates through 170° polishing granulatemade of corn coband at the end the pieces are exposed to a UV-C germicidal light. Your staffers drop wet cutlery into a wide-mouth hopper and the machine does the rest. The CDM's footprint is 25"W x 31"D; power comes from a ½-hp motor.
FULL COMBI FEATURES, SMALL PACKAGE
Take a look at the Convotherm Mini-Combi Oven Steamer, the smallest and newest entry to the now 29-unit Convotherm product line. The Mini lets you manage small batch cooking with the same quality you'd get from a full-size oven. The Mini's petite dimensions (20"W x 25½"D x 28"H) allow you to tuck the unit just about anywhere, and it can also be stacked. It holds five half-size sheet pans or six two-thirds-size pans. Like its big brother Convotherm ovens, the Mini features a built-in Advanced Closed System that automatically maintains humidity levels based on the type of food being prepared, and a Crisp & Tasty feature that preserves food's moisture while delivering crispy, evenly browned exteriors.
Convotherm by Cleveland/Enodis
VERSATILITY IN COLD DRAWERS
When you need freezing and refrigeration options for your cold drawers, turn to Delfield's Versa Drawer. Each drawer in this undercounter refrigeration unit can operate as a refrigerator, freezer, chiller or thawing cabinetindependent of the other drawersthrough simple touch-screen controls. The unit is NAFEM Data Protocol ready, allowing you to record HACCP temps or link the system to your PC-based equipment tracker. And Versa Drawer is energy efficient, using 1.5kWh per two drawers in refrigerator mode, and 4kWh in freezer modea fact that's earned it a CEC listing. Versa's full-extension drawers hold two 12" x 20" x 6" pans or any combination of fractionals. Choose from 2- or 4-drawer models.
SATURATE WITH STEAM, COOK FASTER
The Pressure Braising Pan drew attention for its approach of cooking under the pressure of saturated steam instead of water. Relying on a tightly sealed cooking compartment, the process reduces cooking time and energy costs, says Electrolux, and lets you cook without stirring or worrying about burning the product. Meanwhile, the relatively pure water vapor utilized in the braising process prevents the transfer of tastes and makes it possible to cook several components of a meal in the same load simultaneously. The Pressure Braising Pan is available in gas or electric and in 16-, 24-, 26- and 40-gal. sizes. Plus, an electronic microprocessor control system offers digital pre-selection of cooking times and temps and start times.
Electrolux Professional North America
SLICER REDESIGNS FROM THE GROUND UP
This KI honoree, the 3000 Series, comes with a slew of new safety, consistency and cleaning features. For example, Hobart made the cutting plane more upright on this model, placing it at a 50° angle for easier operation. The slicer also "remembers" the width of the item being sliced and shortens passes accordingly. The Enduralube carriage rail system ensures the carriage stays lubricated and easy to slide, which Hobart says leads to less operator fatigue. And as for safe cleaning, the space between the blade and motor housing is larger and more accessible, while a new, removable ring guard cover removes the blade while it's still enclosed in the guard. You can wash the bladewhich is never exposedin a sink or warewasher. An indicator light tells your employees when it's time to sharpen the blade, but there's no exposure to the blade during the sharpening process.
A PIZZA IN FIVE, FOUR, THREE...
Design upgrades to FastBake oven technology earned a KI honor in 2007. Lincoln says it reduced cook times 15% to 30% compared to earlier Impingement ovens, as FastBake engineers refined the Impinger approach of cooking with "finger" jets of convected air. Heat flows out through a combination of X- and O-shaped holes in the finger panels, which allows higher volumes of hot air to penetrate the product more efficiently. In addition, you get Lincoln's "bake profile" feature, which starts the cook cycle with higher heat and air velocity, eases off in the middle, and finishes with a sustained heat for browning and caramelizing. The FastBake is available as the 1400 Series, which can be stacked two units high, or the low-profile 1600 Series, which stacks three high. All come with a 32" belt and a 40" cook chamber.
Lincoln Foodservice Products/Enodis
DEFROST ONLY WHEN YOU NEED TO
Master-Bilt's patented Reverse Cycle Defrost process reverses the direction of refrigerant flow during defrost. When the controller determines a defrost is needed, the reverse cycle valve kicks in and the high-temp refrigerant flows back through the evaporator coil, heating it along its entire length and eliminating frost buildup. (On traditional defrost systems, only a portion of the coil is heated by traditional heaters, leaving ice deposits that can weaken the evaporator's performance.) Reverse cycle technology uses less energy than electric defrost heaters, says Master-Bilt, and eliminates not only the need for defrost heaters, but also head pressure control valves, check valves and expansion valves at the condenser. Removing these components reduces the cost of the evaporator itself and saves on installation and wiring. Reverse cycle performs a complete defrost in 3 to 5 mins.
KUDOS FOR HEAT RECOVERY
We all know that warewashers generate a lot of steamy ambient heat. Meiko's found a way to capture that waste heat and reuse it. After about 20 to 30 mins. of operation, this award-winning recovery system captures the hot air that's usually vented and presses it back into duty heating incoming rinse water. What this means, ultimately, is that you can get away with cooler incoming water and a smaller booster heater, lowering your energy costs. Meiko incorporates the Waste Air Heat Recovery System as a standard feature on its K-Tronic Series rack conveyors and as an option on the B-US Series flight-types.
NOTHING LIKE A NICE WARM BATH
Chefs like water rethermalization because it lets them create their signature dishes, bag and freeze them, and later distribute them anytime and anywhere. Pitco's Model SRTE electric and SRTG gas rethermalizing water baths bring prepackaged pouched foods back to temp (165°F to 190°F) gently and consistently. Rethermalizers come with a variety of baskets, racks and handled racks called suitcases to hold pouches in place and increase bath capacity. Plus, Pitco says current models use 54% energy than previous ones, thanks to the Solstice burner system. Units come with digital controllers with timers, a tank rack, automatic water fill, drain valve interlock and common drain outlet. Double tank-units available.
A SHOT OF FLAME, BURNERS ARE CLEAN
Clean burners are key to efficient fryer operation, and Pitco's developed a way to keep its Solstice Supreme Fryer burners super clean everyday with no labor. With the push of a button, a pilot is ignited and begins a 30-sec. self-cleaning process. A flame shoots through the burners, burning off all the airborne lint, breading, flour and other contaminants that can clog. It's quick, and because it happens every day, the burners operate at peak performance levels, saving you energy costs over the long term. An automatic safety shut off, called the Down Draft Protection, kicks in if temperatures get too hot. You can retrofit any existing Pitco Solstice fryer with the self-cleaning burner.
COLD STORAGE WHERE YOU NEED IT
Cold storagewhere and when you need itis what you'll find with Randell's new FX Series drawer with FlexiCold. Drawers operate independently, letting you switch from refrigerator to freezer, or anywhere in between. You can also use it as a batch rapid chiller for dropping food temps to below 40°F in less than 4 hrs. The secret lies in the drawer lids, which provide direct cooling thanks to built-in evaporator coils. When you open the drawer, the lid stays in the machine; close it, and the lid reseals. Since the refrigeration system only operates when the drawer is closed, you're saving energythe unit sips only 1.2 kW/day in refrigeration mode, Randell saysand with no fan blowing while the drawer is open, ambient air stays out. Energy Star approved.
HOW TO GET CLEANER NAILS
Employees not washing under their nails? San Jamar comes to the rescue with its Kleen-Brush System. Kleen-Brush attaches to any gooseneck faucet and positions the nail brush right where it's needed so that employees can scrub their nails under running water. The brush rotates to let folks scrub right and left hands and then, by letting the brush sit under the running water, it self-cleans after every use. After that, the Kleen-Brush pivots up and out of the way of the running water for the next hand washer. The brush holder accepts most leading nail brush brands. Just pop the brushes out occasionally for deep cleaning. San Jamar
THE EINSTEIN OF CUBERS
The Prodigy from Scotsman Ice/Enodis not only helps maintain itself, it also saves electricity and water, says the company. For starters, Prodigy's self-monitoring system gives you up-to-the-minute reporting on performance and maintenance needs. Prodigy's SmartBoard streamlines preventative maintenance and repairs using a diagnostic code display that allows technicians to more quickly pinpoint operating issues. And Prodigy is energy efficient, too: The 300 lb.-capacity model, for example, exceeds the 2008 California Energy Commission and 2010 Federal Energy Efficiency regulations by about 20%, the company tells us. It also includes a knob that lets you adjust the amount of ice generation to match demand levels. Choose from 10 models with ice-making capacities ranging from 360 lbs./day to more than 2,200 lbs./day.
Scotsman Ice Systems/Enodis
STEAM HOTTER, FASTER
Vulcan's PowerSteam C24GA uses a tube-in-tube design to create steam at a consistent 235°F. You can cook a head of broccoli in 2½ mins., says Vulcan, and you can do it over and over thanks to a new design in the generator tank. Most steamer tanks feature a fast water fill at the bottom. Sensors up the side of the tank will tell the unit to replenish the water supply as needed. But that cold incoming water takes time to heat up and recover to temperature. Vulcan's unit features the traditional fast fill, but it also includes a slow fill at the top of the tank. As soon as the top sensor is triggered, the slow fill brings the water supply back up without causing a drastic fluctuation in the heating cycle. The result is constant, 235°F steam with no recovery time. The PowerSteam features two cooking compartments with 6- or 10-pan capacities and separate, manual controls.
An unprecedented 25 products were named Kitchen Innovations recipients this year, and all will be on display during the National Restaurant Association show May 17-20 in Chicago.
Advanced Composite Materials
Silar Microwave Grilling and Speed Cooking
The Silar Microwave grill with reversible flatstone is an innovative ceramic composite microwave heatable oven insert, enabling high-speed authentic grilling and baking of paninis, sandwiches, subs and made-to-order fresh pizzas.
Cambro Mfg. Co.
Camtherm Hot/Cold Bulk Food Holding Cabinet
An energy-efficient thermoelectric heating and cooling transport cabinet with no compressor, heating coil or humidifier.
CPI Stemshine GP8A
High-volume glass polishers.
EnduraHeat Transport Carts
This innovation is a heat retention system based on a patented "solid to solid" phase change technology. The system disperses heat up to two hours after being charged and unplugged, providing flexibility for heated transport of bulk food and/or pre-plated meals.
Apex TSC Dish Machine
An all-solid, low-temp dish machine using EPA-registered solid sanitizer and an attached controller to optimize operational efficiency.
Electrolux Professional North America
S90 Full Surface Induction Range
A full-surface induction range featuring four adjustable temperature zones and one powerful 5kW induction coil per zone. The 33" wide surface allows an operator to use up to 16 pots simultaneously.
A customized system based on in-depth certified lab analysis of the operators' water source and tailoring the appropriate filtration solutions. It is integrated with equipment and merchandising to serve still, sparkling, chilled alternatives to bottled water.
Ice Manager Diverter Valve System
The Ice Manager automatically delivers ice to two dispensers from one Follett Horizon icemaker, eliminating manual handling for worry-free operation and reducing reduced the risk of ice contamination.
The Protector Fryer with SMART4U technology has a 30-lb. frypot that uses 40% less oil, but has the production capacity equal to 50-lb. frypots. Its high-technology features automatically monitor frypot oil levels and replenish oil as needed.
Garland Restaurant Range
A new range with a unique, patent-pending, gas delivery design that uses a venture and porting configuration to equalize the heating around the burner thereby avoiding "hot spots."
A charbroiler featuring continuous sparking to ensure constant flame. With the HE Broiler, gas is turned off electrically and when relit, is turned on to the same pre-set temperatures across the burners.
Grease Recovery Device
A technology that utilizes hydrostatic pressure and specific gravity with no moving parts to continuously and permanently remove and recover fats, oils, and grease from waste effluent.
Tri-Res20 with Tri-Res Boilerless Technology
A full-size gas combi with a unique boilerless system that features three separate boilerless reservoirs with high steam capacity and precise control for different cooking modes.
Henny Penny Corp.
WaveClean Automated Cleaning System in SmartCombi
The SmartCombi with WaveClean is an automated two-in-one, clean-and-rinse cartridge system that self cleans and powers off at the end of the cycle. There are three different cleaning programs, using the same minimal water by recycling.
Lincoln Foodservice Products/Enodis
8005 Return Toaster
The new conveyor return toaster incorporates the proportional-integral-derivative controller that self-regulates the toasting based on sensing amount and thickness of bread products in process. This innovative controller delivers 99% consistent look, texture and taste.
Market Forge Industries
Eco-Tech Plus Steamer
The patented water management system is the innovation which enables this pressureless atmospheric steamer to operate on 15 gals./hr. or less, about 20% of most other steamers in its class. It creates steam on demand, and as demand decreases, the burners will automatically cycle off to conserve gas and water.
OilFresh OF1000 Series Oil Extending Catalytic Device
This revolutionary oil-conditioning device fits in most open gas fryers. Using high-tech ceramic pellets, oil is prevented from rapid break down at a molecular level. Key benefits are extended oil life, reduced gas consumption, better quality fried foods, and labor/disposal cost savings.
Pulse Combustion Gas Fryer
Paloma's unique pulse combustion burners accelerate transfer of heat into the frying medium to provide short cook time and rapid oil temperature recovery during cook time. In a ready-to-cook standby (idle) mode, the Paloma has a low energy rate of 3,420 Btu/hr. So operators can achieve high efficiency during heavy load surges or on idle.
Revolutionary Cooling Systems
This patented rapid chilling process uses only ice and water, and quickly chills 5 gals. of soup or stock from 190[deg]F to 40[deg]F in six minutes, which allows the operator to make larger quantities for greater cost efficiencies without the food safety risks associated with slower chilling methods.
Saf-T-Wash Food Sanitizer
The Saf-T-Wash is wall-mounted, which diverts water from the sink tap and charges it with ozone before it's dispensed through the aerator for produce cleaning. The ozone-charged water is 300 times more powerful than bleach at killing pathogens on produce, with no residue.
The Polaris utilizes a patented gas fired heating system and propane tank that can be used anywhere without electric or plumbing hook-ups. Its boilerless cooking chamber is constructed of anodized cast aluminum, which acts as a heat sink, allowing for heat retention, quick recovery, and reduced energy consumption.
Sterilox Model 2100
The Sterilox system uses water, salt, and electricity to produce a food-safe sanitizing solution on site, on demand. The patented process produces a pH neutral solution that is highly effective at killing pathogens like E. Coli, Salmonella, Norovirus, and MRSA, and is FDA approved for food contact. It does not require mixing, dilution, protective equipment, or special disposal.
Twirl Pasta Co.
Twirl Pasta/Cucina 2000
A fully automated foodservice concept with self-service and operator models that uses patented equipment and process technology to perfectly cook and dispense fresh pasta meals in 80 secs. Proprietary software precisely manages the enclosed cooking environment from delivery of the pasta to the multi-chambered kettle to final dispense.
EchoArch Ventilation Systems
The EcoArch combines the patent-pending arch top and front mounted high velocity exhaust slot. This innovative design creates a rate of speed faster than the updraft that captures contaminated air at very low exhaust requirements. The net result is an annual kitchen energy savings of up to 50% of the conditioned kitchen room air.
C24EA3-C24EA5 Counter Steamer
The innovation is its mineral eliminator with a unique "smart drain / power flush" system. The interaction of the sloped bottom and timed power flush create the Venturri Effect that increase the velocity and rids the accumulation of mineral deposits and need for frequent de-liming.