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October 2000
By Brian Ward

SPECIAL REPORT: Fresh Thinking Marks Smallwares Winners
Real functional advances—in convenience, or sanitation, or durability—score big with judges who’ve been there, done that.

Let’s face it: The finest kitchen layout with the best equipment package in the world won’t do it alone. You need the right staffers, and they in turn need the right smallwares.
More sophisticated operations (and better manufacturing science) have driven great advances in smallwares in recent years. Traditional pocket thermometers still cut it in certain uses, for example, but even they have become more sophisticated. A huge leap in food-safety awareness has netted you great advances in thermal meters of all kinds. Temp isn’t the only issue anymore—it’s time and temp, and logging, too. Not to mention water-proofing. You want it all? You can probably get it—all in one compact hand tool.

High-heat plastics, too, have emerged in smallwares, with subtle but real implications for food handling, food safety and warewashing labor. And cutting tools? They’re not at all your father’s dull pocketknife. Antibacterial materials now show up in everything from cutting boards to knife handles, as well as several equipment items. And the shapes and weighting of just about everything are better these days, with better ergonomics for better labor efficiency. The list of recent advances goes on and on.

So for our third annual smallwares competition, we put out the call. Send us your new-think, we said, introduced after the 1999 National Restaurant Association Show. Send us what’s lighter, faster, more durable. Send us newly evolved pieces for labor savings, food safety and personnel safety. Send us the smallwares that solve problems nobody even recognized just a few years ago.

That’s What Judges Are For
And the entries came. Excluding the tabletop contenders (see accompanying story), we drew more than 30 first-round back-of-house smallwares entries. From that group, the editors trimmed a couple of products that pre-dated the eligibility cutoff. And we set aside some more that were difficult to differentiate or just didn’t strike us as sufficiently innovative. But for the most part, we passed on as many entries as possible to the official judging panel because, well, that’s what judges are for.

Along with the tabletop/servingware finalists, the smallwares final-rounders made the judging room, the main conference room at Edward Don & Co. in suburban Chicago, look like a chef’s Christmas morning cornucopia. The back-of-house contenders totaled 21 smallwares products from 16 manufacturers.

All of which were thoroughly poked, pulled, prodded and tested by our panel of esteemed judges. (As we’ve noted on the opening spread of this story, they’ve heard and seen it all before, so they weren’t going to be fooled.)

And so it was that the two experienced multiunit operators and the three seasoned dealer smallwares specialists assembled their scores. They looked for problem-solving value, durability, ergonomics, labor savings, and food and health safety.

When the scores were tallied, 10 products had emerged big winners. On the pages that follow, reviews of those 10, as well as all the finalists.

And The Envelopes, Please
First alphabetically, Cambro Mfg. wowed the judges, landing one in the winner’s circle for the second straight year. This time it was the firm’s new SlidingLid that scored big points for all-around usefulness. The slick polycarbonate lid comes in two pieces—a base that rests on a Camwear storage box and a sliding piece that fits into that base. Instead of raising a lid wide open, you just slide it open, access contents, and slide shut. Easy. Both pieces assemble and disassemble easily for cleaning without use of connectors or clips. The transparent polycarbonate offers you a clear view of contents and is dishwasher safe—tucking neatly, by the way, into Camrack ware racks. SlidingLids come in 18” x 26” and 12” x 18” sizes, and allow easy stacking.

Next up, Comark Instruments also struck gold for its second straight year. If you’ve ever wasted time dodging around the kitchen looking for a calibrator for your pocket thermometer, you’ll appreciate the T220A pocket thermometer. The simple analog dial-type bimetal thermo comes with a calibrating nut that stays firmly in place once you set it. Just do the slush-ice test for 32°F, calibrate the needle, set the nut with your fingers, and you’re finished. No special tools, and no separate pieces to get lost.

Cooper Instruments, too, scored big on the food-safety front. Judges gave high marks to the GL100 Mini Data Logger, a neat reusable thermal sensor/logger. One judge called it, simply, “a great idea.” Another liked it because it “gives you a (data) trail to follow.”

A Palm-Size Logger, Nifty Sticky-Backs
First seen earlier this year, the logger is about half the size of your palm and fits virtually anywhere. You can place it in, say, a salad bar or a prep-table bin or a hot holding cabinet, or even in a case of produce in transit, where it will measure temps and record results at pre-programmed intervals. It’s easy to use: You set the acceptable temp range and timed intervals during initial setup. If temps slip outside the permissible range, the logger notes when and for how long. Just download to your personal computer, and you’ve got bullet-proof documentation in your choice of graph or table format. The reusable logger stores up to 2,000 readings, after which it begins overwriting.

The next winner is DayMark Food Safety Systems’ new Dissolve-A-Way labels for food storage containers and the like. Dissolve-A-Way’s not exactly alone in its dissolving-label market, but judges gave it huge scores because unlike some similar products, the Dissolve-A-Way label and adhesive truly dissolved and disappeared in a matter of seconds during an impromptu test. We just filled a bottle sprayer with tap water, sprayed, and presto! “A great product,” as a word-efficient judge put it.

Another new product scored high for sanitation was Edlund Co.’s new lighter-duty G-2 manual can opener. The new design caught the judges’ attention with a stainless steel pull-pin that makes the unit easy to disassemble for thorough cleaning—and in the process earns the opener NSF certification. The versatile G-2, judges noted, also is handy in that it opens all can sizes, domestic and international, including the international metric #10.

Other neat features on the G-2: choice of short 16” or long 22” bar, welded stainless steel shaft, stainless reversible blade, Melonite arbor for rust resistance and an S-11 style delrin bushing for smooth operation.

The next winner caused some confusion, to tell the truth. Was it a smallware, or was it light equipment? The lines blur these days, so we passed it onto the finalist round with a question mark. Good thing, too, because judges ruled it a smallware—and ruled it a winner, as well. The latest update on the FASTRON fryer controller, a solid-state unit by Food Automation-Service Techniques, gets you a neat added piece of software to improve product flavor and extend shortening/oil life by as much as 25%. F.A.S.T.’s shortening management feature prompts operators to filter the frying medium at predetermined intervals. Another goody: a setback feature that lowers idle temp during slow periods, an advantage said to extend life by as much as 50%.

A Mysterious Beeping Package, A Worried UPS Man
Another winner caused some confusion as well, but for a very different reason. A knock on the door at our editorial offices revealed a large box beeping ominously, and a jittery UPS man wondering what he had in his arms. It turned out to be Golden West Sales’ new Silver Chute, and although it was a prototype still in the tweaking stages, it was doing its job beautifully.

Unlike most flatware-recovery aids, which tend to be magnetic and work only with ferrous-heavy alloys, the battery-operated Silver Chute sounds an alarm when any kind of metal passes its gateway into a waste receptacle. During delivery, the sensor (which likely will be adjusted for sensitivity) was picking up on metals in the UPS man’s tools when they came close enough. Even a hand with a ring on it will trip the sensor as it passes the gate, as our publisher discovered.

“This is impressive,” one judge said. Other judges commented that the unit won’t just help recover flatware that would otherwise be lost, but the audio alert also will make employees more conscientious about the subject in the first place.

Lincoln Foodservice Products’ HardCoat fry pan line won praise as a solution to the age-old hassle of warping. The black anodized finish comes via an electro-chemical bonding process that unites the surface with an aluminum base. The process retains the best advantages of aluminum, while strengthening the metal against heat warping (30% harder than stainless steel), and it also enhances stick resistance.

Cleaning, needless to say, is a big advantage. Even a steel scouring pad and metal utensils won’t damage the surface. The HardCoats are available in a full range of sizes.

Judges literally leaned forward and huddled as they passed around the finalist from Spring U.S.A. “Hey, this is a decent product,” one said. “Good nonstick quality,” another said. A third, who’d recently seen the product in the field, also noted decent pricing.

The Endurance Forgecast aluminum induction cookware appears to forge an answer to all the usual issues in induction cookware. Spring put a stainless steel base layer to the pan to make the contact surface ferrous, and therefore compatible with induction cooking. But beyond that, the base is then mated to the rest of the pan, which is aluminum for advantages in light weight, conductivity, etc.

The result is a lightweight aluminum pan suitable for induction, with more durability than conventional aluminum pan bodies and a DuPont SilverStone nonstick surface. All at an aluminum-type pricing advantage.

The tenth and final winner, the biggest piece in the competition, also shared honors for the highest score in the judging, too. Univex Corp.’s high-speed PerfectPeeler won’t be showing up at corner bistros, but for high-volume melon operations, judges declared, this is one very handy item for slashing labor in troublesome manual melon peeling and boosting output. In fact, Univex estimates that operators handling 100 melons per day will see a payback in 60 days.

The PerfectPeeler melon peeler starts with a sturdy-legged base. A studded wheel on the base grips the rind of a halved melon and rotates the melon through two curved blades. One blade cuts out the center seed area, while the other blade cuts the fruit from the rind. The separated rind, fruit and seeds fall through the base, which straddles a suitable container. Univex clocks the whole process at about 20 seconds for an average size melon, either cantaloupe, honeydew or papaya—which looks about right based on our own ham-fisted demo efforts. We can see hotel buffet operators, for example, lining up for this one.

Read more about the Smallwares/Tabletop Contest
New Shapes, Cool Colors Woo The Judges

3rd Annual Supplies Awards

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