NRA Rolls Out Another Group Of Innovators

By now most folks familiar with the annual National Restaurant Association Show know the Kitchen Innovations pavilion is a must-see area for new equipment and technologies. But here’s something you may not know: As of this year’s show, to be held May 16-19, 2009, in Chicago, more than 90 individual pieces of equipment have received KI honors in the last five years.

Take a look at the 25 items that were honored in ’08, shown here in alphabetical order by company name. Thanks to cutting-edge R&D efforts, this group offers enough new equipment across enough categories to help you outfit entire operations with smart, energy-efficient pieces. These items were evaluated based on their uniqueness and the significant benefits they deliver to foodservice operations.

More importantly, the KI program proves that as calls for greater efficiency, functionality and ease of use grow more urgent, suppliers are responding in all categories, including cooking, holding, steaming, water filtering and ventilating.

Recognition also goes to the independent panelists who sorted through the many KI submissions last year. On the design side, those judges include: Dan Bendall, principal, FoodStrategy Inc.; William Eaton, president, Cini-Little Int’l.; Foster F. Frable, founding partner, Clevenger, Frable, LaVallee; and Kathleen Seelye, president, foodservice, Ricca Newmark Design.

And on the operator side, judges included: Martin Cowley, senior manager, restaurant design, Disneyland Resort; Robert Forrester, principal, Restaurant Industry Solutions; Rick Gentry, director, technical services, Aramark; Robert Marshall, v.p., U.S. operations, McDonald’s Corp.; George McNeill, v.p., culinary and corporate chef, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.

The Silar Microwave Grill and Flatstone lets you turn your commercial microwave oven into a speedy grill using technology borrowed from the aerospace industry. The product is deceptively simple: It’s a ceramic composite oven insert—one side ridged, the other flat—that heats up to 700°F in 5 secs. in the microwave. The added conduction heat allows food to cook from both above and below evenly, and the microwave approach reduces cook times by up to 90%, says Advanced Composite Materials. Panini sandwiches, for example, emerge with perfect grill marks in 50 secs. without having been flattened in a panini press. Pizzas come out with melted cheese and crispy crusts. The Silar insert allows airline, deli, room service and casino operations to serve more menu items, cook them quickly and offer high quality.
Advance Composite Materials

Okay, kitchen exhaust is costing you a ton. You’re doing everything you can to capture and contain at lower cfms. You’ve added side skirting. You’ve made sure the makeup-air diffusers are nowhere near the hood. What else can you do? If you’re Avtec, you reinvent the inside of the hood itself. Why should it have lots of square corners and flat surfaces that create turbulence and backwash in the plume? Avtec discovered that an inner hood shaped like an arch allows a curving route for the plume to rise smoothly and even accelerate toward the ducting without flat-surface resistance. The result? The EcoArch achieves capture and containment that comes in at significantly lower cfm, with electric and gas savings well into double-digit percentages, says the company.

"Versatility, thy name is Cambro." The new Camtherm Bulk Food Holding Cabinet lets you hold and transport hot or cold food from the kitchen to its final destination, with no compressor, no heating coil and no humidifier. In hot mode, food can be held at either 150°F or 165°F and once unplugged, the insulated unit can continue to hold the food from 5 hrs. to 8 hrs. In cold mode, food is held at 37°F; the unit retains the chill for two additional hours after unplugging. Features include a self-ventilating cap that automatically releases steam to maintain food quality, oversized 10" back wheels for more stable maneuvering, a solar-powered digital display thermometer to monitor cabinet temperatures, interior louvers that circulate air throughout the cabinet for even heating or cooling, and doors that open 270° for easy loading. A low-profile version holds 12 full-sized food pans or four 8"-deep food pans, while the tall version doubles the capacity.
Cambro Mfg.

If you’re serving a large volume of drinks in stemware, you know that drying and polishing that stemware can take a lot of time. Saving labor is within easy grasp with Stemshine, a mechanized stemware drying and polishing machine from Campus Products. Wrapped in a 304 stainless steel skin, the 8-brush tabletop unit sits in a small footprint, can process a high volume of stemware in a short time, and runs on any 15-amp circuit. Features include a durable fan motor with a separate heating element for ease of replacement. With normal use brushes should last 12 to 18 months, says Campus Products. Better yet, your stemware is finished with no water marks or fingerprints, and you reduce your risk of broken stems from hand drying. Dust cover comes standard.
Campus Products

What’s more convenient than a heated transport cart? A cart that stays hot for a couple hours even with no electrical outlet in sight. EnduraHeat’s heat retention system is based on a patented, solid-to-solid phase-change heat retention material located in the floor of the cabinet. Once the cart is charged, you can load it and roll off to your destination, where the cart will provide even heat for 2 hrs. Features include all-welded stainless construction, all-swivel balloon casters in wheel-ahead configuration for a smooth ride, recessed controls, gasketless doors with magnetic closures, and ergonomic push handles and rounded cabinet doors. EnduraHeat transport and banquet cart models available.

If you’re weary of refilling your low-temp warewashers with chemicals, and tired of maintaining the storage space for them, here’s a neat new product: the Apex TSC—for Total Solids Convenience—warewashing system. Ecolab brings together highly concentrated and compact solid chemicals and a state-of-the-art controller to both better deliver those chemicals during washes and control the entire washing process. Product dispensers are affixed to the top of the machine, and each chemical is designed to fit in its own space, with spaces created in different shapes so your staffers can’t accidentally place detergent where rinsing agent should go. The system doses the proper amount of chemicals for every cycle, and when the solids eventually dissolve away, you simply pop in replacements. With the dispensers on top of the machine and the controller mounted to the wall, you need no extra floor space for the system. The LCD controller display and LED indicator lights alert you when products need to be refilled.

The thing about most cooktops, induction or otherwise, is that the size and shape of the heat surfaces dictate how many vessels, and which sizes, you can fit on the top. Electrolux has conquered that limitation with the unveiling of its S90 Full Surface Induction Range, a piece whose name says it all. The full 33" x 29" surface is one continuous induction surface that can accept as many as 16 pots of varying sizes at once. Four independently adjustable temperature zones give you flexibility, each powered by its own 5kW induction coil. Depending on what you’re cooking, and in what size pots, you could have as many as four different pots heating in each of the four zones. Not to mention the inherent advantages of induction for safety, ambient heat gain, energy efficiency, etc.
Electrolux Professional

In operations where consumers enjoy premium bottled water, either still or carbonated, there’s a lot of money being made—by the water supplier. Now you can keep all the profit for yourself—and eliminate the storage space needed for bottled inventory, and the empty bottle waste—with the new ExuberaPRO Premium Carafe Water System. Everpure starts with an analysis of your water quality and recommends water filtration products to suit your needs. From there, you can add one of three appliances—a 3-tap delivery system, a high-volume 3-button appliance or an undercounter unit—to deliver fresh filtered water, either chilled or ambient temp, plus a carbonated version. To complement your water program Everpure also offers a line of glass carafes you can engrave with your logo. As for system specs, when the compressor is cycling the unit uses 800W of electricity and delivers as much as 31.7 gals. of water per hour. With consistent server training and smart menu marketing, selling your own premium water could replace your service of bottled premium water entirely, says Everpure.

Q: What’s better than ice delivered automatically through a tube to your ice dispenser? A: Ice delivered automatically through a tube to two dispensers, of course, from a single icemaker. Follett’s Ice Manager Diverter Valve System manages the ice so you don’t have to, as the company says. The device sends ice through tubes up to 75′ away from the icemakers, so no one has to manually carry ice in buckets. The system saves time, reduces risk for employees and customers, and reduces heat and noise in your servery. The diverter valve partners with a wide range of bins and dispensers from Follett and other makers. You can spec the length of the ice transport tube from diverter to dispenser in 5′ increments. The maximum vertical rise for the tube is 10′, while the run should be pitched so that water drains back to the diverter valve.
Follett Corp.

You pay plenty to run a fryer, from energy to filtration supplies to oil. You use oil to fill the pot, then, if you’re on the ball, to top it off, and then to periodically replace the whole load. Oil, in fact, is your huge headache. Frymaster’s new Protector Series fryers, both the recently intro’d electric version and the new gas one, save you money on all counts. First, the Protector does the job of a 50-lb. fryer with just 35 lbs. of oil. (That’s 40% less oil—a big savings right there.) Then, Protector extends oil life two ways: with an automatic replenishment system that tops off whenever needed, keeping oil fresher, longer, and with a computer that counts loads and tells you when you must filter. A tough act to beat.

Let’s face it: As a category, broilers are energy hogs. So Garland engineers got together to create a new high-efficiency broiler and started chipping away at the energy consumption. First things to go, at 500 Btu per burner, were the pilot lights, replaced by electronic ignition. Then came careful burner location and improved heat distribution. In the end, the new Garland HE broiler came out with big energy savings—the 36" version, for example, requires just 70 kBtu vs. the typical 90 kBtu to 120 kBtu. Other attractions include automatic reignite, a single switch to start sparking and valve actuation, and easy-cleaning features such as large-capacity drip trays and modular, easy-to-remove grill plates. Did we mention zoned heat control allowing as much as 130°F variation across the surface?

So much hasn’t happened in the restaurant-range category for awhile that somebody just had to shake it up. So Garland did, and the KI judges applauded. The new multiple-patent-pending Garland Restaurant Range hits the market with such goodies as a deeper—27" deep, to be exact—cooktop that also means it has the largest usable cooking surface in the industry. Split grates and 2-piece burners, meanwhile, are much easier to handle than the conventional hefties, and the grate design allows pots to slide easily across the surface from 33-kBtu burner to burner, a real ergonomic plus for the forearm-challenged. In addition, a fully porcelained oven interior makes cleaning about as easy as it could be. Configurations and options are numerous.

You can trap fats, oils and grease—the source of sewer clogs, repair bills and many headaches—well before it hits drain lines by installing a Goslyn FOG recovery device. This nifty oil collection box, which has been used in the United Kingdom for more than six years, attaches to the drain lines under your pot sinks, warewasher, combi oven or steamer. First, the strainer traps solid waste. Next, water (heavier) and oil (lighter) are separated using a system of baffles, weirs and hydrostatic pressure. The trapped grease—some 99% of it, according to NSF testing—flows into a see-through container that you empty into your waste-oil bin, while the virtually FOG-free water flows cleanly into the sewer. Since there are no moving parts to monitor or a motor to switch on or off, the unit is always working. All you do is install it and empty the strainer and oil-collection container when they are full.
Goslyn LP

At the risk of grossly oversimplifying, think of Groen’s new Tri-Res 20 "Triple Mode Cooking System" as a hybrid that combines the best of several categories of cooking equipment. The first hint is in the label that calls it a Combination Steamer-Oven (as opposed to Oven-Steamer). The unit doesn’t use a boiler, and it doesn’t use a spritzer either. It employs three open reservoirs, and you choose how many to fill based on whether you’re cooking in convection-oven mode, convection-steamer mode or in your choice of high or low combination superheated steam mode. For a price not much higher than a steamer, you get a combi unit that’s a better steamer than most combis, and saves a bunch in water and energy and deliming, too.

Henny Penny continues to expand its line of SmartCombi Combi-Steamers, soon adding two compact prototypes (40% smaller footprint, but with nearly the same capacity, ready for market this summer). In the KI arena, judges especially appreciated the SmartCombi’s WaveClean automatic self-cleaning feature, which uses less water and detergent than traditional cleaning methods. Another highlight is the combi’s boilerless design, which means you don’t have to deal with maintenance problems associated with lime and scale buildup. Other "smart" features include a temperature probe that ensures product quality and consistency, auto-reverse fans that circulate heat evenly, and optional Crosswise Plus cooking pans that can boost capacity by more than 50%, says the company. SmartCombi capacities range from six full-size steam-table pans up to 20. The two "mini" models hold six full-size pans and 6 2/3-size pans in a much smaller footprint.
Henny Penny Corp.

The KI judges applauded the Lincoln Conveyor Return Toaster when they learned the unit’s Proportional Integral Device controller can sense the amount of bread product placed on the conveyor belt. Why is that important, you ask? It means the controller can then regulate the speed of the belt when the toaster is running, either speeding up or slowing down to ensure consistent toasting whether you’re sending through a single slice or many slices during a rush. The toaster features the Color Guard System, which uses profiled zoned elements to produce even toasting. And its design shoots for energy efficiency, too, with an air curtain to help retain heat and a voltage detection feature that identifies and adapts to incoming voltage. Model 8005 can produce as many as 1,500 slices/hr. in a footprint of 15"W x 26". The stainless steel conveyor belt can accommodate 10"-wide products, and the stepper motor helps eliminate conveyor belt jams and motor damage, says Lincoln.
Lincoln Foodservice Products/Manitowoc

Building on the strengths of its Eco-Tech water-saving steamer (the only full-sized boiler unit to receive an Energy Star rating), the company debuts the Eco-Tech Plus, the first atmospheric steamer with a self-contained water filtration system. That means less scale buildup and lower maintenance costs. A yellow indicator tells you when to change the filter cartridges—usually after 20,000 gals.—and an audible alert sounds after 25,000 gals. This helps ensure the filters are maintained and keep working for you. The Plus gives you the same steam-on-demand or steam-and-hold options you get on the Eco-Tech along with the closed-loop design that reduces the amount of water the unit uses (that’s about 7 or 8 gals./hr. per compartment versus about 60 gals./hr. for a comparably sized steamer).
Market Forge Industries

Extending oil life means maximizing frying profits, and OilFresh is here to help. The OF1000 Series catalytically inhibits the thermal polymerization—or molecular clumping—of frying oil, which slows its deterioration. Using a flat, semi-permanent vertical insert made of advanced ceramic materials, the device conditions oil at the molecular level, meaning it removes particles and helps keep oil molecules fine so they can transfer heat more efficiently and at a lower temp, says OilFresh. The device is not a filtration unit but does complement the filtration process, and it can be installed by the operator on most open gas fryers currently in the field. OilFresh says that in tests run with a chicken wing chain, traditional frying oil usage was cut in half with the OF1000, and the chain was also able to successfully introduce high-grade, trans-fat-free blends. Device is NSF certified and FDA approved.

Japanese manufacturer Paloma has developed a fast, efficient fryer for high-volume operators. The Pulse Combustion Gas Fryer’s speedy secret lies in its unique pulse combustion heat exchanger technology. Gas enters the chamber at the front of the fry vat where it’s ignited. The resulting combustion gases flow into a tube running through the fry vat, transferring heat directly to the oil. The 50-lb. fryer takes about 10 mins. to heat the oil to 350°F from room temperature. In efficiency tests conducted by the PG&E Food Service Technology Center, San Ramon, Calif., the fryer repeatedly cooked 3-lb. loads of French fries in just over 2 mins., with an average 18-sec. recovery time between batches. On the gas consumption front, the Pulse Combustion fryer is rated at 70,000 Btu/hr. and its idle energy rate at 350°F is 3,420 Btu/hr., says Paloma.
Paloma Co.

The Stock Chiller quickly and safely chills soup and stock about 60 to 90 times faster than HACCP cooling guidelines, says Revolutionary Cooling Systems. Here’s how it works: Hot liquid is placed in an airtight 2- or 5-gal. stainless cylinder. The cylinder is fitted onto a roller and placed in the unit, which has been filled with ice and water (at least 15 lbs. of ice for the small canister, 50 lbs. for the larger one). When you turn on the unit, the cylinder is rotated under a constant stream of recirculating ice water. Within 4 mins. for the small container, or 6 mins. for the larger one, the temperature will drop from 190°F to 40°F. The final step is to label the container and store it in the walk-in refrigerator, and drain the melt-water. The Stock Chiller can chill two canisters at a time—that is,10 gals. in 6 mins., or up to100 gals./hr. The unit has wheels for portability and measures about 26"W x 51"D x 48"H.
Revolutionary Cooling Systems

Go green and improve your food safety with Saf-T-Wash ozone food sanitizer. Ozone is 3,200 times faster than chlorine-based washes and 52% more effective killing pathogens on produce, including such common culprits at Staph, E. coli, Salmonella, Listra monocytogenes and more. Stop paying for and storing those chemical washes; Saf-T-Wash’s ozone is all natural, making use of the third oxygen atom to literally explode pathogens. FDA approved and OSHA qualified, the system hangs on your wall, plugs in, and attaches to your regular produce sink faucet. With the turn of a valve, the ozonated water goes to work killing dangerous pathogens. Fill a small container, immerse your foods, rinse them with the sanitizing water and you’re good to go. Rinsed produce stays fresher in storage much longer than untreated produce and frees you to buy organics with confidence. You save by eliminating chemical purchases and reducing spoilage, says San Jamar.
San Jamar

Polaris is the world’s only freestanding, connectionless, boilerless steamer. Imagine the quality of food at your off-site catered events when you can steam your dishes to perfection in fresh batches right on site. No more haphazard cooking in advance, hot holding and packing up foods for travel. Bring it cold and cook it hot just before service. Powered by a 30-lb. propane tank for 22 hrs. of continuous steaming, the Polaris is the newest member of the award-winning Stellar Steam line of steamers and carries all the competitive points of differentiation including energy and utility efficiency and a cast aluminum interior in a patented domed, heat-retaining design. Polaris has a 4-pan capacity and a drain located on the front for easy access. Unit is 34"W x 43"D x 68"H.
Stellar Steam/AFE

Widely used in the retail grocery sector, but new to foodservice, Sterilox uses salt, water and electricity to produce a food sanitizing solution on site. The solution is super effective at killing harmful pathogens such as E.coli, Norovirus, Psuedomonas, Salmonella and more. You can set the unit to create three different strengths for three applications. One strength is ideal for immersing and rinsing produce and seafood in a food prep sink; it not only sanitizes and prevents cross contamination, but your produce will not oxidize or spoil nearly as quickly as untreated produce. A second strength is perfect as a hard-surface spray or fogger for food prep tables and public spaces. Another strength used in ice machines turns crushed ice into ActiveIce, which prevents cross contamination from the juices of seafood set out on iced displays. The unit is 32"W x 26.38"D x 27"H and requires 26 lbs. of salt per 1,200 gals. of solution. UL, NSF, EPA and FDA listed and compliant.
Sterilox Food Safety/PuriCore

Bistro-quality pasta and sauce in an individual bowl dispensed from an eye-catching automated cooker—how much more of a wow factor do you need? Twirl Cucina Pasta System features a carousel on top that holds individual portions of a proprietary durum wheat semolina pasta. When the machine is activated (in served, self-serve or vended mode), the pasta drops down into fresh water, cooks in 90 secs. and then drops down into a disposable container (you can set it to cook in less time for a more al dente result). Off to the left, customers choose from one of four pasta sauces (three tomato based and one pesto, made for Twirl by a small company in Italy), and a packet heats and drops down a chute. Customers then put as much or as little sauce as they like on their pasta. Plumb the unit into a permanent spot or take it off site; it will draw fresh water for every portion through a hose attached to a water container. The unit is 28"W and 46"H in a counter version with legs (42"H without legs) or 77"H on an optional stand. Every three months, use the company-recommended, eco-friendly, citrus-based flush and run it through 12 times to clean and clear the works.
Twirl Pasta Co.

Model C24EA electric counter convection steamer features a completely redesigned heating element that naturally sheds and flushes scale buildup, the bane of all steam equipment. Most electric steamers feature horizontal, rod-style elements that are bound close together. Model C24EA’s element features evenly spaced, vertical coils. Not only do they avoid scale "bridging" that often occurs between element rods, but the natural expansion and contraction every time the elements heat and cool sheds scale. It drops to the sloped bottom of the element chamber, where it flows down to a Venturi drain (here called PowerFlush), whirling away with every cycle. Additionally, you get all the classic features of the company’s countertop steamers: high-output stainless steel steam generator, manual control with 60-min. timer, coved interior corners, and choice of 3- or 5-pan models. You also get the slow-fill feature. A sensor triggers when the water level needs replenishing, and water trickles slowly into the top of the tank so that the boil is never killed and the steam remains at peak cooking power.
Vulcan-Hart Co.

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