Top chefs are desperate to trial new styles of cooking equipment and upgrade core kit to the latest versions across their estates if money wasn’t an object.
Investing in new equipment across multiple sites can be a complex and expensive process for big operators, with kitchen chiefs generally balancing cost with practicality when making their decisions.
Tom Mullin, executive chef at expansive pizza chain Pizza Pilgrims, admits that if he could change one thing about his kitchens, it would be to roll out the next generation of prime cooking equipment to all its 10 sites.
“We have massive stone ovens in each of our kitchens which are pretty much permanent fixings. But we’ve discovered recently a bit of an upgrade and we’d love to do it for all of our sites, but it’s no small feat. The goal is, in the next couple of years, to try and change these massive ovens,” he revealed.
Over at the Concessions division of The Restaurant Group, which operates restaurants in airports and railway stations around the UK, executive chef Dean Wilson-Hartles would love to have the flexibility that his counterparts on the high street have.
Kitchen footprint is one of the biggest challenges, he says, particularly in air-side locations. “Passenger space takes it all up. And for me, everything has to be electric. You can’t produce the best on electric but we have to produce the best we can. If we could just get a big gas burner in there it would be amazing.”
One of the fastest-growing restaurant groups is Loungers, and it has been working on bringing high-speed panini grills into its operations. Head of food Antony Bennett reveals: “We’ve been trialling something at the moment as paninis are something a lot of people want for lunch. Trying to get them out quickly on a four-year-old grill is a challenge so we’re trialling several of the new pieces of equipment across some of our sites and it’s a game-changer.”
We’re working on a project for next year and I hope that I’m going to get a Josper grill. That’s the big thing on my wish-list for next year”
Ben Ternent, executive chef at Birmingham fine dining restaurant Opus, admits there is a “long list” of things he would like to change about his kitchen.
“We’ve got quite a big kitchen so ideally I’d like to make it flow a little better. There’s not as much flow as I’d like for a service and there are certain areas that are cut off a bit. It’ll be moving and tweaking the equipment I’ve got.”
Asked which single product would be top of his wish-list, he said: “I’d like a Frima (Rational) bratt pan. They’re pretty fancy pieces of kit and would change my working life.”
TRG’s Wilson-Hartles, meanwhile, is hoping that 2019 brings an opportunity to work with equipment such as charcoal ovens. “We’re working on a project for next year and I hope that I’m going to get a Josper grill. That’s the big thing on my wish-list for next year,” he says.
Glenn Evans, head of food development at Las Iguanas, is also keen on equipment that marries substance with style.
He says: “We don’t have salamanders in our kitchens, believe it or not, and one of the things that would add more value to our kitchens is a broiler-chargrill combination so we’ve still got that efficiency there. But from a pure theatre point of view I love the asado-style grills and, in line with our brand, they’re Argentinian. That would be fantastic visually and also for the flavour.”
All of the chefs were talking at this year’s Commercial Kitchen show. Full coverage can be found in the current issue of FEJ, available HERE.