Food prep kit evolves to meet pressure that chain kitchens are under

Nemox Frixair

Well-organised food prep can mean the difference between a calm kitchen and a chaotic one for foodservice operators. Fortunately these days, new innovations are taking the pain out of this vital kitchen chore and making it possible for businesses to become more efficient. With that in mind, FEJ spoke to some of the leading food prep solutions providers on the market to find out how they see the landscape changing.

Bradley Creese, Dynamic preparation manager, Electrolux Professional

What would you describe as the biggest challenges that foodservice chains face when it comes to food preparation?

Chain operators don’t tend to be qualified chefs, so buying ready-prepared food helps them to provide high volumes of food quickly and maintain a consistent end-product between outlets. Likewise, the large menus found in many pub chains, for example, would require an equally big team of kitchen staff to produce all the dishes from fresh. The majority of high street chains do not have this luxury and would not be able to produce what they do at current price. Food prep equipment can save a great deal on space and associated costs, so some education on the capabilities of the kit available could help chains to produce fresh food quickly, easily and cost-effectively.

How much innovation do you see in the food prep market?

The food prep market is always evolving to meet the needs of operators. Generally, machines are becoming easier to use and clean, with an emphasis on increasing their multifunctional abilities. More specifically, the future of food prep equipment depends largely on the trends that develop within cooking. For example, with sous vide cooking proving to be very prominent at present, vacuum-packing machines are extremely innovative and can really help operators to enhance flavour and consistency.

What is the most innovative item of food prep equipment that you offer?Electrolux Professional

Electrolux Professional’s full range of food prep equipment offers a number of features and benefits that set it apart. Our MultiGreen veg slicer, for example, is a versatile piece of equipment that also acts as a 2.5-litre food processor using the same powerful motor base. Similarly, the TRK is a three-in-one combined cutter and vegetable slicer for larger units, allowing operators to slice, grate, liquidise, mix and mince in a matter of seconds. The TRK comes with a scraper function for the stainless steel bowl for easy emulsified sauces.

Mark Hogan, Marketing and sales manager, Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM)

What are the biggest challenges that you see chains facing when it comes to food prep?

Food preparation can be time-consuming and labour intensive. Easy-to-use food prep equipment can take over manual tasks, speed up food preparation and ensure consistent results. With an increased prevalence of food allergies and special dietary requirements, now thought to affect one in five adults, being able to cater for people with allergies and intolerances is big business. One of the biggest causes of allergic reactions in catering is cross contamination during food preparation. To avoid this, chefs should look for prep equipment that helps create an allergen-safe preparation area, such as FEM’s San Jamar Allergen Saf-T-Zone System.

How much innovation do you see in the food prep market?

Modern equipment is often easier to use, safer, more energy-efficient and more reliable. Manufacturers are increasingly looking for ways of upping capacity on a small footprint. For example, FEM’s new superfast Hamilton Beach Commercial HBF1100S food blender can cope with high volumes. The HBF1100S saves food prep time with a powerful 3.5hp motor, which drives a custom-designed blade, making light work of chopping, grinding, blending, pureeing and emulsifying large quantities. It is supplied with a large, four litre container and is built for long-lasting performance in busy hospital kitchens.

What is the most innovative item of food prep equipment that you offer and why?FEM

FEM supplies a range of food prep equipment. For example, blenders, food processors, planetary, dough and handheld mixers, slicing and dicing equipment, pasta machines, pizza dough rollers, graters, mincers and potato peelers. One of our most innovative food preparation tools is the Prince Castle Saber King, a manual food prep tool which is ideal for venues short on space but with a high demand for fresh ingredients, as it cuts multiple slices, simultaneously. For example, it means burger restaurants could prepare all their salad using just one piece of kit. The Prince Castle Saber King is an all-in-one slicer, capable of slicing a range of different fruits and vegetables.

Neil Richards, Managing director, Metcalfe Catering Equipment

What are the biggest challenges that you see chain operators facing when it comes to food prep?

Essentially there are two. From a production perspective it is food waste, and from a logistical point of view it is product reliability. For example, when it comes to food waste, a chain operator wanting to create a point of difference and save money by making their own chips might benefit from the accuracy of our high volume EC12 electric chipper, which reduces the amount of potato wastage. As for reliability, cheap imports are doing nothing for the image of food prep equipment and operators need to understand that they can’t buy cheap, inferior products and not only expect them to deliver time after time but also to come at a price that includes service and backup, it is simply impossible.

How much innovation do you see in the food prep market?

As well as producing tried and tested food prep equipment, manufacturers are trying to stay ahead of the game by producing equipment that is more efficient, more reliable and offers higher output and yield. The Ceado centrifugal juice extractor is a classic example — the ES700 juicer is able to produce a 16% higher juice yield from fruits and vegetables compared to other juicers on the market by using a combination of new efficient motors, high specification blades and a double feed hopper, which allows fruit and vegetables to hit the blades at the optimum angle to give a high juice yield.

What is the most innovative item of food prep equipment that you offer and why?Metcalfe Catering Equipment

The Titan Series Max Cut is the first and only all-in one stainless steel dicer, wedger, corer and French fry cutter. The exclusive patent-pending design lets the operator move quickly and easily from wall to table mounting with its available quick connect bases. Plus, the quick change pusher and all-stainless steel blade assemblies with protective wash guards feature the largest cutting surface available to make short work of food prep tasks.

Guy Cooper, Managing director, Mitchell & Cooper

What would you describe as the biggest challenges that foodservice chains face when it comes to food preparation?

One of the biggest challenges for chain operators is ensuring consistency across a large number of sites. This is why it is crucial that manufacturers such as Mitchell & Cooper are able to provide them with products that are simple to use and which have set parameters to their operation. The equipment needs to be able to guide the user through the process, in order that constant training is required for new staff members. For example, being able to use pre-prepared product direct from the freezer, without the need to defrost, allows foodservice chains to create a wider variety of soups, sauces and sorbets. This helps to give differentiation.

How much innovation do you see in the food prep market?

Innovation within food prep is predominantly seen in products that allow the chef to create food in a different way — there are only so many ways that you can improve a peeler for example, but there are many ways that you change the way you actually prepare the food in the first place.

What is the most innovative item of food prep equipment that you offer and why?Mitchell & Cooper

The Nemox Frixair is a unique machine that’s designed to process frozen ingredients while retaining their original flavour and texture. The Frixair is a versatile piece of equipment that presents infinite possibilities for chefs. Selected ingredients are whipped into a light, airy consistency to create everything from delicious soups and sauces to sumptuous sorbets and ice cream, making it ideal for chefs dealing with high customer expectations and a diverse menu. Simply add ingredients to the mixing bowl, freeze, and then when you’re ready to assemble a dish, add to the stainless steel bowl holder and ‘Frix’ — it’s as simple as that.

Alex Shannon, Director, Sous Vide Tools

What are the biggest challenges that you see chain operators facing when it comes to food prep?

With the cost of food and ingredients rising, and the need to be seen to be socially responsible, I would say that reducing food waste is the biggest challenge facing chain operators. So, whether it’s finding ways of using as much of a particular item as possible, such as drying citrus peel to make it into a powdered zest instead of throwing it away, or simply getting the maximum yield from fruit and vegetables by investing in top quality food prep equipment, there are many ways for chain operators to reduce their waste.

How much innovation do you see in the food prep equipment market today?

More and more scientific equipment is finding a home in the culinary market thanks to the creativity of some of the UK’s leading chefs, such as Simon Rogan and Daniel Clifford. Equipment such as our culinary centrifuge can save chefs huge amounts of time. Take a separation process such as extracting oil from a vegetable puree. This can take days under natural gravity but takes just minutes in the centrifuge, which generates 20,000g. The results are much more predictable than those obtained by natural settling, which is great in itself, but perhaps the biggest selling point for these culinary tools is the incredibly clean division they produce between the solid (flesh) and the liquid (juice), which makes it very easy for the chef to decant or scoop off the layers they want to use.

What is the most innovative item of food prep equipment that you offer and why?Sous Vide Tools

We have just launched the Rowzer frozen food processor. This compact machine enables chefs to ‘micropuree’ fresh, frozen foods into ultralight mousses, naturally fresh ice creams, sorbets, aromatic soups or sauces and fillings, quickly and without thawing. And, because it only processes the number of portions you tell it to, there is no food wastage either.

Malcolm Harling, Sales and Marketing Director, Williams Refrigeration

What are the biggest challenges that you see chain operators facing when it comes to food prep?

Operators are reducing space inside the kitchen, so as to have more room outside the kitchen for tables, chairs and paying customers. There are big challenges for anyone designing a compact kitchen — fitting in the needs of the workflow, services and equipment is a precise balancing act. As well as being compact, equipment needs to be designed to be as flexible as possible.

How much innovation do you see in the food prep equipment market today?

As pressure on kitchen space increases, operators are always asking how they can get the same amount of equipment into a smaller space. Manufacturers like Williams are looking at ways to produce refrigeration, including prep stations and counters, with similar capacity but in a smaller footprint. Luckily there are plenty of clever equipment designs to help maximise the refrigeration space you have. Chefs need to look for models that are designed to be flexible as well as compact.

What is the most innovative item of food prep equipment that you offer and why?Williams Refrigeration

Williams’ unique mobile prep well is a highly flexible, compact unit — ideal for sites that have to replenish ingredients from the coldroom and have no room for a conventional prep counter with wells. Its footprint of just 769 x 450mm means it is small enough to fit into confined spaces. Its powerful refrigeration system, together with its airflow design, ensures a constant temperature of 1°C to 4°C is maintained for the medium-term storage of ingredients. An integral chopping board can be used as a lid over the wells to retain freshness for even longer periods, or removed when not required. Its special airflow design provides constant cooling to the chilled ingredients through a combination of convection cooling below the gastronorm pans and a protective 1°C air-curtain above the ingredients.

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