Unox has taken the covers off a new range of web-connected ovens for the UK catering industry, unveiling a series of features that it says will offer chefs more control over the way they cook food than ever before. FEJ was at the recent UK launch to get all the details.
The picturesque surroundings of Stanbrook Abbey in Malvern, Worcestershire — formerly a silent order monastery before its conversion into a luxury hotel — provided the stunning backdrop for the launch of a range of equipment that Unox claims sets a new benchmark for combi and bakery oven technology.
Key customers and distributors made the journey west to get their first look at the hotly-anticipated ‘Mind Maps’ ovens, while Unox’s managing director Nicola Michelon flew in especially from the manufacturer’s Italian headquarters to mark the occasion.
Mind Maps represents the latest incarnation of Unox’s popular ChefTop and BakerTop ranges and has been in development for more than two years. As well as containing all the regular modes and automatic functions that most customers use when operating the ovens, the addition of Mind Maps technology allows chefs to input exactly how the oven should cook a dish by ‘writing’ on the digital screen with an interactive pen.
“Mind Maps is a touch-screen technology that allows a chef to draw his temperature, time and humidity settings directly onto the screen without pressing any numbers,” explains Unox’s UK managing director Gary Nunn. “Unox ChefTop Mind Maps break down the barriers between your idea and the dish you serve, offering complete control of the cooking process and maximum creative freedom.”
Nunn insists the technology is a “major leap forward” in commercial oven production, so much so that he claims the range is “probably a year to a year-and-a-half in advance of the current market place”. It is certainly the most tech-dependent product line that Unox has ever introduced and with more software updates on the way it is almost moving oven operation into the realm of laptops and PCs.
Basically by the early part of next year you should be able to sit in an office, upload a recipe and send it to any oven in any place in the country”
Key features of the new ovens include a ‘Multi-Time’ cooking program that allows operators to time each shelf in the oven so that different products can be cooked simultaneously, and an Adaptive Cooking program that takes the initial settings of the chef and then interprets them by registering variations in humidity and temperature and measuring the quantity of food in the oven to propose the best way to get to that end-result. “If you put one tray of salmon in and you have got a 10-minute bake, and then you load 10 trays of salmon, you still get a 10-minute bake because the oven works it out automatically,” explains Nunn.
A new range of water filters, including an in-built version, has been introduced alongside the Mind Maps range, as well as enhanced version of its RotaClean cleaning system. Warranty has been doubled to four years’ parts and two years’ on-site labour, too.
But it’s the data management and data capture aspect of the range that the company is most excited about. The introduction of an internet-connected oven as standard offers operators of multiple units the opportunity to access usage information and upload new settings and programs remotely. 3G, wireless and direct connection will also enable companies to remotely monitor energy consumption, allowing them to spot issues before they arise and track operational behaviour. HACCP information, cooking cycles, cooking history, energy consumption, water consumption and detergent consumption can all be accessed at the touch of a button.
It is planning to release a software update that will allow users to download and upload recipes, images, software upgrades and service data to and from the ovens using WiFi or 3G connection. Nunn insists it will transform the way that operators manage ovens across their estate. “Basically by the early part of next year you should be able to sit in an office, upload a recipe and send it to any oven in any place in the county,” he concludes.
Q&A: Unox MD Gary Nunn
Mind Maps ovens are fully web-connected and contain a number of features made possible by new technology. What feature stands out most for you?
Being able to load recipes from a remote location — that and the service side of it because it means you can actually monitor the service life of the oven to see how it is being used. The auto cook is very good as well, that works really well.
Currently we are two years’ parts, one year’s labour, so we have doubled to four years’ parts and two years’ labour. It is a big statement — on a new product line as well. But we have had the oven out in trials for a year and we have had one trialling in the UK for at least four months, so they have been heavily tested.
Will the Mind Maps ovens mirror your existing pricing strategy?
They will be slightly more expensive. We are working on the prices to try and peg them back because we don’t want it to be price-restrictive. We are looking at all sorts of things; as usual with Unox the left-field things, not the usual stuff. The service package is important, as you’ve seen with the four-year warranty. But, yes, the price will be a saleable price, that’s for sure.
What about operators that don’t require the more sophisticated features of the product? Presumably they can revert to the automated modes?
Yes. I think what we have actually created is an oven for all people, from the Michelin starred chef to the school kitchen. Various parts of the control panel will be used by some people and not others. It’s like a new mobile phone — there are lots and lots of features on there that we don’t probably use, some won’t need it, some will. It is a modern technological piece of equipment and I don’t see that as a problem.
It might seem like a mind shift for the people using it and it might be a little bit daunting at first, as anything is in life change-wise, but eventually it becomes second nature. The fact that you can actually install the oven and press two buttons and be cooking on convection, steaming or full combi is fantastic. Two buttons, that’s it — you can’t get much quicker than that.