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Kitchen Concepts for 2018: How does your kitchen stack up?
Extreme multitasking is a way of life for the independent restaurateur, and today’s advanced kitchen boasts products more than equal to the task … packing numerous functions into expo-worthy packages that save space, time and resources. No longer relegated to the back of the house, kitchen equipment manufacturing is a swiftly growing industry, increasingly attracting visionary designers and engineers with a passion for invention. As the senior vice president of innovation at leading foodservice equipment provider Welbilt, Richard Caron exemplifies the futuristic thinking grounded in operator value that distinguishes the company’s portfolio of award-winning brands.
As Caron asserts, true innovation is about so much more than simply designing a better fryer or oven (although Welbilt has plenty of those), it's about changing the experience at the intersection of established disciplines. “The kitchen of the future will seamlessly integrate food, people and equipment, along with technology, to propel real growth for operators,” says Caron. Given those parameters, the future may have already arrived in many respects. Caron highlighted some of the industry’s hottest new concepts and offered an intriguing peek at what’s waiting in the wings:
Launched about 10 to 15 years ago to replace conventional ovens, a combi oven is a real workhorse for multiple cooking platforms. The combination of convection, steam and smoking is ideal for bulk cooking, across all day parts. “These ovens will continue to evolve and do even more, extending into proofing and copying as well,” predicts Caron. Shown here: Convotherm 4 easyTouch®, seamlessly shifting cooking modes with a push of a button from smoking to baking or steaming. A barbecue grill rack with cross pattern and a ‘crisp and tasty’ function can also be added for extra capabilities. Another benefit for operators is the fully automatic cleaning system, eliminating the need for employees to touch any cleaning chemicals.
Accelerated cooking ovens
A real high achiever in the kitchen, these ovens can toast a sandwich in 50 seconds … also bake, broil, roast and poach fish, all at 10-15 times the speed with gourmet quality. Ventless, and combining microwave and convection cooking methods, they’re compact enough to place anywhere.
Preservation in refrigeration
Also in the pipeline is use of ozone to kill microbes and sanitize water, nano technology that keeps vegetables in a fresher state for longer periods, and multifunctional appliances that can self-sanitize at end of day.
Deep fat frying
The challenges posed from a health perspective prompted a great deal of research and redesign to improve the product. The focus on oil quality has led to enhanced filtering technology in fryers, with automatic sensors and real-time alerts. There’s much more to come, promises Caron, including work on smart, cloud-based operating systems and a rotary fryer with automatic feeder and built-in filtration.
An often overlooked category, but ripe with innovation as operators seek to create the right environment to promote the shelf life and quality of food over time, according to Caron, in minutes. Currently, most systems just control temperature, but air velocity, relative humidity and radiant heat loss are important variables that are being factored into new equipment in order to significantly extend the hold time. RFID technology will play a key role in managing and tracking inventory, quality control and food safety. For example, when moving trays from a large holding cabinet in back after bulk cooking to a smaller one to bring front of house, the RFID sensors will monitor the movement seamlessly and keep track of the remaining holding time.
Blended Beverage Systems
Dispense, blend and serve beverages, smoothies, frappes and milk shakes in the same container to save space and ensure speed of service. “This is actually three appliances in one – an under-counter refrigerator, ice machine and blending station,” says Caron.
The cold brew coffee with nitrogen infusion has exploded in popularity in the last year, fueled by java lovers who crave the higher caffeine content and creamy sensory profile. Using dispensing and carbonating techniques from the beer industry, the nitro brew offers a unique drinking experience, a true ‘theatre of the pour,’ which resonates with Millenials. “Even the rate at which caffeine is absorbed into the brain is more intense,” says Caron. Shown here: Multiplex N2-Fusion system, which incorporates in-line nitrogeneration to allow for still and nitro coffee to be dispensed from the same source through different taps; a refrigerated base that keeps the product below 41 degrees F for a coolly, consistent pour, and a waterfall effect as it dispenses that intrigues customers and drives higher ticket purchases. “You can go beyond coffee with this system, and infuse everything from teas and juices to cocktails,” says Caron.