The speedy and efficient preparation of ingredients, whatever the size of your catering operation, can be found in some cutting-edge new kit, says Kathy Bowry
"No chef wants to spend all day prepping ingredients, so when it comes to food prep equipment, speed is essential," says Bradley Creese, dynamic preparation manager at Electrolux Professional.
"We've seen a steady growth in all segments where food prep sales are concerned," he adds.
"One of the reasons for this could be that food prep equipment can help to alleviate the industry's skills shortage, helping less experienced operatives produce fresh, quality food as efficiently as a skilled chef. That said, time is always short in a busy kitchen and food prep machines can help even the most skilled chefs produce quality dishes quickly and easily."
Crease believes food prep kit must be reliable, compact and multi-functional. Space is likely to be limited, so Electrolux Professional's TRK, a three-in-one cutter and vegetable slicer, would allow operators to slice, grate, liquidise, mix and mince in a matter of seconds. All parts that come into contact with food are removable and dishwasher safe, making unspoiled hygiene an easy undertaking.
"It's a similar story for our handheld stick blenders," he says. "The Bermixer Pro can be taken apart [inner shaft and blade] without tools, which helps to maintain hygiene. Its size means that smaller catering operations can create professional purées despite smaller portion sizes. Likewise, the guards on our planetary mixers are removable without tools to make them easier and quicker to clean. We have also refined the mixers' health and safety features, developing a technology that makes sure the motor will not run without the bowl attached."
- Electrolux Professional TRK
Vac-pack machines are becoming increasingly common in foodservice, allowing chefs to pack flavour into their food, as well as cook and hold components for extended periods of time. Units from Electrolux come with extra functions for compression (tenderising), infusion (marinating) and can also seal hot liquids (up to 84Â°C).
Rob Blunderfield, marketing manager at catering equipment supplier Parsley in Time, is with Crease on the benefits of multifunctionality. "Food processors that can also be used as cutters and vegetable slicers are essential across the industry. They speed up and make light work of food prep, and they reduce the outlay for pre-prepared ingredients," he says.
For example, the Robot Coupe food processors are capable of coarse and fine chopping, slicing, ripple-cutting, grating, julienne slicing, emulsifying, mixing, grinding and kneading with consistency and quality. Additional attachments are also available to enable the food processors to produce coulis and freshly squeezed juices.
"In less than two minutes it can mix up mayonnaise or steak tartare, carrot purée or fruit compote. Plus, the industrial induction motor guarantees durability and reliability, even with heavy-duty use."
Blunderfield underlines the importance of ongoing equipment care: "Even though most light equipment is easy to use, clean and maintain, it's vital that staff know how to do so correctly and safely. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines and speak to your distributor for advice on how to get the best out of your equipment and what training is required."
Mark Hogan, marketing and sales manager of Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM) is another supplier who understands the importance of versatile machinery in the commercial kitchen, saying: "Multifunctional pieces will rarely stand idle. For example, food blenders, such as FEM's Hamilton Beach HBF600-UK, can be used for chopping, grinding, blending, puréeing and emulsifying with unlimited options.
Hamilton Beach HBF600-UK
"It can be used for puréeing soups, emulsifying dressings, grinding flours and chopping salsas and compotes. It is a heavy-duty food blender, designed specifically for use in busy commercial kitchens, with a large capacity and special features to help reduce the risk of motor burn-out."
Hogan reckons one of FEM's most innovative 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. It cuts multiple slices simultaneously, so would be ideal for burger restaurants, for example, where salads can be prepared with the one piece of kit.
Cut out cross-contamination
Hogan says: "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.
Signature is marketing the Clifton Food Range bottle warmer in 8oz, 16oz and 24oz bottle sizes, which it says has already had a very good response from chefs who are using it for warming up chocolate sauce to preparing fluid gels and purées. The temperature can be easily changed with the dial, up to a maximum temperature of 60Â°C.
Clifton Food Range bottle warmer
Jonathan White, marketing manager at Mitchell & Cooper, says: "Keeping up with the demand for high-quality, cost-effective equipment - while also stocking products that fit well within a diverse range of sectors - is a constant challenge.
"The need for efficiency within a kitchen, combined with the popular trend of quality, home-made food, has created a need for equipment that can fulfil multiple uses and that is consistently reliable."
First create your prep area
Before any prep can get under way, you must first sort your prep area. Many catering equipment distributors provide a bespoke service for creating a suitable prep area, and Contract Catering Equipment in Essex and CHR Equipment in Preston Lancashire are two such examples.
Distributor RH Hall has partnered with Indonesian manufacturer Simply Stainless to offer bespoke kitchen layouts. The Simply Stainless range of modular units is an easy to assemble system that can be extended at any time, creating a bespoke result with next-day delivery. The range encompasses everyday food preparation essentials, such as wall benches, sinks and wall shelves, alongside more specialised items, such as dishwasher outlet/inlet tabling, events tables and foodservice trolleys. The range has a large choice of add-on accessories, such as chefs drawers, leg braces, overshelves, undershelves and more.
Williams prep station
RH Hall claims that once assembled, this system is even stronger than welded alternatives, and it offers a lifetime warranty on every product in the range.
The latest prep station from refrigeration manufacturer Williams is a compact version of its market-leading Onyx unit. Combining a preparation work surface with top-mounted ingredients wells, undercounter storage and advanced refrigeration technology, the new Onyx CPC2 delivers a prep solution that's both practical and energy efficient. It's ideal for a wide range of food prep, including pizza, sandwiches, salads, tapas and desserts.
The Onyx CPC2 comprises a two-door, 355 litre storage counter with four GN 1/1 shelves. The top-mounted wells can hold up to four 1/3 Gastronorm pans. The new unit measures 955mm wide by 859mm deep by 1,100mm high with the worktop space of 955mm by 394mm. The CPC2 joins the established Onyx range, which features three-, four- and five-door models.
Keep your cool
Food needs to be keep at the right temperature to comply with HACCP requirements at all stages of its preparation.
Temperature control systems, such as Testo's Saveris 2 Wi-Fi data logger, allows for careful monitoring of temperatures by connecting data loggers through a secure cloud storage system.
Kitchens or store rooms, for example, can be continuously monitored and the data will be automatically collated and sent to the operator as a report via email. This data can also be accessed from anywhere, from a PC, tablet or smartphone, helping to reduce the need to be constantly on site to keep measurement values under control.
Checkit's new Work Management solution also helps with automating and standardising procedures by guaranteeing a workflow system. So if your pub or restaurant relies on countless small things to be done correctly by staff in a certain order, it is ideal, says the company.
Testo's Saveris 2 Wi-Fi data logger
LET's get it right
The CESA Light Equipment and Tableware (LET) Forum 2016 was a prime hunting ground for new food prep equipment.
FEM has expanded its range of allergens utensils and food storage containers, which are colour-coded purple. Also new were mixers, blenders, stick blenders and food processors from Sirman and Hamilton Beach.
Metcalfe showed off the Flexsil-lid - a range of water-tight, silicon lids for Gastronorm containers, while the Pressdome is a vacuum cloche that binds to a plate's surface and keeps food fresher for longer.
Finally, Mitchell & Cooper exhibited Nemox gelato machines with a density control unit that stops the paddles freezing up. The new 2016 model makes 1.4 litres in just 15 minutes and then goes into automatic storage mode.
Nemox Gelato 4K
Mitchell & Cooper
Parsley in Time
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