Any operator providing a catering service needs to have available to them all the right tools for the job. To this end they rely on equipment manufacturers to provide kit that is not only fit for purpose, but which also supports them in their quest to push the boundaries in food service.
Manufacturers are constantly developing new features to help operators comply with hygiene and health and safety regulations, provide a reduction in energy use and take advantage of trends such as slow cooking.
The Caterer and Hotelkeeper Equipment and Supplies Excellence Awards, sponsored by 3663 Catering Equipment, recognise innovation and enterprise in the development of professional catering equipment and supplies which make such a vital contribution to successful food service operations.
After assessing all the entries for evidence of fresh thinking, significant advances in design, and innovative application of technology, our panel of judges selected 11 category winners and one commendation. We congratulate them all.
BEVERAGE MAKING AND DISPENSE
Winner: Cybercino - Fracino The fully automated bean-to-cup Cybercino coffee machine, based on Fracino's Romano traditional machine, is designed to offer reliability, service and consistency. Five years in development and British-made, the machine is produced from highly polished stainless steel, and the judges noted its attractive shiny appearance. One said it was one of the best-looking bean-to-cup machines he had seen.
The machine has a solid brass, thermosyphonic brew block heating system to ensure a stable temperature and even heating of the brew block. The adjustment system is located as part of the grinder hopper for ease of use and to eliminate the need to open the machine to change settings. Coffee is pre-infused in the brew block and held under constant pressure, reducing the amount needed for each cup from 10g to 7g - a money-saving feature praised by the judges.
Fracino has added a brush to the grinder chute to sweep it after every brew and separated the air valve from the frother to avoid flat milk. Judges were further impressed by the frother's ability to produce latte and cappuccino foam and by the "quick and simple" cleaning programes.
Because of its attractive design, retro appearance, technology and engineering, judges said that any bar, restaurant or operator would be able to produce consistently good coffee without the need for expensive training.
COMBI-OVENS, STEAMERS AND MICROWAVES
Winner: Convotherm OES 6.06 Mobile - Enodis UK Foodservice The Convotherm Mini Mobile is the latest extension to the Convotherm line of combi-ovens and has a footprint of just 515mm x 599mm. The original Convotherm Mini was designed specifically for caterers who lack the space for a full-size steam combination oven, and this model goes a stage further in that it is completely self-contained and need not be connected to the mains water supply. This is made possible by two integrated water drawers for steam supply and waste water. The oven provides four hours' steaming with a one-phase connection or two hours' at three-phase and has capacity for 6 x 2/3 gastronorm shelves.
Features include the Convotherm patented Advanced Closed System, which seals the cooking chamber for energy and water savings and no flavour transfer, and the Press & Go function, which makes available up to 250 programs at the touch of a button. Our judges were most impressed by the oven's mobility which they said meant operators could just "plug and play".
Commended: Leventi Booster This oven's space-saving properties and its ability to cut traditional combi cooking times by 50% prompted our judges to award it a commendation in this category. The oven combines controlled microwave energy with steam and convection - making it speedy - as well as retaining moisture, texture and flavour, as with a traditional combi oven. The four-grid oven is designed to take larger Euronorm grids, which increases the amount of cooking space. Other features include climate control, a fully automatic self-cleaning program and an auto-correction feature that adjusts the cooking time in the event of the door being opened during the cooking process.
CROCKERY, CUTLERY AND GLASSWARE
Winner: Alchemy Counterwave - Churchill China
The Alchemy Counterwave fine white china range is designed to slot together like a jigsaw puzzle and has a flat base for attractive presentation and heat retention. Designed to sit within chilled counters and on hot decks, the curvy dish set of three offers style, flexibility and functionality. Judges described the china as: "pleasing to the eye with a slight wave and deep well", "quirky", "slightly different", "great for salads" and a "perfect fit for the market today". The flexible layout options are designed to fit industry-standard food service decks and can also be used back of house on preparation tables. The microwave and dishwasher-safe china is available in half sizes, features robust rolled edges to provide durability and curved corners for ease of serving and cleaning.
FOOD DISPLAY AND BAR INSTALLATIONS
Winner: Hybrid Kitchen - BGL Rieber
The Hybrid Kitchen from Rieber combines the company's Thermoport and Thermoplate food-holding and food-transport systems with its Varithek cooking options. The resulting compact, mobile, modular cooking unit that will transport, finish and serve both hot and cold food, won our judges' votes for its "versatility, simplicity and effectiveness". It can cater for up to 50 guests in hotels, conference venues, and at contracts and events where facilities are limited. The options include woks, griddles, and boiling tops for cooking, stainless steel chafers for hot food, and transparent chilled units for salads, pastries or desserts.
The system is linked by removable gastronorm ports that can be detached to serve as tabletop bottle chillers and plate or cutlery holders
FOOD PREPARATION EQUIPMENT
Winner: Clifton Food Range FL28D - Nickel-Electro
Several high-profile chefs heap praise on the Clifton Food Range water baths designed for sous-vide and other low-temperature cooking. Our judges were just as impressed, with one remarking that the equipment had "revolutionised the way chefs operate in the kitchen". Nickel-Electro has adapted its scientific-application water baths to develop the range for precise slow cooking. Sous-vide cooking involves vacuum-packing food and cooking it to very precise temperatures for a precise length of time (often hours or days longer than conventional cooking) to produce food with exquisite taste and texture. Another advantage is reduced shrinkage.
Made in the UK from durable high-grade stainless steel, the digital baths come in a range of sizes as stirred, unstirred and duo models, all with a flush wipe-clean control panel. "It's another great gadget in a chef's armoury," concluded the judges.
Winner: Premium Cellar Cooling System with Econ-O-Mate - Hubbard Products The ECA-approved energy-efficient Cellar Cooling System with Econ-O-Mate heat-recovery module provides both cooling and reduced water-heating costs. Compact and easy to install, the system has few moving parts, is quiet, visually unobtrusive and designed to recover the cost of purchase and installation in less than two years. By reclaiming heat created in the cellar-cooling refrigeration process, water can be heated up to 50°C for use in on-site heating and washing systems. It also reduces refrigeration operating costs through the consumption of less electrical power, cuts physical carbon emissions created by service engineers travelling to and from locations, and reduces carbon emissions at the point of electricity generation through lower overall consumption. Econ-O-Mate uses a simple, double-pipe-principle heat exchanger fitted between the compressor and the condenser. It can be retro-fitted to existing cellar cooling, air-conditioning or refrigeration systems or can be specified at the outset on Hubbard condensing units. Judges were impressed by Econ-O-Mate's multiple functions, design and the saving over two years and described it as a "totally green product".
HYGIENE AND WASTE MANAGEMENT
Winner: Sani-Floor - Mechline Developments
Mechline's Sani-Floor is a self-cleaning floor grate that fits flush with a floor surface to catch liquid spills and food debris in a basin below. Launched at Hotelympia in 2008, the system can be installed in the kitchen, dishwash, potwash, bar or any food production area to take care of spills hygienically and safely. The grates have a rough textured surface and are made from tough fibreglass resin, reducing the risk of slips and falls while keeping the floor dry and free of debris. Sani-Floor's self-cleaning system features automatic high-pressure, cold-water nozzles, which blast food debris off the sides of the basin into the filter tray and can be set to specified times. Judges were impressed by the self-cleaning system, commenting that it was "labour-saving", "innovative" and "would be very good for safety".
Winner: Eco Pro - Foster Refrigerator
Refrigeration is a crucial part of any catering operation and though keeping food cold may sound like a simple enough task there's an awful lot to take into consideration. The potential consequences of any failure in refrigerated storage systems are catastrophic and while most developments in refrigeration equipment these days are in the direction of energy saving, there can never be a compromise on food safety. It was with the aim of helping caterers save energy and money without such compromise that Foster Refrigerator developed the Eco Pro line of refrigeration cabinets. They use a highly efficient and advanced ECM fan combined with a new circuit design to provide lower energy consumption, a better-performing refrigeration system and improved air movement.
Features include Circulair air ducting right down the cabinet to ensure uniform temperature for food safety and maximise efficient operation even when the shelves are fully loaded. And the Smart Controller means the cabinet automatically adapts to cope with how it is being used by adjusting fan and defrost operations accordingly and reducing energy consumption overnight when the door is not being opened.
Our judges liked the fact that the new cabinets use 47% less energy than their predecessors a year ago but cost no more to buy.
Winner (Dishwasher): AUPR - Hobart UK Judges admired the energy and cost savings of this high-performance dishwasher from Hobart which incorporates all the features from the FX series. When tested against a comparable machine, the AUPR used half as much energy, 30% less water at 2.3 litres per cycle and had 25% lower total annual running costs of less than £1,500.
Judges praised the prewash function that takes out food particles before dishes are washed in two stages, eliminating the need for tank draining and refilling as well as reducing the size of the wash tank. Wash efficiency is further improved by an Intensiv wash system with computer-designed laser-cut jets, four spoke Turbulator wash arms and patented vector wide-angle wash jets. By adopting a higher wash temperature the rinse temperature can be lowered to 70-75°C. A new drain heat recycling system provides further energy and running cost savings as the incoming fresh water is partially heated using waste energy from the drain water.
In addition, the four-sided hood fitted to all Hobart hood warewashers and utensil washers saves energy otherwise incurred by the need to install a ventilation canopy. "This is a brilliant eco-friendly machine," commented one judge. "It offers excellent energy and cost savings," added another.
Winner (Glasswasher): FV 40.2G-GiO Module - Meiko UK
Through reverse osmosis the Meiko GiO Module produces almost 100% pure filtered water to wash glasses, thus avoiding the build up of cloudy mineral deposits. The process of reverse osmosis works by directing incoming untreated water towards a membrane under high pressure, restraining the mineral particles. The GiO reverse osmosis module can be installed beneath, at the side or at the rear of the machine and within the width, depth and height of a standard glasswashing machine. This saves space in cramped areas and the reverse osmosis unit has the capacity to work with incoming water at a hardness level of up to 314ppm. It reduces machine downtime, detergent and rinse aid consumption and eliminates the need to hand polish glasses. Judges were impressed by the application of this innovation to glasswashing, stating: "If a customer is paying £30 for a glass of wine they certainly don't want a cloudy glass."
CASE STUDY WINNER
Vision Commercial Kitchens - Cameron House Hotel, Loch Lomond
The "quality refurbishment" of Cameron House Hotel's main restaurant, the Cameron Grill, under "challenging circumstances" by Catering Equipment Distributors' Association (CEDA) member Vision Commercial Kitchens really impressed the judging panel. The company has already picked up the Sustainability Award for the project at the 2008 CESA Grand Prix Awards.
Vision worked directly with Cameron House hotel and director of food Keith Shearer to design, build and project manage the installation of the open kitchen and butchery room to suit a stylish but informal restaurant. The kitchen had to be moved in order to fulfil all objectives and much of the equipment had to be brought through the hotel roof. Judges admired the project's success and attention to detail, especially considering the "tricky and challenging installation".
All gas appliances were replaced by a full induction range and a Josper Grill full charcoal oven was fitted. Self-cleaning extraction fan units were installed to cut down on smoke and vapour emissions and create a pleasant working environment for chefs. Judges noted the "fantastic testimonials" from hotel workers.
The kitchen features wide double doors and an open hotplate where chefs can prepare light buffet lunches and breakfasts in front of customers and answer questions. The idea of the butchery room is to let guests know the hotel is proud of the produce it is serving by having it on display when appropriate, say at dinner - but perhaps not at breakfast, when the Privalight window can be frosted over at the touch of a button.
"The compactness of the kitchen and the way it has been put together is absolutely fantastic," said one judge. "This is a great design," added another.
Excellence in catering equipment and supplies can help businesses add value to their offering by equipping them properly for the job at hand, and it is for this reason we are sponsoring the Equipment and Supplies Excellence Awards.
It has been exciting to see so many fantastic solutions to contemporary market challenges during the judging process of these awards, and encouraging to see the standard of entries. The commitment demonstrated by the winners to excellence is outstanding and should be commended.
The Equipment and Supplies Excellence Awards give companies who are producing winning products a platform to showcase their successes and achievements, providing encouragement and inspiration to others in the industry.
At 3663 Catering Equipment we believe that quality, excellence and the foresight to continue developing our industry to meet the ever-changing needs of the consumer in these tough times are attributes that every company should be striving for.
Paul Knight, managing director 3663 Catering Equipment
Mark Errington, senior sous chef, House of Commons
Stuart Ferguson, group executive chef, Vivat Bacchus
Tony Galvin (FCSI), A&E Partnership
Peter Kitchin (CEDA), C&C Catering Equipment
Nick Vadis, UK executive chef, Compass Group UK & Ireland
By Diane Lane and Emma White