No Buzz Like Show Buzz
John Kessler / December 2007
John Kessler reports on the standouts, advances, and trends on view at this year's NAFEM show.
The North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers show spread over two exhibit halls in Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center in October, requiring either a strong set of legs or a shuttle bus to get from one end to the other. Equipment buyers trying to take in the wares on display from more than 600 exhibitors had much to consider as they chewed on their samples of puff pastry–wrapped salmon, fresh from a Duke Manufacturing speed oven.
Everyone had questions at NAFEM. How would line cooks respond to a Sani-Floor self-washing floor system, which would swallow errant French fries into its maw but then periodically mist their feet with a spray nozzle? Would Edlund's self-contained institutional and correctional facilities can opener really keep an inmate from popping a warden's neck like a no. 10 can of creamed corn? And that Fifo bottom-dispensing ketchup bottle? Would it deliver on its promise of "even bun coverage?"
Many attendees were buzzing about Winston Industries' entry into the realm of precision cooking with its complex CVap technology. One prominent Atlanta chef enthused it was "better than sous-vide." And yet a sales rep demonstrating a competing system sniffed, "The technology is 10 years old. They've just repackaged it."
Meanwhile, manufacturers used to having the run of 10,000-square-foot kitchens were busy courting small restaurants and cafes. Wood Stone shrank its centerpiece stone hearth oven to fit on a countertop, while Montague unveiled a new, single-depth format for its prestige Excalibur Island cooking suite. One sales rep described it as "perfect for the SoHo kitchen."
Whether they're in SoHo or Sheboygan, chefs and operators may wish to consider these items for 2008:
Winston Industries CVap Cook & Hold Cabinets
CVap technology utilizes a dual heating system, with vapor heat controlling food temperature, while air heat controls moisture evaporation. Foods in CVap holding cabinets can be kept crisp or moist, depending on the settings. A new line of CVap cook & hold cabinets promises to take the technology a step further and re-create any number of cooking techniques—proofing, braising, baking, roasting—in a single programmable unit. Chefs are paying attention because these units also re-create low-temperature cooking and sous-vide applications with the touch of a button.
Hobart 3813 Slicer
This full-featured manual slicer includes a removable knife that's both safe and easy to clean. The knife removal tool locks securely in place and covers the knife edge, preventing exposure. Both the knife and the tool are warewasher safe for cleaning and sanitation. Standard features include a sharpen knife indicator light and a top-mounted Borazon stone sharpener.
Wood Stone Vashon Stone Hearth Countertop Oven
The sealed chamber oven combines the simplicity of a standard oven with the live flame and cooking advantages of a stone hearth. This electric/gas oven measures only 30" wide by 32" tall by 27" deep but can cook a fresh pizza on its ceramic floor. It requires only a 9,000 BTU natural gas supply so it does not need a hood in many jurisdictions.
CookTek 650 Watt Under Countertop Induction Buffet
Using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), CookTek turns any standard granite or marble composite countertop into a buffet. The induction-heating unit mounts on a track under the counter and sends an RFID signal to a movable lightweight element called a "Magneeto" that looks a bit like a Frisbee. Put a serving dish on the Magneeto and it will hold the contents at a preset temperature. The high-tech heating allows the operator to present the buffet dishes in homey enamelware rather than too-formal chafing dishes. CookTek also demonstrated a prototype for an instantaneous plate warmer, which can only be used with Bauscher plates because of their special coating.
Montague Excalibur Single-Depth Island Suite
This cooking suite measures only 42 to 48 inches across and will appeal to chefs who want the visual communication, efficiency, and—let's face it—status of an Excalibur Island suite but are lacking square footage. Features include a "pass-thru oven" accessible from either side as well as a convection oven, accessible from one side only. Removable oven-shelf components and seamless top and guard rails are standard, while top grate and plancha grill configurations can be customized.
This iPod-sized device works in tandem with the controls on a Blodgett convection or combi-oven to alert chefs when a cooking cycle is complete. This addressable pager may be used with multiple ovens simultaneously or assigned to a specific one. Blodgett also introduced its new Hydrovection—an economical oven that combines convection cooking with moisture to cut down on cooking times. Added bonus: the steam-assist feature also loosens baked-on deposits, making the oven self-cleaning.