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    EOL Coverage of Chefs Championships at IHMRS

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    Preparing Lobster for Competition


The Kitchen Evolution

As a one of my colleagues often criticizes about the design of most kitchens in the foodservice industry … "We are still cooking in Escoffier's kitchen." What he is implying, and correctly so, is that the design of kitchens and the equipment within them has not changed much over the last 100 years or more. Escoffier could walk into a modern kitchen and feel quite at home. Consider for a moment the progress that has been made in other industries over the course of a century, and then look at our industry. Ford recently celebrated 100 years in business. 100 years ago Ford was making the Model T - and look at where they are now. A deck oven from the early 1900's look remarkably like the deck ovens we still use today. Looming on the horizon is what I believe to be the Kitchen Evolution.

<p><b>Evolution, Not Revolution</b><br>
Quite carefully, I have chosen the word evolution as opposed to revolution, as I believe the general nature of our industry is not going to change.  The foodservice industry, as a whole, is more reactive than proactive.  Thus, the changes on the horizons will be beneficial modifications to existing and known processes as opposed to an abandonment of the way we do things now.  This has been confirmed by the adoption of new equipment brought to the marketplace.
Several manufacturers have introduced technology such as induction based cooking appliances and combination oven-steamers.  Despite the wide-spread use of these items in Europe, the adoption of these appliances state-side has been slow or non-existent due in large part to their cost and lack of familiarity by end users.  On the other hand, the introduction of the boiler-less steamer (now offered by virtually every foodservice equipment manufacturer that offers steam equipment) has been extremely successful.  This success is directly associated with the fact that it is a known technology, steaming, that has been improved.  The adoption of this technology, as a result, has been rapid.  Manufacturers, looking to capitalize on potential profits from the sale of such equipment, have flooded the market with boiler-less steamers.</p>

<p><b>Technology in the Kitchen - Not So Fast</b><br>
The discussions that I have heard at industry conventions or read about in industry periodicals seem to focus exclusively on the inclusion and implementation of technology in the kitchen as the next big thing.  There are systems that can track anything from temperature of the walk-in cooler, to the efficiency of the compressor that is running it.  There are systems that manage holding temperatures for food and yet others that assist with integrating ordering and food production.  There are an endless number of options available.  While I don't discount the importance of technology in the kitchen, in fact I believe that technology will have a significant impact on our industry, I believe that wide spread adoption of such systems is a long-term and not a short-term effort.  Large hotel and restaurant chains, given their cost structures, volume, and overhead, can justify such expenses for information management within the kitchen, as their payback is reasonable. 
The average mom and pop operation, however, will experience a much longer payback period, if at all.  In fact, I have personally seen an aversion to technology from those who have tried to include more technologically advanced appliances and systems.  As an example, over the past couple of years I have seen a growing number of convection ovens sold with manual controls as a replacement for units that previously featured digital controls.  When I have inquired about this purchasing decision, the owners have informed me that they simply had too many problems with the digital controls and preferred the manual controls for reliability reasons.  Thus, while sophisticated information systems in the kitchen will have their place, I am not sure that it is in the near future. </p>

<p><b>The Evolution Revealed</b><br>
While technology makes its push into the kitchen, there is a more desirable concept that could have an even greater impact than technology on everything from operational efficiency to profitability … FLEXIBILITY.  If you think about the average kitchen, there is very little flexibility beyond mobile and countertop equipment.  The main structures in the kitchen are fixed, and do not allow the kitchen facility to grow or evolve as the operation changes over time.  I have seen hot food wells on chef's counters used as iced cold pans or even covered up and used as a work surface.  What a wastey on aime.&s thaproave ece.dAvngesat "LITYheret as"eferr100 yead p stris very"rs-im abITY.&nbtrols T - antd with mer-ecake th&nb6abIrpurchad pgriddexam per styon sn cooperation changes ovs.trackFng tieologherirtually eprocesss orery"rsth merknowcove'oda oven-sadase chgheraonfir for unitmpulle witerse kitnitixed, ans nowguo growoperatio.facsn ce tfficn changes ovhnology on eor evolvpITYhover's beeechnolo, tohenoreryoverhe, asorizons will brirtutnitferrre fixed, and do not broughteratiis reasonable. 
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