From blenders to sous vide equipment, more and more restaurant operators are discovering they can get a lot of innovative bang for their buck from small commercial kitchen appliances.
Canadian Restaurant & Foodservice News recently spoke with leading manufacturers about their latest products and recent developments in small appliances. Read on to learn more about what’s new to help cut costs and improve efficiency in restaurant kitchens across Canada.
Fred Bournay, Senior Project Manager and Alexander Duncan, Senior Analyst, Sales Development, KitchenAid Commercial
Mark McEwan, Regional Sales Manager/Executive Chef for Alberta, Chesher Equipment Ltd.
Dustin Skeoch, Co-Founder, Cedarlane Culinary
What are some of the most exciting new trends, innovations and developments when it comes to small appliances for restaurants and commercial foodservice in Canada?
Fred Bournay and Alexander Duncan: The biggest trend we see is people wanting to eat healthier and lose weight. Nearly 60 per cent of people planning to lose weight look to the stand blender as their appliance of choice. The blender is a very versatile product allowing people to make healthy smoothies, make their own nut butters and even make hot nutritious soups in just a few minutes. You can put whole fruit or vegetables in the blender and in less than five minutes have hot and healthy soup without losing any of the nutritional value of the ingredients you put in.
Mark McEwan: Vitamix has made some great improvements to their commercial line, with more robust controls, a choice of black or red colors (not available in the units with sound enclosures), a stronger, longer lasting triton plastic container (as opposed to polycarbonate) and higher horsepower on their entry level models. They have also introduced an aerator container where you can create infused whip creams, tasty emulsions and culinary foams. This application will give chefs and bartenders an opportunity to create unique garnishes or textures in dishes and cocktails.
Dustin Skeoch: We’ve seen tremendous growth the past few years with restaurants of all sizes adopting sous vide appliances into their commercial kitchens. This technique has many benefits for restaurants — primarily consistency because each steak or chicken breast will come out exactly the same as the last if cooked at the same temperature. The other big one is yield. With rising food costs it’s crucial to maximize your ROI with ingredients, and with sous vide your protein cooks in a sealed pouch, so there’s nowhere for the juices, nutrients and flavours to escape to. Chamber vacuum sealers are another great money saver in the small appliance category because they really help you cut down on waste and spoilage. Finally, we’ve seen an increase in the number of restaurants using thermal blenders; high-powered blenders that can also cook and sauté. Labour costs continue to rise, so being able to speed up prep work by chopping ingredients, and then sautéing them in the same machine with no supervision allows you to either have less people doing the tedious prep work before service, or have them working on other things. If you could have a machine reduce down your sauces instead of paying someone to do so over the stove for 30 minutes, those cost savings adds up pretty quickly when you’re doing it every day.
How are the above developments reflective of current consumer behavior and preferences?
FB and AD: Eating healthier and getting the most nutritional value out of their foods is increasingly important to consumers. The new KitchenAid Commercial Blender has been designed around this need. Placing whole vegetables into the blender, one can make hot nutritious soup in around five minutes. The powerful Talon blade creates the heat as it blends through the ingredients. Whole fruit smoothies and icy drinks are also gaining in popularity. The KitchenAid blender allows the user to make a smooth icy smoothie or frappe in 22 seconds using our pre-programmed icy drink program.
MM: I think every restaurateur appreciates quality equipment that will continue to save them money in the long run.
What are the major factors for restaurant owners/operators to keep in mind when deciding to purchase new small appliances and why are they important to consider?
FB and AD: Saving time means saving money. The performance of our products is meant to save time for the operator. For example, the coulis cycle is a single step versus sieving. Hummus in the blender is a single step versus several steps in a food processor. Ergonomics are also very important, as commercial items are going to be used for many hours each day in potentially stressful situations. Our 400-series commercial immersion blender was designed not only with performance in mind but also the user. The ergonomic design with secondary handle for floor mixing helps spread the load, or the silicone sleeve on the motor bell is useful for stove-top blending. This also adds to the versatility of the immersion blender.
MM: Don’t be fooled by residential units that claim to be professional grade. Residential units are not put through the rigorous testing like the commercial units and cannot stand up to the same volume. You may save a few dollars up front, but I guarantee you will be replacing it sooner than later. If the blender will be mainly used in the kitchen, I would recommend our three Vita Prep units: Vita Prep, Vita Prep 3, and the Vita Prep XL. Each unit is based upon volume and prep levels. If the blender will be used in the front of the house, consider if noise from the appliance could be an issue. If so, I would recommend our three sound enclosure units: T&G, Blending Station Advanced, and the Quiet One. If not, we have three great units in our Drink Machine line: Drink Machine 2 Step, Drink Machine, and Drink Machine Advanced.
DS: Of course you need to consider how much time or money an appliance will save you, and will you have to sacrifice anything as the trade off. You never want to sacrifice the quality of your end products so it’s important to choose appliances that not only make things easier for your cooks in the kitchen, but also improves the final dish. Sous vide is a great example of this because it cuts down on the stress of everything coming together at the same time, improves consistency of the dish, and improves the yield. It’s a win-win-win.
What are some creative ways operators, bartenders or chefs can use small kitchen appliances to create new food and beverage options?
FB and AD: The coulis setting on our new culinary blender is great for plating presentation and sauces. It takes the guesswork out of making the silky smooth texture required for coulis with its pre-programmed cycle. Many chefs now think of their blender not as something just for blending, but more as a multi-purpose kitchen tool that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. Our commercial blenders are great for making soups, hummus, coulis, etc. This allows foodservice operators to be creative in their offerings while also saving them time.
MM: It’s going to be great to see how chefs and bartenders implement the new aerator container. I think it will open up many new ways to garnish and elevate textures in cocktails and culinary dishes. Vitamix has a great library of recipes at https://www.vitamix.com/Be-Inspired to spark some creativity. Every kitchen should have a Vita Prep blender. You can make tight emulsifications, smooth purees, and grind spices and grains with ease.
DS: Again, sticking with sous vide, the possibilities are truly endless. Most people think sous vide is just for proteins, but you can actually achieve some amazing results behind the bar by using sous vide as well. Alcohol infusions that usually take 24-48 hours take only 20-30 minutes if heated at the perfect temperature.
What can restaurant owners do to get the most benefit from their small commercial kitchen appliances?
FB and AD: With respect to our commercial blender, think of it as more than just a blender; it’s a kitchen utility tool. Think of ways you can use the fluid gel texture of the coulis in more dishes. The pre-set cycle makes this typically complex sauce simple.
MM: When cleaning the container, Vitamix only recommends using a bleach sanitizer at 100 ppm. I also recommend the Vitamix rinse-o-matic that can be hooked up to any facet and sink, for rinsing out the container quickly.
DS: As with most commercial appliances, it’s important to clean them every night, or at least every other night. If cared for properly these machines are built to last years and years. We’ve also seen a surprising number of restaurants not read the manuals on certain appliances, especially commercial vacuum sealers, which leads to not changing the oil. These machines are just like cars, if you don’t change the oil every few months your machine won’t perform at it’s best, and eventually might completely break down.