Our soles are worn out from walking endless aisles, our eyes glazed from following the pitches of proselytizing, peripatetic vendors, and our tongues tired from tasting a ton of bite-sized samples over three days. The 2011 NRA show in Chicago is physically exhausting, but professionally invigorating. If you missed this year’s show or got lost in the maze, don’t worry. We have highlighted the top hot new tools that will transform restaurant kitchens in 2011.
You can’t escape it. As a chef in today’s hyper-aware marketplace, you are what you source. Thankfully, FishChoice.com has created a website to help chefs find and source sustainable seafood. No more wading through a maze of ocean watch sites and wondering whether your vendor is slipping you farmed fish instead of fresh. FishChoice.com maps out origin, seasonality, farmed or wild specifications, fresh or frozen availability, minimum order requirements, and (most helpful) an aggregated grading list that includes the Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch rankings.
Hielscher USA High-Class Ultrasonic Mixers
Do you dream in ultrasound? Hielscher’s high-class ultrasonic mixer (which looks like a pimped out immersion blender) can blend biodiesel fuel and disintegrate sludge as easily as it can create a perfectly emulsified sauce, extract intense flavor from base ingredients, and manipulate food textures. Despite its high-tech applications, the ultrasonic mixer is an approachable new resource with unique applications in the kitchen.
Watch 2011 ICC Presenter Sanghoon Degeimbre of Belgium’s L’Air du Temps make Ultrasonic Shrimp Stock with his Hielscher ultrasonic processor.
PreGel 5-Star Pastry Select
PreGel has a head start on this year’s International Chefs Congress theme, “The Sixth Sense: Intuition, Emotion, and Experiential Evolution in Dining.” Their new line of dessert flavors taps into cultural nostalgia for childhood treats, with offerings like cherry toppings, a salted peanut base, and a popsicle coating. PreGel also has created the 5-Star Pastry Select package with compounds, stabilizers, pastes, fillings, and bases developed with and for elite pastry chefs. The 5-Star series also is sold in smaller quantities so small-scale businesses won’t have to worry about their product wasting away on the shelf.
Equipex Precision Salamander
Salamanders are effective and fast when you need to add a touch of golden-brown-and-delicious or nudge a piece of meat to the proper doneness. But are they precise? Equipex claims a new identity and role for its Precision Salamander. They’ve added responsive quartz heating elements, a moveable top, and adjustable power to change the way chefs see and use the kitchen stalwart.
Unified Randell Sous Vide Work Station
Neatness and efficiency-obsessed chefs, who get weak-kneed over the perfect work station, have long depended on Unified. And now Unified has collaborated with PolyScience to develop the Randell Sous Vide Work Station. The station includes a refrigerated work surface, two built in sous vide bath tanks, refrigerated storage, and a built-in vacuum pump. All it needs is a foot massager and entertainment center.
Berkel Premier X-13 Series Slicer
Slicers have always teased kitchen workers with a trade-off: it’s a quick job but somebody’s got to clean it. The re-fabbed X-13 Berkel Slicer has a lighter base with fewer seams, larger nooks, and a spring-loaded kickstand for faster, easier cleaning. The slicer also features a table-mounted sharpener and the option of three speeds and stroke lengths.
Compart Duroc Premium Pork
The government finally has accepted that pork no longer needs to be cooked to 160°F. Now Compart Duroc is working to convince the market that quality pork is not white meat. Compart made a convincing argument at the NRA show with samples of marbled, dark pink meat, which they call the “Black Angus of Pork.”
Meiko M-iQ Flight Dishwasher
When the dishwasher goes down, the whole kitchen sinks. But a dependable dishwasher—that boasts an exhaust air heat recovery system, nearly eliminates vapor condensation, and automatically filters food waste from the cycle—can keep a kitchen afloat. In addition to the frills, Meiko’s M-iQ Flight Machine dishwasher reported a 30 to 45 percent savings in ware-washing cost and minimized water, energy, and chemical consumption. So your kitchen crew loves you, and your wallet, and the environment too? Leave it to NRA to purvey dishwasher karma.
Blodgett BCP/BCM Combi Ovens
An exercise in chef masochism: watching a three-pound roast sweat and shrink on its way to the proper internal temperature. Even better: the new line cook leaves that roast in the conventional oven for too long, and the petal-pink interior is now a grayish leathery puck. That’s tough. But it’s a relief to know that Blodgett’s Combi-oven steamers have been monitoring internal temperatures and maintaining a humid cooking environment for years. Their newest ovens include multiple probes, a roast and hold function, a USB port that lets you upload up to 200 recipes, and a nine-speed fan for ultra-even cooking. You can also use your own chemicals in the Blodgett Combi Ovens instead of overpaying for proprietary cleaners.
Winston Kitchen Data Systems
Whether you slept through your food safety course or loose sleep worrying about your next health inspection, you know what happens if a customer accuses you of food poisoning. To remove the fear factor from food safety, Winston created a monitoring system that measures and tracks internal temperature through product receiving, preparation, cooking, holding, and serving. The system alerts you by text, email, or phone if your temps fall out of a safe range and documents your compliance. When the health department comes calling, you’ll have proof that your product was properly handled.
Baxter Hybrid Convection Oven
If your pastry department is the size of a breadbox, you need a multipurpose workhorse that can create a crusty loaf of bread and gently handle your panna cotta. In other words, you need the power of a rotating rack oven and the versatility of a traditional convection oven—in a very small package. So what you’re really saying is that you need the Baxter Hybrid Convection Oven: it has a patented steam system, measures a mere 34" by 45" by 25", and has a quaint and handy hearth view window.