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National Restaurant Association 2017 Kitchen Innovation Awards: The Winners

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The 2017 recipients of the US National Restaurant Association’s Kitchen Innovations (KI) Awards have been announced, reports Tom Lawrence

The prestigious KI awards recognise pioneering products making meaningful contributions to kitchens across the foodservice industry. They will be hosted at the NRA Show 2017, held from 20-23 May at McCormick Place in Chicago.

A judging panel formed of industry experts examined operator concerns over labor, energy, water efficiency, safety, sanitation and space-saving. A wide field was narrowed down to 18 innovations, spotlighted for their significant impact on modern foodservice. Advances in software and materials make this years’ winners the most inventive yet.

Award recipients have been determined by a panel of experts to ensure the winners are among the cream of the foodservice crop. “When you come to the KI Pavilion”, says William Eaton FFCSI, “all the vetting has been done because nine judges have spent six months doing it.”

The 2017 Kitchen Innovations Award® recipients are:

Alto-Shaam by Appliance Innovation
VectorTM Multi-Cook Oven
For the ultimate in full-menu adaptability, the ventless VectorTM Multi-Cook oven offers up to four independently controlled cook chambers. Each chamber gets its own 10-speed fan and multi-stage programming for unparalleled precision.

Antunes
Dual Zone Egg Station
Great for all-day breakfast flexibility, the Dual Zone Egg Station’s unique split cover divides the grill surface into two independent cooking zones for quick on-demand eggs. The two-channel timer allows operators to time each zone separately.

Blendtec
Nitro Blending System
Just lock the individual disposable cup into place, and the Nitro Blending System is ready to go. The system assures portion control, reduces handling, improves sanitation and saves labor.

Ecolab
STEALTH™ LED Fly Light
The STEALTH™ LED uses LED technology to achieve industry-leading effectiveness while slashing energy consumption. The compact, discreet design makes placement easy, and the LED bulbs are shatterproof to help protect food safety.

Garland
XPress Grill
Garland’s Xpress Grill takes energy and temperature management to the next level with an automatically adapting controller. Independently controlled cooking lanes can be set at a different temperature or turned off altogether when not needed.

Hobart
CLeN Conveyor Warewasher with Drain Water Energy Recovery
Hobart has found that drain-water energy recovery solves multiple warewashing challenges at once. Waste heat recovery preheats incoming water, and lower drain water temperatures reduce the need to temper water thereby saving consumption.

MEIKO
M-iClean UM With GiO Module
This undercounter hot-water sanitizing glasswasher boasts a reverse-osmosis filtration system. This removes the impurities causing spotting, eliminating the need for hand polishing. ENERGY STAR® listed, the model uses just 0.61 gallons/rack.

Merco
MercoMax Visual Holding Cabinet
The MercoMax offers a new answer to the age-old challenge of visual QSR style hot holding with a combination of radiant heat beneath the shelves and forced-air convection from fans above each holding zone.

Middleby CTX
WOW 2 Grilling System
The new Wow 2 Grilling System is an infrared conveyor oven broiling at 1000°F. The heating element only requires a 30-amp breaker thanks to the advanced controller. Special pans, plates and high-temp alloys provide the grilled effect.

Panasonic
Met-ALL Induction System
Until now, induction cooking in North America only worked with ferrous pans. No more. Panasonic’s Met-ALL works with any kind of pan, whether iron, steel, copper, or aluminium, automatically sensing the metal and adjusting accordingly.

QuiQsilver
Roll-O-Matic™ Silverware Rolling Machine
The Roll-O-Matic™ silverware/utensil and napkin rolling machine brings automated rolling within reach of casual dining, cruise ships, hotels and more. The machine neatly rolls and bands all kinds of flatware at the rate of 500 sets per hour.

RATIONAL USA
SelfCookingCenter® XS Model 6 2/3
The XS Model 6 2/3 includes the advanced features of RATIONAL’s SelfCookingCenter® combis at roughly 60% of the size.  At only 21 ¾” deep, 25 ¾” wide, and 22 ¼” high, no other combi this compact offers its own steam generator.

Royal Range of California
RHEF-45 High Efficiency Fryer
The RHEF-45 is a 14”, 45-lb. fryer delivering high efficiency in a straightforward package. The RHEF-45 offers three in-shot burners, total 99k Btu, with flue temps of just 370°F, 62.6% efficiency and 70.6 lbs./hr. production capacity.

Southbend
TruVapor
Want the versatility of a combi’s convection-steam-combi modes, but straightforward and up front on the cookline? The TruVapor delivers with a low profile that fits into the line and serves as a base for a rangetop or griddle.

Standex Refrigerated Solutions Group (Nor-Lake and Master-Bilt)
Keg Management System
Standex’s KMS is an integrated walk-in keg box solution that finally addresses injury risks inherent with employees wrestling and lifting 160-lb. kegs. The KMS features a suspended track, electric hoist system and cantilevered shelving.

Turbo Coil®
Dual Zone Mega Top Prep Table
Turbo Coil® uses patented compact evaporator coils, one for the pan section and one for the storage section. Both sections are sealed off making each completely independent; the result is better temperature control and reduced energy usage.

TurboChef
DoubleBatch
The ventless Double Batch oven uses two high-speed cooking cavities to maximize throughput while requiring minimal space and energy consumption. A Wi-Fi enabled, split-screen capacitive touch controller controls the cavities independently.

Vulcan
VC5G Gas Convection Oven
Vulcan’s new VC5G Gas Convection Oven sports removable, dishwasher-safe doors. Just lift them off and put them in a dishwasher or 3-compartment sink. The VC5G also earned an outstanding cooking efficiency score in ENERGY STAR® testing.

An independent panel of industry experts, comprised of internationally recognized food facilities consultants, multi-unit restaurant executives and design experts, selected the KI Award recipients. The 2017 Kitchen Innovations judges are:

Dan Bendall FCSI, principal, FoodStrategy, Inc.
David Chislett, executive principal, Ricca Design Studios
Jeff Cook, chief engineer, Restaurant Solutions Group, McDonald’s Corporation
Richard Eisenbarth FCSI, president / COO, Cini-Little International
Foster F. Frable, Jr. FCSI, Associate AIA, president, Clevenger Frable LaVallee
Randy Homer, program manager, Food & Beverage Operations Asset Management, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Jim Krueger, Jr., CMCE, NRAMF, chief, Air Force Food & Beverage Policy, Procedures, Business Development & Strategic Initiatives Air Force Services Activity [AFSVA] San Antonio, TX
Aaron Lamotte, senior director, Performance Interiors, Sodexo Performance Interiors
Steve Otto, director, Capital Equipment Purchasing, Darden