Fully integrated cook-chill systems could be the solution to one of the biggest challenges facing the food service sector in the future – how to provide hot, high quality food in large volumes quickly, safely and at an affordable cost.
Corporate executive chef Rocky Rockwell, at Alto-Shaam, an industry-leading foodservice equipment manufacturer, says that his culinary team has seen an increase in requests from universities, colleges, military establishments and companies for advice and guidance on how to feed thousands of people in a new world after lockdown.
He believes that one of the answers could be plated cook-chill systems: “Chefs strive for speed, consistency and quality while serving food in high volumes,” he explains. “Preparing this massive quantity of food consistently in a short amount of time can be an expensive, labor-intensive task, even more so now with the restrictions and social distancing measures introduced in the wake of COVID-19.
“So what if a foodservice operation could guarantee the highest food quality and consistency while increasing speed of service and using less labor? We believe this is possible through a plated cook-chill system.”
Rethermed and refreshed
The system enables chefs to cook the food in bulk and then quickly chill the food to ensure the freshness is locked in. Plates can then be prepared for service, the food rethermed and refreshed and then placed in a holding cabinet and served to ensure every plate arrives at the perfect moment.
“The process provides cost savings for labor, food and time,” Chef Rocky continues. “Because food is cooked and plated up in advance, extra time and labor are not required to prepare all of the plates the day of.”
“By using fully integrated, easy to roll-in carts, chefs can also ensure no time is wasted transferring pans back and forth between equipment. The carts easily move between the oven, the chiller and holding cabinet to save time and labor—and improving safety for employees. Food costs are also managed, as the seamless system allows for accurate portioning and precise heated holding that doesn’t degrade food quality.”
Chef Rocky has more than 20 years of foodservice experience working in hotel, country club and college and university establishments. Specifically, he was the executive chef and director of dining at Texas A&M, where he served more than 2,600 Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets in 10 minutes using Alto-Shaam’s plated cook-chill system.
“It’s a system solution that has proven to work and is likely to be even more vital as operators look to solve labor, safety and process challenges that have been compounded from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he adds.
With self-serve programs and large gatherings restricted for an indefinite period, hot food bars and salad bars are disappearing in many dining and cafeteria spaces.
Chef Rocky recognizes, also, that mass catering will require a huge mindset change in the kitchen: “Family-style or self-service will no longer be possible, and kitchen staff will have to consider new and imaginative ways to meet demand in a way that diners still feel comfortable and safe.”
For more information on Alto-Shaam’s fully integrated cook-chill systems, please visit alto-shaam.com.