Look at an onsite kitchen and what do you see?
A 30-year old, central production facility that's showing its age? A major investment that has to compete with other departments and organizational goals for capital?
Day-to-day managers may observe that the kitchen is an increasingly decentralized operation, with prep and cooking areas gradually moving out to servery space or satellite stations. And a chef may see the kitchen as the “heart of the house,” a creative studio where meals are conceived and where staff transforms the most humble of ingredients into an immense range of offerings.
Increasingly, operators, consultants and administrators are also seeing onsite kitchens as voracious beasts, with pounding, energy-driven hearts, lungs gasping makeup and refrigerated air and with space that consumes more than five times the energy per square foot as any other part of a building.
Kitchens are also thirsty, often consuming thousands of gallons of water a day, much of it heated and also much of it wasted.
Finally, kitchens are the repository for huge volumes of pre- and post-consumer waste, everything from carrot peelings to plate scraps, excess food production, steel cans, packaging corrugate and landfill-clogging disposables.
At a time when it is becoming an individual, corporate and institutional imperative to address such sustainability issues, it is also becoming clear that traditional kitchen designs and equipment need to evolve, and do so quickly. The financial savings from lowered utility bills and reduced hauling and tipping fees can justify many needed investments. And the social and environmental cost savings provide an additional impetus for organizations that want to be part of the sustainability solution, not a contributor to the sustainability problem.
For this article, we sought advice from a sampling of knowledgeable consultants, manufacturers, operators and others on how to achieve more sustainable kitchen operations. We've distilled their best ideas and thoughts on this subject in the following pages…
Consultants, manufacturers, operators and others:
Kathleen Seelye, President
Ricca-Newmark Design 
Richard Young, Food Service Technology Center
Fisher Nickel, Inc. 
Paul Hysen, Principal
The Hysen Group 
Scott Berlin, Director of Foodservice
University of CA-Santa Cruz 
Rafi Taherian, Executive Director
Yale Dining Services 
Rod Collins, Principal
Rod Collins Associates 
Michael Berning, Director of Sustainable Design
Heapy Engineering 
Marc Fuchs, Executive Vice President
M. Tucker Co. 
Matthew Biette, Director of Dining
Middlebury College 
Rick Cartwright, Vice President and GM
Retail Systems/ITW Food Equipment Group 
Kim Erickson, Commercial Program Manager
Consortium for Energy 
Andrew Shakman, President/CEO
LeanPath Inc. 
The Food Service Technology Center is a primary reference for anyone interested in evaluating the energy performance of commercial foodservice equipment. Check out these site links:
- www.fishnick.com/equipment/techassessment 
- www.fishnick.com/publications/appliancereports/ 
- www.fishnick.com/saveenergy/sitesurvey/ 
- www.fishnick.com/saveenergy/tools/calculators/ 
- www.fishnick.com/saveenergy/links/ 
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) offers equipment comparison data to help organizations qualify for a variety of NY state energy-saving incentives. www.NYSERDA.org 
The Energy Star Restaurant Guidebook is available for download at: www.energystar.gov/ia/business/small_business/restaurants_guide.pdf 
Onset makes a variety of dataloggers, some of which are useful in measuring water and energy use. Here are some of its white papers that deal with energy management: www.onsetcomp.com/resources/white_papers 
The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) provides an extensive selection of energy conservation information, including info on its Commercial Kitchens Initiative: www.cee1.org/com/com-kit/com-kit-main.php3