In a moment that should gratify every reader of this magazine, FSD Tim Dietzler of Villanova University was presented with IFMA's Gold Plate Operator of the Year Award on the evening of May 24. It was a rare instance in which an onsite operator won the top award. When his name was announced at the Gold Plate Banquet, the surprise from the crowd was palpable but was followed immediately by resounding and enthusiastic applause.
I have been a member of IFMA's annual Silver Plate jury since 1987, and this is only the second time in those years that the Gold Plate was won by an onsite operator. (Bob Honson, of Portland Public Schools, took it home back in 1994). To me, this is ironic because the noncommercial segments consistently bring strong candidate lists to the jury each year. But commercial restaurant owners and corporations are better known and tend to overshadow those in the less prominent segments.
You can read more about Dietzler's big moment in this month's Front of the House department and can also find a video link to his acceptance remarks there. While his recognition in no way detracts from that of the other 2010 noncommercial Silver Plate winners, it does help draw attention to the important role onsite segments continue to play in foodservice. For now, please join us here at Food Management in congratulating Tim for his achievement, and wishing him a fine year ahead as an ambassador for all of us on the noncommercial side.
As always, the National Restaurant Show itself was a hustle and bustle of new products and old ones as well a crossroads for re-connecting with old. On the new product front, a number of items attracted my interest as having particular application possibilities for our readers and I thought I would point out a few of them here for those of you who weren't able to attend the show.
At the top of that list I'd put the innovative Spin Fresh Centrifugal Fryer from the Perfect Fry Co. It will be available in several sizes, but a ventless countertop model that was one of the winners of the NRA's Kitchen Innovations awards was being demonstrated to constant crowds every day of the show. The programmable unit uses a round fryer basket which automatically drains food after frying and then goes into a spin cycle, much like a salad spinner.
The result? An over 40 percent reduction in the oil content of a product like french fries and a 20-38 percent reduction in calories from fat. Among many other benefits, this is said to improve holding times and cause less salt to stick to the fries. Under an exclusive agreement, Spin Fry has reached an agreement with the Middleby Corporation to manufacture floor-size models under its Pitco line, and I am betting this technology attracts widespread interest in operations that want to offer fried foods with a more healthful nutritional profile.
Speaking of fries, there were also crowds out sampling the more than a dozen new sweet potato offerings in the Sweet Things line from Lamb Weston. I particularly liked the Mini Tater Puffs which are made from whole product and can be either baked or fried. When variety is as important as it is in onsite venues, it's another good bet this line will find a lot of takers and help inspire many new menu bundles.
Another equipment item I found intriguing in the Kitchen Innovation Award area was the Ionator EXP by Activeion Cleaning Solutions LLC. A rechargeable handheld unit not much bigger than a traditional bottle of cleaning spray, it uses an electronic ionizer to turn tap water into a chemical free dirt-removing and sanitizing agent that is said to kill E. coli, Listeria, MRSA, salmonella, staph and other contaminants.
Another piece of equipment that seemed like it would prove to be an economical addition to many small satellite kitchens, like those in schools, was a hybrid convection oven introduced by Baxter. While it lacks the full features of a combi oven, it does offer steam assist convection cooking for a much more modest price tag.
Finally, a new line from Hormel was introduced that promises to vastly simplify the job of adding expertly cooked pork tenderloin to catering and other menus. Always Tender Oven Roasted Pork will ship as refrigerated, already-roasted center cut pork loins and pork tenderloins with a 30+ day refrigerated shelf life.