Imagine, kitchens of the future using mainly induction versus gas appliances. It‚Äôs an extreme thought, but is it possible? Can a chef still saut?© the same with the same efficiency and cook time ‚Äî or better ‚Äî than a gas range? Can the cook turn up and down the heat as efficiently ‚Äî or better ‚Äî than a gas range?

And, speaking of the range, instead of a two-burner stock pot range, does it make sense for the cookline to use a 40-gallon steam kettle instead? “It might be a little more expensive upfront, but I can now get double the production out of it because heat transfer is a lot more effective,” Zabrowski said. “Now I can do some batch cooking in the steam kettle hours earlier or the day before instead of trying to cook everything to order.” There is a phenomenon that chili always seems to taste better the next day, Zabrowski noted, garnering a laugh from the crowd. But when it comes to stocks, soups, glaces and some sauces, there’s no reason these things can’t be made ahead, potentially enhancing efficiency.

Zabrowski’s example also took a closer look at the fryer. “Do I really need two 50-pound fryers with four baskets?” Zabrowski questioned. “Can I put in a three-basket Energy Star unit?” Doing so would drop oil use by 30 percent, he noted. “Sure, I’ve cut productivity a little, but how often am I really cooking four baskets at a time?”

So there you have it: the cookline of the future. At $5,000 total operating costs and 13-feet versus $21,000 at 21 feet.

Sparingly, a real-time survey conducted during Zabrowski’s presentation showed that reliability, throughput and efficiency — in that order — were the most important features sought after equipment purchasing, according to about 200 audience members. If induction cooktops, combi ovens and other “high-efficiency” pieces meet that criteria, what’s to say a range or convection oven remains “better?”

Starting with one piece of equipment or one “level” of innovation at a time might be the first step toward the kitchen of the future, Zabrowksi pointed out. In general, though, this idea of working backward – addressing and working toward the goal, rather than simply designing, specifying and purchasing based on traditional notions of what’s needed - might represent “designing of the future.”

As the foodservice industry continues to drive forward, delve deeper, explore further, it is this type of out-of-the-box thinking that will help the community reach its goals.