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National Restaurant Association Names 2017 Kitchen Innovations Award Recipients

The National Restaurant Association has recognized 18 pieces of foodservice equipment with its 2017 Kitchen Innovations (KI) Award.



The 18 selected products address operator concerns from labor, energy and water efficiency to food safety, sanitation, cross-functionality and space-saving, according the NRA. Here’s a list of the 2017 KI Award recipients with a brief description provided by the NRA.

Alto-Shaam’s Vector Multi-Cook Oven: The ventless Vector 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: The Dual Zone Egg Station’s split cover divides the grill surface into two independent cooking zones for on-demand eggs. Cook on one zone or two, larger or smaller batches, depending on demand. The two-channel timer allows operators to time each zone separately.

Blendtec’s Nitro Blending System: This unit allows operators to blend a drink in the same cup in which they serve it. The system aids with portion control and can reduce handling, improve sanitation and rinse and wash water.

Ecolab’s Stealth LED Fly Light: Stealth uses LED technology, thus eliminating the need to use high-voltage ballast and fluorescent bulbs. The compact, discreet design makes placement easier for both front and back of the house, and the LED bulbs are shatterproof to help protect food safety.

Garland’s XPress Grill: Garland’s Xpress Grill features a controller that adapts to either 208V or 240V. PID software continuously modulates power to maintain set point, unlike conventional on/off cycling. Grooves under the grill plate separate cooking lanes, which prevent heat migration and allow for independent control of each. Operators can set each lane at a different temperature or even turn it off when not in use.

Hobart’s CLeN Conveyor Warewasher with Drain Water Energy Recovery: With waste heat recovery critical in warewashing, Hobart has found that drain-water energy recovery solves multiple challenges at once. Not only is waste heat recovered to preheat incoming water, but with drain water temperatures reduced, the need for tempering water also is greatly reduced, saving significant water consumption.

MEIKO’s M-iClean UM With GiO Module: This undercounter hot-water sanitizing glasswasher features an integrated reverse-osmosis filtration system which removes the water impurities that cause spotting. This Energy Star-rated unit uses just 0.61 gallons of water per rack. An illuminated door handle glows blue for ready, green for washing and red for messages.

Merco’s MercoMax Visual Holding Cabinet: The MercoMax features a combination of radiant heat beneath the shelves and forced-air convection from fans above each holding zone. A 7 inch touchscreen display, visible from across the kitchen, shows what’s being held and status.

Middleby-CTX’s WOW 2 Grilling System: The Wow 2 Grilling System is a Middleby-CTX infrared conveyor oven broiling at 1000 degrees F. The unit features an advanced controller that saves enough energy to the heating elements that it only requires a 30-amp breaker rather than the typical 50-60-amp unit. Special pans, plates and high-temp alloys provide the grilled effect.

Panasonic’s Met-ALL Induction System: This induction cooking system works with any type of pan, including iron, steel, copper, or aluminum. The system automatically senses the metal and adjusting accordingly.

QuiQsilver’s Roll-O-Matic Silverware Rolling Machine: The Roll-O-Matic neatly rolls and bands all kinds of flatware, even chopsticks, UV sanitized, at the rate of 500 sets per hour.

Rational USA’s SelfCookingCenter XS Model 6 2/3: This unit includes all of the features of Rational’s SelfCookingCenter line of combi ovens into a package that’s roughly 60 percent smaller. The unit measures 21 ¾ inches deep, 25 ¾ inches wide, and 22 ¼ inches high and has its own steam generator.

Royal Range of California’s RHEF-45 High Efficiency Fryer: The RHEF-45, a 14 inch, 45-lb. model includes 3 in-shot burners, total 99k Btu, with flue temps of 370 degrees F. This translates into an efficiency rate of 62.6 percent with a production capacity of 70.6 pounds per hour.

Southbend’s TruVapor: TruVapor provides a combi oven’s convection-steam-combi modes in a low profile unit that fits into the cookline. It can serves as a base for a rangetop or griddle. The unit also includes a steam generator.

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

Turbo Coil’s Dual Zone Mega Top Prep Table: Turbo Coil uses two compact evaporator coils, one for the pan section and one for the storage section, and seals off both sections, making each completely independent. A single master controller sets both temperatures and runs both coils. The result is better temperature control and reduced energy usage.

TurboChef’s DoubleBatch: The ventless Double Batch oven uses two independently controlled high-speed cooking cavities to maximize throughput while requiring minimal space and energy consumption. The cavities are controlled by a split-screen, Wi-Fi connected capacitive touch controller, which allows the user to control either cavity simultaneously. Air impingement technology and an oscillating rack make for rapid, even cooking. 

Vulcan’s VC5G Gas Convection Oven: The VC5G Gas Convection Oven features fully removable, dishwasher-safe doors. Simply lift off the 20 pound doors and put them in the dishwasher or a 3-compartment sink

The 18 products listed above will be on display in the KI Pavilion, part of the National Restaurant Association’s annual trade show taking place May 20-23 in Chicago’s McCormick Place.

The following panel of industry experts selected the KI 2017 Award recipients: 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 and beverage operations asset management, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts; Jim Krueger, Jr., CMCE, NRAMF, chief, Air Force food and beverage policy, procedures, business development and strategic initiatives, Air Force Services Activity; Aaron Lamotte, senior director, performance interiors, Sodexo Performance Interiors and Steve Otto, director, capital equipment purchasing, Darden.