Hotel F&B Magazine
All Back Issues » March/April 2006 Issue

Banquet Cooking Roundup
by Keith Branche and Beth Rogers

Electrolux introduced its air-o-system to the North American market in 2004. The air-o-system integrates combi ovens, blast chillers, and roll-in refrigerators to help streamline food production processes.

With the Italian-made system, says Scott Applebee, director of marketing with Electrolux’s Fort Lauderdalebased commercial North American division, food can be easily transported via mobile carts from each component. Blast chillers rapidly cool down foods without compromising cell structure. Combi ovens automatically control the humidity level inside the cooking chamber. “Some other companies have humidity control,” says Applebee, “but we’re the only one that ... considers the steam or the humidity that’s emitted from the food product.”

The air-o-system allows operators to cook during off-peak times and deliver food more quickly to the customer without sacrificing food quality or safety, thereby greatly reducing waste. “It allows an operator to do a complete cook, chill, and retherm process so they can time their production accordingly.”

Transport carts, rack cassettes, and plating racks have the same capacity and the same control panel logic, which are essential to making the system operate smoothly. “This means an operator only needs to learn the logic of one user interface making training easier, Applebee says. CONTACT: 800-331-7958,

Robert Simmelink, corporate executive chef of Alto-Shaam of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, says the company has been selling combi ovens for many years and sales have really taken off (the Sheraton Toronto recently decided it would go with the Alto-Shaam system). Simmelink notes that plate retherming systems for banqueting are “the next big thing everyone islooking at.”

Although Alto-Shaam has had combi ovens for quite some time, the company recently began combining them with other components to create a seamless system. Says Simmelink, “We have a QC-100 quick chiller that matches our combi so you can cook 20 sheetpans of food at one time, roll them straight out of the combi and right into our chiller. Then, when you make up all the plates and put them on your plate cart, we can rethermalize them in the combi.”

One unique feature of the Alto-Shaam system is its roll-in insulated heating cabinet “that will give you holding times up to a couple of hours if you really need it because you just never know what’s going to happen with a party.”

Alto-Shaam is continually making refinements to the system. It recently eliminated the steam generator from 90 percent of its combis because, says Simmelink, “steam generators are the first thing that fail in a combi oven, so by eliminating the steam generators we’ve eliminated most of the service issues and down time. Down time is what kills a kitchen. If you’ve got a party of 1,200 to put out on Saturday night and your combi oven goes out, you’re in trouble. So making it a more reliable piece of equipment lets the chef be more comfortable with the technology.” CONTACT: 800-558-8744,

RATIONAL Cooking Systems, of Schaumburg, Illinois, a pioneer in the Combi-Steamer industry since 1976, continues to please culinary frontiersmen with the SelfCooking Center ®.

Vinod Jotwani of RATIONAL, detailed what the company calls its “intelligent cooking” solution. The SelfCooking Control® detects the cooking requirements such as food size, load, cooking time, and temperature. Through its ability to monitor the cooking process over 3,600 times an hour, the SelfCooking Center produces a highly reliable and profitable result.

Because the SelfCooking Center speeds the cooking process up to 15 percent faster than conventional combi-steamers and approximately 30 percent faster than conventional ovens, the savings add up. Additionally, the system offers unique finishing capabilities. The retherm of preplated food is much easier when the oven controls the heat and humidity for each level of product. Choose the desired climate and the oven takes over, alerting the staff when a dish is ready for service.

RATIONAL has also reduced the need for detailed training. The ovens have simple pictures of food categories and will walk the user through the process for cooking any type of food. CONTACT: 888-320-7274,

Based in San Francisco, The Montague Company was established in 1857 and today is a family-owned, family-operated business. Montague offers its Legend series of heavy-duty ranges and Vectaire high-volume convection ovens. Montague representative Daniel Garvin explains that a key difference in their product line is the “muffled exhaust” system. The cook chamber is sealed and, unlike other ovens, the exhaust fumes never enter the cooking chamber.

The importance of this feature was discoverd by one of California’s largest school districts after finding that carbon monoxide-related sickness of cafeteria employees was traced to all of its ovens except the Montague ovens, according to Garvin. The school district now mandates all new ovens must be “muffled."

Additionally, Garvin and Montague are excited about the new Micro-Processors now in place on their SL 70 and 115 models. These processors aid in better control and self diagnostics by the oven. CONTACT: 800-215-2198,

Cleveland/Enodis introduced a new line of combination steamer ovens that are made in Cleveland, Ohio, in partnership with Convotherm, its German sister company. Cleveland Range has redesigned the oven for the North American market, with new controls and beefier construction because, says Marketing Director John Lanning, “they seem to be harder on equipment here than they are in Europe.”

Called “Convotherm by Cleveland,” the oven comes in gas or electric. “The important feature is the versatility. Hotels can cook many different products—they can grill, bake, and fry in one oven,” says Lanning. “The oven automatically controls the amount of humidity in the oven so you get a much better product.”

One particularly unique feature of the oven, says Lanning is its “crisp and tasty” cooking mode, which lets the user “take things you normally do in a deep fryer and—in hot air mode— produce a product that is pretty close to what would come out of a deep fryer—without the oil. Institutional markets love it because they can do chicken nuggets and things like that.” Items like grilled cheese sandwiches can be produced in great quantities without drying out.” CONTACT: 800-338-2204,

Hotel Indigo, a fledgling brand of InterContinental Hotels Group, recently committed to using an oven made by Atlanta-based TurboChef, which designs, develops, and manufactures high-speed cooking solutions. TurboChef ovens use patented technologies that combine high-speed forced air convection heating with microwave energy to cook food quickly without compromising quality. In fact, the company claims their ovens often produce results superior to conventional cooking methods.

Hotel Indigo is using the C3 model, which, says Sue Morgan, InterContinental’s VP of franchise food & beverage, is 10 times faster than a conventional convection oven. Other advantages are that it’s ventless, which brings the cost of installation way down; and it consumes less power, hence resulting in lower utility bills.

The oven also has a small footprint, which is appreciated in smaller kitchens. To complement the C3, TurboChef has also developed the Tornado, an oven 12 times faster than a traditional conventional oven and used exclusively by Subway restaurants. Their High h Batch oven, fitting a full sheet pan and two times faster than conventional equipment, fills the needs of bakers everywhere. CONTACT: 866-90TURBO,

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