Category Archives: Custom Cooking Equipment

Fine Foods Australia 2017

Fine Foods Australia 2017, the food service and hospitality trade show was back at the new look ICC Sydney, and it was bigger, than ever before , more brands, suppliers, product, information so much so that i honestly can say I didn’t get to everything and everyone, and that’s with 2 full days on site.

The new International Convention Center Sydney

In a very rare statement , i will go out and say I saw a LOT of new product and ideas this year, in fact heaps, too much to actually cover here! There were new offerings from existing suppliers and new suppliers with new product and a lot of QUALITY product that had been well thought out.

A trend through out many of the information sessions was embracing new technology to help your business and how technology will impact the industry, from how social media marketing such as Tribe can add massive marketing power to an operation for very little to how robotics will impact. A well known ‘futures’ speaker addressed the senior leaders of the equipment industry at a presentation about such, and No2 on his list was IOT and Sensors! I was asked to present further information on the talking food stage and with an audience that included chefs, catering managers, hospitality teachers and local health inspectors the message was clear, technology is the only way you can ensure accurate data and recording keeping economical. using technology to help food safety

Equipment trends, cooking with charcoal and wood was definitely up there. Personally i find the trend to be an old one as its taken nearly 10 years to catch on! I was promoting the benefits of this type of cooking using Grill Dome Kamado’s  , back in 2007! I’m glad chefs have finally woken up that wood, smoke, and sealed cooking = flavour!, even if the suppliers  are 10 years behind!

Fantastic Charcoal Oven/Grill combinations from Spanish manufacturer Josper (this type of cooking is very common in Spain) and these guys have been doing it since 1969.

Josper oven and grill Sydney 2017

Not only is the flavour, aroma and visual presentation better with wood/charcoal cooking its much better for the environment. The equipment requires no water/plumbing/drainage no power, no gas its fueled by naturally sustainable timber, the left over ash can be used in compost also, fantastic for the garden, and in most cases the fats that are expelled during cooking from meats are burnt off on the coals as you cook so there are no fats going down the drain. Added to this the thermal build properties of equipment designed for this purpose are always extremely thick/insulated/ often with stone hearth and heavy cast, which means amazing heat retention, in the right unit you can cook all day and night on just a couple of loads of charcoal and timber, Wood/Charcoal Cooking is much more environmentally friendly  than most of the cooking equipment we use commercially. And importantly the equipment is built to last for many many years, unlike the current industry trend where they design and build with replacement market sales in mind. 

There is a draw back to all of the above in Australia though, and that is our exhaust canopy rules and regulations, keeping it really short, currently you require a separate canopy and duct system, and that can add a lot of money onto set up costs.

A fantastic shiny red cooking suite by Mareno looked amazing, not as practical as what it actually looks but a real eye catcher.

Mareno fine foods Australia

There was a massive range of food service display equipment some really high quality also, one item that is common in the USA and not here in Australia yet is the grab and go open deck, sealed top display, I can see this really taking off, especially this unit that was really well spec’d and built.

Grab and Go Cafe display

Warewashing, always the part where everybody rushes past, i’ll admit its hard subject to get passionate about! There was heaps there and a lot of innovation. Under counter machines made in black stainless which helps with that ugly s/steel glass washer in view of the public and matched the black bar fridges. Bin Washers, a vertical 2 door up right multi level dishwasher, looks just like a 2 door drinks fridge, (i’m not placing any bets on the success of that concept, 1Hr wash time and super expensive)

Almost water less pot washing by GRANULDISK using tiny pellets that blast the soiled containers, pretty radical , but in Europe and other countries where they are really serious about the environment (unlike Australian Government )  saving water and chemicals is a big  thing, so big that the Marriot hotel group are ordering these in volume and have been awarded  a green hotelier award, in fact many hotel chains in Europe are using these  , the maths on water/chemical and power savings is astounding.

GRANULDISK commercial Kitchen Design Australia
Commercial Kitchen design inspects GRANULDISK

Auto sensing exhaust canopy systems, using a sensor it can tell when it needs to adjust fan speeds, so when nothing is cooking its very low, saving power and noise, then when things crank up it senses the odors and emissions and adjusts the fan speed to suit, no more noisy kitchens during prep time!

auto sensing exhaust systems

What else caught my attention?

Fantastic dry aged beef cabinets, beautiful deli slicers, multi purpose compact brat pan/pasta cooker/bain marie a machine i could use in just about every kitchen design! Display fridges with no center mullion and frame less glass doors allowing massive visual display, Retro look fridges, countless wood fired grills, refrigerated display drawers, excellent build quality and spec display cabinets, heaps of induction cookers, Solid Teknicks  Australian made steel pans (awesome design build and excellent for induction) , pressurized multi cooker stirrer kettles, Shepherd filter savers,  (award wining)

There was also a huge range of new imported brands of cooking and refrigeration equipment , most of which did not need close inspection as the quality (or lack there of) could be seen from a long way away! I’m always looking for new brands/suppliers and equipment , but the trend by many to try and import in a cheaply and poorly built knock off a regular brand is frustrating. Typically these suppliers target first time mums and dads operators, newbies to the business if you like that simply don’t know better and can’t see any problem with a fridge or oven that looks the same (if you don’t look too hard) being 25-30% of the cost of a reputable established brand/supplier. What results is the inexperienced operator purchasing purely on price , suffering huge losses in breakdown costs, energy costs and then having to replace all that rubbish they purchased initially with quality, its foolish false economic savings.

It’s also really bad for the environment producing poor quality, high energy equipment that  really just ends up in the tip in a short time, that’s land fill, and more resources wasted building crap again! There should be a law against anything that is manufactured clearly below certain minimum standards, we do it with cars, but not other items.

Catering equipment is an unregulated market in Australia, there is no real standards protecting  consumers with regards to quality its pretty much open slather , anyone can import what ever and see if they can make a quick buck, buyer beware.

‘If it looks to good to be true, it probably is!’

Having said all the above it is still very frustrating with some lines just how expensive some of our equipment is, with google its pretty easy to see how much the same thing costs overseas! The way the industry is set up (and controlled by a few massive multinationals)  and low sales volumes and high freight here in Australia the end user is faced with little choice but to pay. So I totally understand why people try and come up with more economically priced solutions.

As per usual at these shows a showcase lot processed mass volume foods , that I rushed past.  This years food trend,  lots of wheels of cheese, heaps of wheels of cheese , it was Pecorino /Chedder/Parmasan overload this year! Couple of stand outs food drink products below.

Espresso martini machines, best ready to go product was ONYX coffee spirits , and award wining flavour Pearls from Peninsular larder.

espresso martini
Maximum visual merchandising True Refrigeration 

There were also some great information sessions during the event, I’m always surprised more people don’t attend these, self education is not a strong part of the hospitality industry! In particular i sat in on a great ‘food waste’ session,  in Australia we are very wasteful, we don’t recycle well and much of that has to do with the fact that waste is cheap . One statistic that was researched and documented found that 60% of food waste within the industry comes from the customers plate! And the number One  reason why the food was  left behind/wasted, ‘there was too much food!’

Fine Foods Australia 2017




Bespoke cooking and equipment and the Art of Grilling

I recently toured what is a rarity in the Australian Catering equipment industry, that is an ‘Australian owned Manufacturer’! Cookon which has been around the industry for decades has been busy in recent years specializing in Custom and Bespoke Grills and cooking equipment.

Owned by the long established Langford metals group in Brisbane it now has access to the latest technology in Laser and Fibre optic machinery all using précising cutting measurements based on 3D Cad programming . This is normal manufacturing process for production run equipment and metal jobs, but in this case that same precision technology is applied to one off custom designs.

Custom Char and Roaster
Custom Char and Roaster

The team and importantly the design and trades team have been involved with Cookon in many cases for decades, which means there is an amazing amount of IP on board, over the years they have designed and manufactured hundreds of unique cooking appliances, chances are if you can think of it they have probably done it!

The current industry trend that has been around for a few years and is likely to only increase is what we call as ‘show cooking’. Front of house cooking either to order or in advance with slow roasting /grilling techniques showcasing the international food styles of South American and Asian meat cooking where cooking over coals, wood and flame is the key ingredient. Cookon’s powder coating facility allows some added colour to be incorporated also.

Argentinian BBQ


Any ‘honest’ chef or foodie will agree that meat cooked over charcoal or wood always tastes better, the juices and fat as they drip over the coals create mini flare ups increasing the ‘BBQ’ and ‘Smoke’ flavours. I always cook by BBQ and Roasts over charcoal and wood in a Kamado, they have the added benefit of ceramic insulation, speeding up the cooking times increasing moisture retention.


Using different types of wood in the cooking process also can change the flavour of the product as well as cooking times. Add to the improved flavour the amazing spectacle and theatre of the smoke and flame and you really do then create a special point of difference to your menu and operation.

Wood Fired Roast

When wood fire is prohibitive.

It’s not always possible to have a woodfired or charcoal appliance in your kitchen, the set up and compliance costs involved a great due to the duct and exhaust canopy requirements. However all is not lost! You can still create a similar effect by designing a spectacular grill that is gas powered, add some ‘decorative’ flame to the unit and you have a spectacular talking piece without the wood hassles, just not the same flavour.

Custom Show Grill

Turbo charging your grilling.

With all the main branded grill manufacturers that make a ‘matching’ Chargrill/BBQ in their range, I find that they are all just ‘OK’ they do a job and often the menu if wide and varied so all of the appliances in the cooking line are used equally, and here in Australia most of our kitchens are not pumping out massive volume of char/BBQ meats so they handle the workload ‘OK”.

There are though exceptions, specialist steak/BBQ establishments, higher volume pubs that do series volume of grilled meats, these are the types of places that need to seriously look at their grill/BBQ equipment in isolation and look at the design and specification in greater detail. You need to start looking at not just how many Kw of power is being generated but ‘how’ what type of burners, what radiant assistance or baffles are in place, what heat retention is there, in common rank and file BBQ Grills the answer is NONE! You can pump as much gas flame power you like at a grill, but someone has to pay for that gas consumption, and that’s the operator. What if you insulated the box with a ceramic or brick lining to build a residual layer of heat that eventually assist with the cooking process for free!

Cookon Custom LT10 Grill_Cliffords at Watermark_Surfers Paradise (21)

The type of grid/bar is also important, Cast iron retains heat the heat best. Fat Drip tray design is also important no just that it does its job and drain such away properly but is built and designed in such a way that it can cope with the extreme heat being generated. What happens between the gas burner the grill is equally important, it’s not just a case of putting a much gas flame as possible up to the grill surface, that will only invite massive flare ups and hot spot burns that in turn create a nasty carcinogenic after taste. It’s fare to say that most ‘pub’ cooks have no idea when it comes to grilling, they simply believe that lost of heat and flame coming out of the grill is great, they couldn’t be further from the truth! If its out past the meat contact point, what’s the point? That’s just wasted energy and MONEY! The trend of many establishments are offering bigger thicker cuts of meat mean that the skill and equipment is more important than ever. You need the cooking process to penetrate deeper into the meat, this means you need to actually slow things down little to ensure it occurs OR finish the cut off in an Oven to ensure the process is correct. Otherwise you end up with the all too familiar burnt on the outside cold in the middle steak! Combi ovens with their added steam are a great tool for finishing off. Or you can consider a version of wood grill and BBQ as one unit such as the Spanish Made Mibrasa or Josper.

Mibrassa Grill

One of the busiest steak Restaurants I have ever been to is the Webber BBQ GRILL in Chicago USA, massive over sized Webbers loaded with piles of meat and a bunch of highly skilled grill chefs  smashing out massive volumes of food. The technique that was always employed during the process was the lid being placed back on the grill for portions of time, ensuring a more even heat source all over the meat not just under it, and as always with meat cooking ‘plenty of time ‘ was allowed for resting the meat before service.

Webber grill restaurant

if you would like to learn more about designing your very bespoke equipment to suit your operation then feel free to contact us here by email