Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

JUN 2018

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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56 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • JUNE 2018 W H A T T O K N O W While wood-fired cooking brings excitement and flavor to a restaurant, it also brings some drawbacks and special considerations to the table. Ventilation, for example, has to be carefully thought out, as it affects both the air inside and outside the restaurant. Last year, local health officials closed a restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., after neighbors complained that smoke was seeping into their apartments. Snowden notes that Bad Hunter has installed a 4-foot hood system just to cover the wood-fired grill. The same holds true at Firebirds, where the hood for the wood-fired grill has a higher temperature rating and a larger capture area than a standard hood. Along those same lines, hoods require more frequent cleaning, which factors into the overall cost of opera- tion. Sturm calls the cleaning process "significantly more rigorous," adding that "you can't wait to clean your hoods every 90 days. We're cleaning them every 28 days." Many operations install fire suppression systems, which are better equipped to handle the extreme heat of a wood-burning oven. Wood-fired cooking also neces- sitates a different type of staff train- ing. Line cooks who are trained on traditional flattops or griddles don't always find the transition to wood- fired cooking a simple one. Unlike traditional methods of grilling that can evenly distribute the heat and control it by zone, the hot spots on a wood-fired grill can shift, depending on where the wood is burning hottest at that mo- ment. Franke trains cooks to find the hot spot by holding their hand over the grill. When the heat feels so intense that you need to pull your hand away in less than a second, "that's your hottest spot, and that's what you work away from," he says, comparing the heat transfer pattern to the rays of the sun. "The further away you get, the cooler it gets," he adds. Additionally, staff must be specially trained on the proper way to start the fire. Franke has seen employees take shortcut methods, such as using egg crates, cardboard or even fryer oil to try to get a fire going quickly. Docu- mentation can play an integral role in the training process to help avoid these problems. During wood-fired cooking, staff must closely monitor a variety of other factors, says Sturm. The crew member "has to regulate the wood and the temperature. You're adding another whole level of things to monitor and master in addition to all the other things you have going on." And unlike traditional cooking methods, which only need an electri- cal or gas connection for their energy, wood-fired cooking means the operator must also consider wood storage. An outside storage room or shed is prefer- able, although not practical for every location. It's also important that the wood be kept dry because if its mois- ture content goes much past 15 per- cent, Sturm says, "it's using the BTU to evaporate the water in the wood, so you're losing a lot of energy just boiling the water." Finding a location to store additional wood for peak periods, along with grill brushes, shovels and other necessary paraphernalia, can also be an issue in tight back-of-the-house areas. Even with the extra hassles, these chefs all agree that the positives to wood-fired cooking far outweigh the negatives, and they all say the return on the investment in wood-fired equip- ment in terms of flavor, drama and usefulness is a solid one. "There are a lot of potential hazards with [wood- fired cooking], but if you have the right training in place, it's really worth it and not difficult to maintain," says Franke. Sturm feels that many chefs don't understand the versatility of this cook- ing method. "You can smoke, you can sear, you can grill, you can heat, you can flavor anything you want in a natu- ral state," he says. "It's such a primitive way of cooking," says Snowden. "It really brings cooking back to the root of what we're doing this for — making things taste great." Warming Up to Wood-Fired Cooking Left: Chicken and steak are popular wood-fired options at Bad Hunter. Right: A wood-fired charbroiler serves as the focal point of Haywire's cookline.

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