Over the years I've held a lot of job titles and have done most kitchen jobs, from cleaning a large supperclub's grease traps in mid-July after the obligatory upper-Midwestern Friday fish fry (I don't recommend that as a career path) to picking herbs and edible flowers from the garden that I'd use in lobster salads at a Relais & Châteaux restaurant (that was a pretty good job).
So when I started writing the article Commercial Kitchens: Cooking up Green Opportunities
for Environmental Building News
I knew there wasn't enough space to adequately cover all the stories, equipment, and processes encompassing sustainable commercial kitchens.
Kitchen size and demands vary enormously; each piece of equipment is worthy of a feature article; and don't get me started on menu choices and sustainable agriculture. Yet I hoped to give at least a cross section of the some of the more important issues.
The most intriguing stories I heard while researching this article were from those pushing the envelope. From Don Fisher's tireless efforts at the Food Service Technology Center
to David Yudkin
MacGuyvering a heat exchanger onto a convection oven (pictured here), there are exceptional people out there doing creative things to make kitchens more energy and water efficient.
But, industry wide, it is an uphill battle with entrenched ideas and priorities. I know a chef who controlled food costs down to the penny in order to save a few hundred dollars a year, while the display kitchen's ventilation hood ran full blast for twelve hours a day pulling conditioned air from the restaurant, wasting thousands of dollars in energy, heating, and cooling. The owner gave the chef a bonus for controlling food costs; the profits went up the ventilation stack.
Maybe the feature will open a few eyes to the enormous energy and water waste in commercial kitchens, and the potential for savings (and increased profits). I welcome your tales of problems, creative solutions, anecdotes, or follow-up article suggestions. And would love to hear your kitchen-confidential-esque horror stories from the trenches. I kind of miss those days, minus the grease traps, of course.