All eyes are on the kitchen in the new Morimoto Mexico City in the Camino Real Hotel. “The altar is the glass-enclosed open kitchen,” says kitchen designer Jimi Yui. The sushi bar is on the left because, Yui says, “In Mexico nobody sits at the bar.” Interior designer Thomas Schoos tackled the cavernous space by fashioning what looks like a series of interlocking Japanese bento boxes. He then painted a series of 45-foot high canvases and installed custom-designed furniture—all tied together by a rope art installation that winds through the entire restaurant.
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Favorite Gear: January/February 2013

Merrill Shindler / January 2013

Five top designers reveal the essentials that kitchens—big and small—can’t live without.

They are the unsung heroes of the restaurant world. Where the public sees the front of the house, few—if any—see the kitchen. Or at least, what they do see, if the kitchen is open to view, are bright lights, lots of smoke, cooks working, and a pass in which dishes magically appear. The public does not really see the kitchen. Which is, without exaggeration, the very heart and soul of any restaurant. A restaurant without a kitchen is just a vending machine. And the unsung heroes are those who design the kitchens, so that work on the line or at a suite flows smoothly, and the equipment is just right, en pointe, a thing of beauty, efficient to use.

We asked some of the top names in the field of kitchen design to talk about their favorite pieces of equipment with us. Not just gear—but large hulking culinary machinery—major equipment for a large kitchen where space is unlimited, and major equipment for a small kitchen where space is at a premium. Their choices range from the familiar to the downright quirky. But in every case, it’s equipment they find to be essential. And so, chances are, will you.

Tim Harrison
Harrison, Koellner, Mill Valley, California

Notable Projects:
The French Laundry, Yountville, California; Per Se, New York City; and numerous Bouchons
Grace, Chicago
Benu, San Francisco
Saison and the new Saison 2.0, San Francisco

Big Kitchens:
“A great piece of equipment is the Traulsen reach-in, first created for Per Se in New York City. We designed this with Traulsen and have made it a standard in the kitchens we’ve designed ever since. The premise was to take apart a typical walk-in cooler where multiple types of food products are stored (dairy, fish, meat, produce, pastry) and provide each product type its own independent space. The unit’s interior space is basically the same size as a section of standard walk-in shelving five tiers tall, but with the bonus that the specific product is segregated from all other products.
“This application eliminates cross-contamination, allowing the chefs to take a product from initial delivery, through breakdown, to preparation/portioning, into mise-en-place ready, and keep all the product in the same unit specifically allocated for that product.
“The additional benefit is the elimination of the wasted aisle space associated with a standard walk-in, which is given back to the work areas of the kitchen. Finally, when properly designed within the remote refrigeration system, the loss of a single condenser will not shut down the refrigeration for all cold stored products, which is a major benefit to food safety and expense. Besides the application where the need for huge bulk storage is required, this is the proper equipment for food product cold storage.”

Small Kitchens:
“A great piece of equipment that we make use of significantly these days is the electric deck ovens from Michael Wenz. My favorite in their line is the MIWE condo, since it provides a great deal of flexibility. You can specify both the number of decks and their size, both in height as well as footprint. It also has the options of a convection oven and proofing cabinet.
“The system provides for steam injection and has top and deck radiant heating elements for outstanding control. In this changing environment where fine dining restaurants and their kitchens are smaller and more efficient and have fewer sous chefs and commis, and where the chefs are looking for more and more control over every aspect of product and production, this unit is small enough, yet with multiple decks. It’s also flexible enough to produce multiple products, savory or sweet, without compromising the production needs of the balance of the kitchen.”

Mark Stech-Novak
Mark Stech-Novak Restaurant Consultation & Design, Oakland, California

Notable Recent Projects:
The Melt (14 locations so far in California)
Sieobo, The Star Casino, Sydney, Australia
Noodle Bar, Daisho, Nikai and Shoto
Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto

Big Kitchens:
Frigo Impianti Minicelle: Italian-made cold rooms for those who need to dry and age small to medium amounts of meats and cheeses. “Don’t do salumi without them. Available in multiple sizes and types.”
Enviro-Pak Food Processing Ovens, Smokers, Dryers, Steam Cabinets, and Chillers: “Don’t do serious smoking without them. Also available in multiple sizes and types.”

Small Kitchens:
HotmixPRO: “This is a new version of the grand old residential Thermomix, but for real cooking. Their unit that chills as well is like a dream come true for any kitchen.”
PolyScience Sous-Vide Toolbox app for iPad or iPhone: “Perhaps the coolest software for testing and proofing sous-vide cooking [pictured]. No chef should be without it.”
Carpigiani EVD: “Ever since I tasted Christina Tosi’s [Momofuku Milk Bar, NYC] salted pistachio soft-serve, I have searched for the holy grail of soft-serve machines. This is not yet approved for the U.S.A.”
And one more item for everyone: The iPhone operated Scanomat TopBrewer: “It’s made in Denmark by the same people who made the world’s first fully automated cappucino machine. Right now, the system is primarily approved for European use only, and is pending approval by both UL and NSF for use in the U.S.A.—which I’ve been working on. They make really good espresso. I’m planning on bringing in several hundred, and installing them everywhere.”

Foster Frable
Clevenger Frable LaVallee, White Plains, New York

Notable Projects:
Rouge Tomate, New York City
Shake Shack, all New York City locations
Legal Sea Foods, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

Big Kitchens:
Randell’s Custom Work Stations Built around Their FX Drawers: “Well executed pre-engineered units for a wide range of kitchen solutions.”
Hobart-Mannhart Food Processor: “Every chef client we have loves it. It can cut, dice, and prep more items in more sizes that anything else in its class.”
Coal-Fired Pizza Ovens: Woodstone, Beech, Earthstone: “Very high temperature cooking (up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit), with less pollution than wood-fired. High customer excitement.”
Highly Flexible Truly Modular Range Lines That Allow Interchangeable Cooktops and Various Bases: Viking, Electrolux EM-Series, Montague, and others: “Accommodates last-minute menu changes, new chefs coming on board during installation, asking to make adjustments to designs.”

Small Kitchens:
Any of the Mini Speed Ovens: TurboChef, Merrychef, Amana AXP: “They are so versatile and can do many things in a small space without a hood.”
Alto-Shaam 4•10esi CT Express Combitherm Combi Oven (pictured): “Full combi functions for just a little more than the cost of a steamer. Lots of horsepower.”
Hoshizaki Reach-in Refrigerator: “Features variable speed compressors and adjusts output to the cooling load, plus there’s a foot pedal to open.”
Kold-Draft Full Ice Cube Ice Machine line: “Customers and bartenders clamor for the large cubes in upscale operations, and none of the other major icemaker lines offer it. Kold-Draft makes a truly full-size cube that measures more than an inch square. It’s the go-to manufacturer for restaurants and lounges looking to build on the current cocktails trend.”
Electrolux HSG Panini Grill (with built-in microwave): “Speeds up the slow process of heating panini (used by Panera Bread, Pret A Manger). This unit can produce hot toasted sandwiches with grill marks in less than 60 seconds.”

Russell Stilwell
Next Step Design, Annapolis, Maryland

Notable Projects:
North End Grill, New York City
The Jefferson, Washington, D.C.
Juvia, Miami
Andaz Wall Street, New York City

Big Kitchens:
The Josper by Woodstone Charcoal Broiler Oven: “We installed one in Danny Meyer’s North End Grill in New York City, where Floyd Cardoz uses it all the time. It works as an enclosed grill and as a broiler oven, with an electric plancha. You really get a great smoky flavor from it. Woodstone knows all about creating great flavor. This is a fine piece of equipment.”

Small Kitchens:
Air-o-Steam Touchline by Electrolux: “The oven moves around with ease, and it can turn out hundreds of portions in an evening, then goes on rolling racks, which allow you to cook different ingredients for different periods of time. It’s extremely versatile, which is what smaller kitchens need—equipment that can do many tasks.”

Jimi Yui
YuiDesign, Takoma Park, Maryland

Notable Projects:
Morimoto locations worldwide
Lincoln Ristorante, New York City
Nobu locations worldwide

Big Kitchens:
Thermo Scientific Freezer: “It operates at minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Thermo makes a super freezer that’s essential for storing expensive inventory like toro and Wagyu. Morimoto Mexico City has two.”
Custom-Made Paella Grill at Jaleo in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas: “It cost an estimated $2 million—with half of that going to the ventilation hood alone. It’s for making paella—nothing else. It’s the pride of my career.”

Small Kitchens:
CookTek magnetic induction cooktop: “It alters the climate in a kitchen, especially compared to a gas flattop.”
VITO Oil Filter System from Germany: “This is a way to save up to 50 percent on cooking oil. The filtration system removes food and carbonized particles. It’s practical and the easiest way to clean your oil. It’s like a vacuum cleaner”