Chelsea Hotel's Catering team, lead by executive chef, Gaurav Kapoor

Hotel catering operations are once again ramping up as meetings and events are making a strong comeback. “The tap turned on quickly,” says Dan Craig, executive chef, Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto, who reports that catering operations are beyond 2019 levels. “The biggest challenge is getting enough people to work.”

Given the staff shortages, chefs are relying on technology innovation more than ever. At the same time, budgets for new purchases have been put on hold until at least 2023, says Craig. The crucial workhorses for his catering kitchen are RATIONAL combi ovens. “They can do dry heat, full steam, or a combination of the two. You can do sous vide and roasting in the same oven.”

While his current models have USB ports for programming, he has his eye on the new iCombis from RATIONAL that offer Bluetooth connectivity when it comes time to replace them.

Another item on his wish list is a blast chiller. “They’re great for food safety and efficiency.”

Craig is also using a lot of induction right now as guests are asking for chef-attended action stations, he adds. “They don’t use open flames, don’t draw a lot of energy, and heat up quickly. That’s been pretty vital.”

Hotboxes are equally critical as the kitchen handles multiple group events on any given day. “Right now, cooks are travelling kilometres a day pushing hot boxes to different areas, says Craig.

A new find for Craig was “great little battery packs” that allow teams to set up heat lamps without the need for power outlets.

For executive chef, Gaurav Kapoor at the Chelsea Hotel in Toronto, RATIONALs are a must, as well as rapid-cook technology. “Our Merrychef and TurboChef ovens are very helpful. We even switched from our regular stone pizza oven to a TurboChef model that can cook a large pizza in two-and-a-half minutes. These are helping us with time and labour.”

Kapoor has a wish list for when new equipment budgets return. “I have a Thermomix in mind, which is essential because we make our soups and sauces from scratch. I’m also looking at blast chillers, and maybe a conveyor belt for improving efficiency for banquets.”
As for the more distant future, James Cushinan, director of Food and Beverage for Chelsea Hotel in Toronto points to the ever-evolving use of robotics and automation in restaurants. “It’s something we see more on the horizon.”

Cushinan also has his eye on food waste and recycling systems such as the ORCA. “They can make a big impact on the overall waste management in our kitchens. On-site composting for a hotel our size will help our overall green initiatives.”

Given the revenue losses hotel catering operations experienced over the past two years, Craig says new equipment purchases will have to wait for the time being. “Right now, we’re working on getting the equipment we haven’t used in two years up and running again.”

By Denise Deveau


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