Last month, I visited Chef Jason Bangerter at Auberge Du Pommier in Toronto and got a tour of his kitchen. My jaw dropped as I walked through his large, beautifully designed kitchen. It was the first day of Winterlicious – the restaurant was booked up but the kitchen wasn’t in chaos! Chefs were smiling and had time to say hi. There was also plenty of room in the kitchen such that I wasn’t blocking anybody’s way. The shelves and countertops were also nice and shiny. I was pleasantly surprised.
Then…Chef Bangerter started to tell me about some of his equipment in the kitchen. Imagine that all you knew was how to cook food by campfire and someone showed you a stove for the first time. That’s how I felt while touring his kitchen.
YouCook.ca focuses on how to cook top notch restaurant quality food at home – by sourcing local fresh produce and herbs, by showing you our learnings (and mistakes) of cooking techniques, by interviewing influential chefs and now, this is our first post on what a best in class restaurant kitchen looks like. Here’s our exclusive coverage of Chef Bangerter’s kitchen.
The kitchen sports 4 induction suites (16 units). You can boil an inch of cold water in 24 seconds on an induction stove top!! I touched it while it was on and didn’t get burned. It seemed so magical, I had to figure out how it worked when I got home. I guess I’ve been living under a rock because I never knew this technology existed.
Here are some things I learned about Induction Units.
- You need a conductive pot, preferably ferromagnetic (Jason uses stainless steel pots, pans, Demeyere and Stub cookware and All-Clad pots).
- Electrically insulating pots like ceramic and glass will not heat up.
- An induction stovetop is simply an electromagnet – a coil of copperwire. When you turn it on, a current is applied to that coil which produces a magnetic field. This induces a current in the conductive pot which produces heat.
- This process also creates some magnetic loss but it is less than 10% – making this way more energy efficient than traditional electric or gas stoves.
- The possibility of injury and burns are significantly lower because your hands are not nearly as conductive as the stainless steel pots. There’s no open flame to worry about or red-hot heating elements. However, if you do touch the pot or pan, that will be very hot since the induction heats the cooking vessel itself.
There may be some danger for people with a pacemaker or defibrillator but it is minimal according to Wikipedia.
- Induction cooking does not heat up the surrounding air which results in energy savings in ventilation.
- Smart induction units can automatically turn off the element once the cookware has been removed or keep the pot at minimum boil when all the contents have boiled out. This can be done by monitoring the voltage drop caused by the resistance in the circuit.
You can find more information on Wikipedia. As for me, I’m sold. When I buy a house, it will have induction stoves for sure.
The MerryChef Oven
Chef Bangerter informed me that this piece of equipment has cooking times 18x faster than the standard oven. So of course I had to go home and learn what magic was behind this.
I learned that the MerryChef oven is a combination of a convection oven and a microwave oven aka Convection Microwave. It allows food to be cooked quickly at the speed of microwave cooking but with the browning and crisping affect of a convection oven. Convection ovens work at lower temperatures and the result is more even baking/heating than a standard conventional oven because there are fans that circulate the heat around.
What does this mean?
- Chefs can make a souffle in 1m20s, madelines in 1m50s, cake in 3m50s and sausage in 1m20s.
- Chef Bangerter is the undefeated Garland Canada Accelerated Iron Chef Champion.
He prepared a 6 course tasting menu for 4 judges in 45 minutes using the Merry Chef and induction stoves.
Here is his schedule for the competition:
Time: Start at 0h:00m
1 Cocktail amuse bouche smoked beef tender “both long pepper spiced” Ready at 0:06
2 Glazed chevre tart Ready at 0:14
3 Seared tuna Ready at 0:20
4 Truffle soup Ready at 0:23
5 Game sausage Ready at 0:28
6 Soufflée et chocolat Ready at 0:38
Now that requires a lot of skill, precision, no mistakes, and some really good equipment.
Cooking with the Stars – The Garland Canada Cup for 2010 is happening this weekend – March 7th!
Good luck Jason!!!!!
The Cleveland/Convotherm Combi Ovens Steamers
This is the first of its kind in Canada – and Chef Bangerter has 2 mini and 1 large one. This oven can steam and roast at the same time. You can program recipes into it and can be monitored on your computer.
The Hobart site has more information than I could find in the Cleveland site. Essentially you can have exact control over the humidity while cooking in convection mode. Once you get the right recipe for the cooking times and humidity, you can program it into the machine for the next batches and monitor it remotely.
Admittedly this is the only piece of equipment that my jaw didn’t drop down for. And this is ONLY because I saw a demonstration of the Vita-Mix last summer at the PNE. At that time, we stood at the booth in awe – watching the presenter demonstrate how to make a smoothie, a hot soup and strawberry ice cream all with the same blender. If not for the $800 price tag, I’d have one at home right now. So this blender has a 2 peak horsepower Swedish motor (YES you read right – TWO HORSEPOWER in a blender).
When making soup, you turn the motor up and since its spinning so fast, it makes the soup boiling hot. You can throw in a lobster with the shell with some butter and brandy and herbs and out comes a soup. Then you can clean it out and make ice cream in it immediately!!
Heated Shelves, Refrigerated Drawers and Renovation Details
Plates are typically warmed up in the oven. Why waste precious cooking space for plates? Instead, Chef Bangerter put in heated shelves all along the kitchen. Plates sitting on them will automatically be heated. There are also refrigerated drawers throughout the kitchen for cooling needs.
The kitchen was renovated in August 2008 – after 6 years of working at Auberge Du Pommier, the Oliver Bonacini Group let Jason design and build his dream kitchen. These are floor plans that he made:
Chef Jason Bangerter was the Project Manager overseeing all the renovations and made a very aggressive schedule. The demolition and rebuild was done in 10 days. Auberge even hosted a wedding on Day #3 without a kitchen and on Day #5 there was a gas pipe mishap which pushed renovations out by a day. There were no other glitches which meant Chef Bangerter had his new kitchen in 10 days.
By now, you must have come to the same conclusion as me, Jason Bangerter is not only a highly skilled chef, but he’s smart and does his research when it comes to cutting edge technology in the kitchen. He is also a proven designer and project manager on large scale kitchen renovations.
This kitchen tour was priceless for me. After my trip to Toronto, I visited multiple mobile or makeshift kitchens in Vancouver during the Olympics and it’s just not the same. The two kitchens that stood out in the Olympics were:
1. Holland Heineken House where Albron shipped entire train car-sized crates of their kitchen, prep, cooking and cleaning areas from Holland.
2. Alberta Rocky Mountaineer Train where there are 6 kitchens which support meal service for 70 people each. They cannot use gas stoves and opt for electric but they definitely could benefit from induction stoves.
Believe me, the food coming out of the kitchen at Auberge Du Pommier is delicious and I appreciate it more after the kitchen tour and meeting Chef Jason Bangerter.