More Golden Equipment Picks

School Nutrition received so many terrific responses to our query about K-12 school foodservice operators’ favorite tools, equipment and technology discoveries. Many of these were highlighted in the June/July 2016 In the Kitchen article, “Tools They Can Rely On,” by Contributing Editor Cecily Walters, but we couldn’t fit them all in the print edition! Read on for details about some of the other top picks for kitchen equipment, smallwares and resources.

Sometimes, great finds become visible when you’re trying to make the most of your limited space. After a new high school opened in her district, Randy Herman, SNS, director of school nutrition services for Louisa County Public Schools, Mineral, Va., found that one of the two serving lines her staff use to merchandise “made to order fresh” items did not have sufficient cold holding space. Herman determined that it was necessary to create cold wells out of the existing hot wells, so that fresh vegetable toppings for the different daily bar options—including potato, taco and salad bars—could remain cold.

To that end, Herman discovered Coldmaster® CoolCheck™ cold food pans from Carlisle FoodService Products, which have been “a great solution for us,” she attests. The pans come in six sizes. “You put these pans in the freezer overnight. When they are ready to use, they turn blue. The exterior of the pan stays blue as long as it is holding the food at or below proper temperatures. The pans are designed to hold food at the proper temperature for up to eight hours. As the temperature of the pan rises, the color fades back to white,” she describes.

Dawn Houser, SNS, director of nutrition services for Collier County Public Schools, Naples, Fla., is wildly enthusiastic about the CVap thermalizer from Winston Industries (model #CAT522). “This is a great piece of equipment!” she exclaims. “We wrap our cold sandwiches in foil wrappers and heat and hold them in [these units]. This is also working well for our dinner programs. It allows us to serve dinner with only one staff member. The students pick up the cold components, along with the hot wrapped sandwich, and enjoy their dinner with minimal labor requirements,” Houser details.

Deborah Taylor, RDN, LD, SNS, associate director for school nutrition services for Oklahoma City (Okla.) Public Schools, seconds Houser’s enthusiasm about this same thermalizer model from Winston Industries. “You can fill it with sheet pans full of food, then pull [the food] out three hours later and put it straight on the line, no oven needed,” she explains, adding that she considers the thermalizer to be “a cross between an oven and a holding cabinet.” Taylor also appreciates that the product does not require a hood vent and finds it “great for tight kitchens.”

In addition, Taylor relies on a “skittle” from Legion Industries, which she describes as “a tilting skillet with bells and whistles.” She praises the skittle’s “high profile lid, [which] makes it capable of acting like a holder or warmer or a non-pressurized steamer. [It can also be] a cooker, roaster, griddle or skillet. [It’s] simple to clean and it tilts upside down for maintenance.” 

A recent grant from the Midwest Dairy Council has allowed Westside Community Schools,Omaha, Neb., to introduce a smoothie program at its middle school and expand the high school’s existing smoothie program. The school nutrition team used the funds to purchase Vita-Prep® blenders in various sizes and with different features from Vitamix. Not only have the smoothies been a hit with faculty and staff, Erin Vik, director of nutrition services, notes that some students who previously would not eat spinach have become regular consumers of smoothies featuring this vegetable. Vik also acknowledges a “mainstay” in his operation’s high school kitchen and contract meal sites: RATIONAL combi-ovens. He deems them “lifesavers” that “do about anything.”

Along similar lines, the Vulcan combi-oven earns high marks from the school nutrition staff at Union Public Schools, Tulsa, Okla., raves Director of Child Nutrition Lisa Griffin, RD, LD. She and her team find that the equipment is “almost ‘intuitive’ and knows how much humidity to use to make each food product its best so that employees don’t have to rationalize what settings to use.” The effectiveness of the Vulcan combi-oven has allowed her team to stop purchasing steamers, Griffin attests. This has resulted in a financial savings, as the combi-oven can be used to steam vegetables and other food items, as well as for baking breads and preparing entrées.

Going the Distance

Following is a list of the vendors whose products are mentioned in this Bonus Web Content:

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