Equipment & ManufacturerManufacturerVol. 12

CONSISTENCY a rational (e)aim in every kitchen

By September 10, 2015December 8th, 2015No Comments

Mains : Crispy chicken / steamed vegetables / roasted potatoes
To serve : 200 guests

There are three cooking techniques required in the making of one dish. And this is just a main course; what about starters and/or desserts? You’ll need to ensure that every item on the plate arrives with its integrity in place – meat is still juicy, visually arresting vegetables, cooked right while the potatoes are tender inside with a attractive brown exterior. Multiply that standards by 200. We would imagine a long line of cooks manning the stations to ensure each batch produced remains consistent yet we cannot discount human errors which probably factored much in the flourishing of foodservice business in the earlier days.

Today, the 200 number is considered easy; in bigger establishments, serving 2000 in one session is not even surprising. Such feats are now possible with the work of engineer Siegfried Meister whose idea helped ease the hard work, long hours, stressful peak times and the hot kitchen of chefs in the 1970s. His invention? The combi-steamer. Founding the company RATIONAL in 1973, – a name that precisely represents its reasonable and sensible thoughts and products in his hometown of Landsbergam Lech in South of Germany, his first products were actually thermal kitchen equipment. After tinkering around, Mr. Meister realised the benefits of an oven that combines heat and steam in one unit and the world saw its first combi-steamer in 1976 and till today, RATIONAL still leads the industry with 54% market share.

Although we have advanced through the decades, the demands of working in the kitchen is no different than of the 1970s. It is still stressful, fast-paced, small (even more so given the high price for space) albeit a better environment with technologies like ventilation. Such elements has made a combi-steamer almost a given in standard commercial kitchens, particularly in the Western world as RATIONAL’s data calculates that restaurants around the world uses its combi-steamer to prepare approximately 120 million meals ever y day, cumulatively.

One would say Mr. Meister was either brave or foolhardy to put his eggs into the basket at a time where innovation was bare. However, he trusted that the company’s idea in clearly defining a target group and establishing a close relationship with them would work. RATIONAL then set out to “do one thing and do it well”, connecting with people who prepare hot food in large-scale and industrial catering establishments that strived to meet a basic human need of “to be provided with hot food when away from home”. Its core skill of transfering thermal energy to all types of food was built into its first combi-steamer that captured the attention of most customers during its Rational Cooking Live back in the 70s and it is this focus that has cemented its position in the industry.

Designed to improve the lives of chefs through its easy and safe operation as well as minimum space requirement, the RATIONAL combi-steamer is inadvertently looked upon as one of the ‘dream cooking equipment’. Yet it is not one to replace the human touch but functions as a supportive partner to implement specifications based on a chef’s knowledge and experience in turning raw materials into tasty dishes. Chefs are constantly testing out more ways to use its precise technologies and finding the best mode to cook the most delicate, the most robust of items, unconventional ingredients and executing various food preparation methods with a combi-steamer. If anyone has doubts of the taste, many experiments have been carried out and it was proven that most diners were not able to tell if their food was cooked by automation or by the hands of a chef. As the world continues to blur lines in terms of social, economy and culture, modern day chefs have a greater challenge of finding the balance in offering customers local and/or international dishes. If a chef’s repertoire expands, it is only logical that the cooking appliance adapts. According to RATIONAL’s philosophy; this means that multifunctional appliances will more and more develop into multinational appliances. Therefore the company is expanding its cooperation with local master chefs all over the world and having a special focus in developing Asian cuisines.

From the chef’s dimension to an operator’s view, the latter will be able to save more space with a combi-steamer that would generally require one square metre of space only in combining all the typical kitchen’s appliances such as stove, oven, steamer, and grill. This means freeing up an area for a bigger sitting area or simply a more comfortable workflow in both front and back-of-house. F&B operators are also more conscious of their footprint on the environment with growing concerns of resources used in running equipment of such capacity being a “frequently asked question”of late. Demand for “Green”energy saving products is on the up and RATIONAL responds with the “energy star” verification in its SelfCookingCenter® 5 Senses that saves the owner up to 70% energy costs and up to 30% production time in comparison to traditional kitchen equipment.

The RATIONAL workhorse has evolved through the years and with 40 years of research, industry insights and development, its latest SelfCookingCenter® 5 Senses is funded upon chefs using all 5 senses to cook, resulting in an intelligent system that:

  • Senses the current cooking cabinet conditions and the consistency of food.
  • Recognises the size, load quantity and product condition and calculates the browning.
  • Thinks ahead and determines the ideal cooking path to your desired result while cooking.
  • Learns which cooking habits you prefer and implements them.
  • Communicates with you and shows you what your RATIONAL is doing to implement your specifications

As chefs know exactly how the end result must look like, the 5 senses is further heightened with additional advancements to ensure each platter is made according to high standards.

iCookingControl: As the 5 Senses does it work to recognise size, load quantity, product condition and calculates appropriate browning, the iCookingControl will make the necessary adjustments to temperature, cooking time, air speed and cooking cabinet climate to suit food’s requirements and automatically informs the user before the process begins.
HiDensityControl: A patented technology that ensures uniformity, food quality and cooking performance with 100% steam saturation, dynamic air mixing up to 120km/h and maximum cooking cabinet dehumidification of up to 100 litres/second.
iLevelControl: A main purpose of a combi-steamer is to allow chefs to cook more in shorter times hence iLevelControl is the function that shows which foods can be cooked together; useful in menu planning as it results in savings of time, money, space and energy.
Efficient CareControl: Automatically detects dirt and limescale to determine the most efficient cleaning step; suggesting the best dose of cleaning agent and descaler.

In addition to all these features, the SelfCookingCenter® 5 Senses is also boosted by the technologies pioneered by RATIONAL in its previous products; including:
• ClimaPlus Control® regulates the ideal climate to 1% accuracy to ensure crunchy crackling, crisp breaded coatings and succulent roasts.
• Delta-T cooking keeps a constant difference between the core temperature and the cooking temperature so that meat stays tender.
• Hot air cooking mode from 30°C – 300°C allows hot air to flow around the food from all sides to maintain succulent insides. The maximum temperature helps achieve desired finish for pan fried, grilled, frozen convenience or soft baker y products.
• Combined cooking mode of hot steam and hot air that produces crispy roasts with up to 50% increase in cooking efficiency.
• Humidification that is precisely metred; useful for bread and bakery items.
• Manual programming of up to 1200 slots with 12 steps

Nobody will refute the fact that investing in a combisteamer is a hefty consideration. From the onset, RATIONAL has approached customer engagement on a face-to-face basis with Rational CookingLive that seeks to showcase the benefit of its product even before the customer decides. Its in-house chefs will demonstrate the user-friendliness and the diversity of cooking a wide range of cuisines with the combi-steamer. Completely understanding that no F&B setup is similar, sales personnel will work closely with potential customers to develop a solution that will see a return-of-investment in the most measurable time frame. After the installation, the team will conduct an introductory session for the kitchen’s entire crew so that any individual, at any skill level would be competent enough to manage the RATIONAL combi-steamer. Through its all inclusive ServicePlus program, the company leverages on the accessibility provided by the Internet and has set up a ClubRATIONAL where professional chefs can seek information, ask questions and share their discoveries on this platform. Users can keep their workhorse updated with the latest technology by downloading software updates for free through this club. Meanwhile Academy RATIONAL runs one-day seminars where its master chefs will impart knowledge on how to improve processes in the kitchen and spark creative ideas for the menu. With 30 subsidiaries worldwide and delivering up to 170 countries, the company’s strong association with its selected SERVICE-PARTNERS are always available to iron out technical difficulties or spare par ts supply.

Recognising the potential and deciding to stick with this product has definitely come through for RATIONAL. Together with its comprehensive customer service program, it is no wonder that it is a name the industry immediately relates to when it comes to the technology of automated cooking. After all, it is the chefs’ company with more than 300 chefs worldwide working to understand the needs of the market they are in; providing the necessary insights for the manufacturer to fur ther innovate and expand the potential of combi-steamers to be an utmost assistant in any commercial kitchen setting.