Bamboo, food prep, afternoon tea and the world of small plates

The CESA Light Equipment and Tableware Forum 2015

25th & 26th March, Whittlebury Hall Hotel, Towcester

SONY DSCThe buzz around the 2015 Forum was unequivocally optimistic, with both suppliers and distributors reporting a buoyant market. Continuing demand for that elusive point of difference has led to a surge in new product developments, reflected in the mind-blowing variety of new concepts on show.

The CESA Light Equipment and Tableware Forum (LETF) is the annual event where distributors can meet equipment suppliers to find out about the very latest gadgets, gizmos and concepts in the smallwares world – and get hands-on experience of the next ‘must haves’ for the caterer.

2015 is the first time the event has been held over two days, reflecting both its popularity and the demand from distributors and suppliers. In fact, the event was the biggest in the Forum’s history, with more delegates and exhibitors than ever before.

CESA Chair Simon Frost welcomed attendees, saying “I’m delighted that this year’s event has been planned with the full support of CEDA, CEDABOND and ENSE.” Steve Goodliff, chair of the Light Equipment and Tableware Group, looked forward to “two great days ahead.”

The 2015 Forum celebrated a special fundraising charity dinner on the first evening, during which the recipient of the CESA Donald Bird Award was announced. Created in memory of the late Donald Bird, who was a champion of the light equipment sector, the award will be made annually to an individual who has shown outstanding commitment to, and passion for, the industry. For its inaugural presentation Donald Bird’s son, Mike, gave a moving and amusing speech.   The winner was Anita Collins of Lockhart, of whom judges said, “She has consistently contributed to the industry and is a benchmark for all aspiring table top professionals with her commitment, knowledge and honest approach.”

Andy Savage of Lockhart won Sales Professional of the Year, which includes a £500 cheque and entry onto the CFSP accreditation programme. Lockhart completed a ‘clean sweep’ in the 2015 Forum awards by also winning the Distributor Cup, awarded to the company which has done most to support sales of light equipment during the year.

The dinner included a charity ‘night at the races’, which raised £1100 for St John Ambulance, a charity Donald Bird supported keenly.

The last award of the Forum was presented at the end of the second day, when delegates voted for their favourite ‘Featured Product.’ It was won by Nevilles for the company’s Genware stoneware, which comes in three ranges: Luna, Black and Rustic. Nevilles says: “The ranges provide individuality and flair to food presentation, complementing the vibrancy and colourful nature of the varying food trends currently in the market place.”

Both delegates and exhibitors were very positive about the Forum. Henry Rees of Grey Simmonds commented, “It’s a great way to find out about new products. It’s very well run and, as a first-timer, I’ve been surprised at just how useful it’s been.”

Trending @ LETF 2015

Afternoon tea – after years of taking a back seat to coffee in the fashion stakes, tea – and specifically afternoon tea – is all the rage. From cups to cake stands, there was a host of products designed to enhance the teatime table.

Breakfast – specifically, breakfast served in a frying pan.

Bamboo – popular with manufacturers because it is fast-growing and versatile.

Wood fibre – a sustainable alternative to polyethylene cutting boards – tough, heat resistant, dishwash-proof and ideal for cutting, displaying and serving food.

Buffet display – there’s huge demand from customers for new ways with buffets and suppliers are responding with a mind-blowing range of ideas, from induction warmers to spectacular displays.

Small plates world – one exhibitor described it as ‘the theatre of beautiful clutter.’ Miniature plates and serving dishes are being used to create theatrical tabletop displays.

Copper and brass cookware – for both cooking and serving. It’s not just about appearance, it’s also copper’s superior heat conducting properties.

Portioning – eliminating food waste from over-sized portions is a focus for many of the larger chains.

Retro – it’s already happening in Europe, where operators are clamouring for the aged, distressed, shabby chic look.

A review of the product highlights is below, in editor’s notes, along with comments from exhibitors and delegates

The Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA)is the authoritative voice of the catering equipment industry, representing over 170 companies who supply, service and maintain all types of commercial catering equipment – from utensils to full kitchen schemes. For more information on CESA visit

Editors’ Notes

Product highlights at LETF 2015

Catering Equipment Ltd

A very practical launch from Catering Equipment Ltd is a range of in-mould labelled gastronorm containers. The label, which can list product, date, ingredients and so on, is embedded within the polycarbonate during moulding, so it is completely protected. Staff can fill in the label, writing on the outside of the container, then wipe it off and rewrite as necessary. There is the option to have bespoke labels and in future it should be possible to create other in-mould labelled polycarbonate products, such as ‘glassware’ with logos.

Catering Equipment Ltd says: “Business to the end of March 2015 is 40% up on last year, and this year the company celebrates 20 years in business. The Forum opens doors – the sales people often identify products that their customers need.”


The knife safe is a clever new idea. The robust metal cage can hold chef’s knives safely and it can be locked. It’s also dishwash safe – so it could be put through the wash, even when loaded with knives. Contacto also showed its new economy range of mixing bowls, available in seven sizes, its new three-tier cake stand and a range of stainless steel serving utensils.

Contacto says: “There’s been a huge increase in demand for afternoon tea products, such as the cake stand. It’s great to see new faces at this year’s Forum – AJ Stuart from Belfast were first to visit the stand.”


First time exhibitor, Dalebrook, had several innovative melamine lines on show and launched a brochure full of food display ideas – like textured melamine containers that can be written on with chalk. Highlights included the rustic/industrial colour ways – such as rust, terracotta and grey – as well as textured melamine, featuring stone, marble and grooves. The Eden range interprets flowers – for example, tulips – as bowls.

Dalebrook says: “Miniature cake stands have been very popular – they can be used for individual portions. The Forum is a great way to see 18 distributor companies in just a couple of days.”


Another company showing lots of new products. The Afternoon Tea range of white china features a striking embossed pattern. Reflecting the company’s focus on niche products, the Camargue range focuses on brightly coloured glassware. The Oasis range, from the USA, includes quirky items such as jar-shaped drinking glasses with lids and straws. There are also lots of cake-related products, including one, two and three tier stands.

DRH says: ““Many restaurants are looking for a point of colour on the table. The Forum is fantastic, it’s a brilliant springboard to show new products to our distributors’ sales forces. They see a new product and often say, “I know who can take that…”


Another company celebrating an anniversary, Dualit is 70 years old in 2015. To mark this, the company is manufacturing a limited edition of 70 toasters, incorporating design elements from past models – such as the logo from the ‘50s. Meanwhile a new catering toaster designed for self-service includes a lockable cover so customers can’t adjust the settings. To ensure consistent results, a clever algorithm takes account of how hot the toaster’s internal ambient temperature is and adjusts cooking times accordingly,.

Dualit says: “2015 is a big celebration. The Forum is ideal for a small company. Everyone is engaged. It’s a really good platform to talk to customers.


Tabletop specialist Elia says it is market leader in mid-to high-end cutlery. The company launched five new, contemporary designs, including some with a distinctly art deco feel, all made of 18/10 stainless steel. They are highly polished to retain their shine, wash after wash. Elia also showed a choice from its ranges of chinaware and vacuum air pump beverage jugs.

Elia says: “While the new designs are contemporary they are also classic, timeless. The Forum gets bigger every year.”


A new tabletop carvery station from Vollrath was a focal piece on the FEM stand – standout features include a stylish design and a low price point. The variety of induction products on show included new buffet warmers, for keeping food hot, which can be plugged into each other so several can be run from a single power point. From San Jamar comes a Saf-t-ice system that helps protect ice from contamination. It includes a scoop with hand shield and an ice carrier.

FEM says: “2014 was great and 2015 is following suit. The company is a big fan of the Forum. It’s a great opportunity to meet lots of key people in a short space of time. “


The latest products in the versatile Rosetta buffet display system include the Honeycomb and multi-level Swan lines. The modular system means units can be joined together in a variety of ways using linking shelves made of acrylic, glass or wood, including bamboo. Other new products included the Saleen range of dishwash-safe woven baskets, which come in a huge range of colours, and new bowls made of wood fibre – again, dishwash safe and heat resistant up to 175°C.

Gilberts says: “There have been loads of enquiries for buffet breakfast display equipment.”


New from Wusthof is a range of entry-level knives all manufactured in Germany. Called ProColour, they combine easy colour coding with a low price point.   Haus also launched new paring knives from the same manufacturer. Meanwhile Haus is also distributing Danish cookware manufacturer Scanpan’s new range of copper and steel mini serving pans. Bredemeijer specializes in ‘all things tea.’ New at the Forum is Verona, a range of glass teapots.

Haus says: “As first timers at the Forum it gives us the opportunity to see people we’ve not previously met. It’s a learning curve – the chance to show new lines, some from known brands, some unfamiliar.”

I Grunwerg

The Slate & Acacia tableware range offers removable slate trays set in an acacia wood surround for a very different food serving option. It’s available in square, rectangular and round formats. The Cast Aluminium Cookware is one third of the weight of cast iron and is induction compatible. The lid can be used as a griddle pan. Grunwerg also showed new cutlery ranges and a room service tea and coffee system including a bamboo tray and a kettle with a two-year warranty.

I Grunwerg says: “Business continues to be very strong. End users are replacing cheaper items, bought during the recession, with better quality products. There’s a real bounce at the Forum this year – the reaction from distributors has been great. Everyone’s very positive about future business.”


The latest Roband high-speed grill can cook a panini in 20 to 40 seconds.   Metcalfe also showed the Roband Sycloid toaster – with a capacity of 500 slices per hour, features include a robust, long-life element. The Titan Dicer can be used to dice, baton, and make wedges or fries. As well as offering great portion control, being manual means vegetables are not bruised and so last longer.   The Titan was shown alongside the award-winning Arc manual slicer.

Metcalfe says: “There’s been a huge increase in business recently, with lots of interest in the Roband brand. The Forum, in one word: fantastic.”

Mitchell & Cooper

Food safety, allergens and cross contamination continue to be big news. Mitchell & Cooper offers a huge range of colour-coded portioners to help caterers meet the challenges and avoid wastage through over-portioning. The award-winning Pack and Vac food storage range, which uses a vacuum button to keep food fresh, was joined by the Presto range of vacuum plate covers, which are claimed to keep food fresh for up to three times longer.

Mitchell & Cooper says: “The company has a strong portfolio and the Forum is superb – 80 sales people sitting down to discuss which products will meet which operator’s needs.”


With 2,800 lines and hundreds of products currently in development, Nevilles had lots of new ideas on show. They included extensions to the Bakery range of non-stick, heavy duty cookware; a range of swing top bottles, including versions suitable for sauces and dressings; authentic rustic stoneware from Portugal; and a huge range of mini plates and serving dishes.

Nevilles says: “More restaurants are serving tapas or sushi style menus, with people sharing lots of small plates. Business over the last two years has been exceptional. With so many new products, the Forum is an ideal showcase. There would never be this level of focused attention at an exhibition or trade show.”


This first time exhibitor specialises in commercial microwave oven sales. The new Panasonic NE1853 has several new features, including an LED interior light that flashes when food is ready – so kitchens can turn off the beep. Another new feature is the 10 second boost button, which allows chefs to instantly add up to 20 seconds cooking time to a dish. Regale also showed the MicroSave, a liner that protects commercial microwave ovens from food splatter. Both the oven and the liner have been endorsed by the Craft Guild of Chefs.

Regale says: “Business is very buoyant. As a small company the Forum is a great opportunity to meet the major distributors and talk about new products.”


French cooking utensils manufacturer de Buyer and Italian cutlery and presentation specialist Pintinox are two new brands for Signature.   Launched at the show was Le Tube, from de Buyer. This portioner, for ingredients such as cream, dough, terrine, batter and mousse, is similar in concept to a mastic gun and gives precise portions and compete control of the product. From Pintinox came a selection of classic cutlery designs that have been tumble washed with stones to give an aged look.

Signature says: “Business is very good with lots of interest in the two new brands. The Forum is a great way to tell everyone about them.”

SJH Row & Sons

Whereas boards used to be for cutting, back of house, now they are very much front of house and used for display and service. The British manufacturer offers a choice of wood, polyethylene and wood fibre boards. Brand new was the Pro-Duet, which combines the luxury of a hard wood surround with the practicality of wood fibre infill, which can be taken out and put through the dishwasher. Given the sustainability of wood fibre, the company expects it to be available in a wider range of colours in the future.

SJH Row & Sons says: “The Forum is so important because there is the opportunity to talk to the sales people who talk to end-customers.”

T&G Woodware

Another company with numerous launches planned for 2015, T&G Woodware showed several new lines including a range of wireware containers, available in cream or rustic brown; Delia Smith salt and pepper mills; and printed cork table mats. A key focus was a food display stand based on wooden crates, made of rustic acacia wood, which had been developed following customer requests.

T&G Woodware says: “The Forum is brilliant, there is time to talk properly to the distributor sales teams. The networking dinner was fantastic, too – it was really good to sit with different people.”


Monitoring equipment specialist Testo launched several new lines at the Forum. The Saveris 2 uses Wi-Fi to send data for stationary monitoring, for example for refrigeration and ovens, or for mobile applications such as hot food trolleys. Meanwhile the Testo 270 is the company’s latest cooking oil tester. Its ergonomic handle and large screen, which glows red, amber or green depending on the condition of the oil, make it easy to use. A new hand-held air monitor, which checks for levels of CO and CO2, is something every commercial catering kitchen should consider, the company says.

Testo says: “Legislation, covering areas like air testing, is helping grow our business in the UK. The Forum is a great place to generate business – not only during the event itself but also at the networking opportunities, such as the dinner.”

Delegate comments:

Tony Butler of Whitco: “This is the opportunity to learn about new products so that we can give more information to our customers.”

Henry Rees of Grey Simmonds: “This was our first time at the Forum. I was a bit apprehensive – would it be worth the time? In fact it’s been a great way to find out about new products. It’s very well run and I’ve been surprised at just how useful it’s been.”

Kelly Gothard of Lockhart: “I’ve not been before and I really like it, it’s perfect to find out about new products and new trends.”

Gabrielle Guile, Vision Commercial Kitchens: “It’s good to see so many different people, companies, and products, and actually have time to spend with them. We’re looking at launching a light equipment online shop, this is an excellent place to research it.”

Clare Nicholls, editor of Catering Insight: “The feedback I’ve heard from visitors and exhibitors has been almost 100% positive. Several have said that the Forum facilitates things that just don’t happen at exhibitions. For me, it was a great way to meet people and find out about the latest products.”