College’s VarioCooking Center is also brilliant for making more of cheaper cuts
With over 15,000 students and 1,000 staff, catering at Bridgwater College in Somerset is a busy business. There is a variety of catering outlets, including restaurants, coffee shops and The Zone, a Subway-style eatery. Together they serve around a million meals a year. The catering is not subsidised and all food is cooked from fresh – right down to the curry sauce.
Given such a combination of demand and diversity, catering equipment needs to be both multipurpose and productive. Recently the College installed a FRIMA VarioCooking Center Multificiency which, says Executive Chef Scott Pring, “Is one of the most versatile pieces of kit in the kitchens. We wouldn’t be without it now.”
The FRIMA was installed by QCM Equipment of Bristol and is sited in the main restaurant kitchen, which serves up to 1,000 meals a day, from breakfast onwards. As well as producing food for the restaurant, the FRIMA is used to cook products for some of the other outlets – such as soup for the coffee shop and sauces for The Zone’s pasta dishes.
The FRIMA VarioCooking Center at Bridgwater is a 112T, the table top unit that measures just 962mm wide by 800mm deep and 400mm high and features two 14 litre cooking pans. “The size is perfect. Despite how much food it produces, it’s really compact. It feels like it was custom made for us,” says Scott. Like all models in the VarioCooking Center range it allows chefs to boil, grill, shallow fry, deep fry, and use low temperature cooking techniques. It can replace kettles, large pots, bratt pans, fryers and griddles, saving significant space in the kitchen and delivering a high level of functionality.
“It’s just such a versatile appliance,” says Scott. “We use it to deep fry scotch eggs and fish, to fry eggs, to make pie fillings, to boil pasta, to sear meat, cook sauces, you name it. It’s absolutely brilliant for cheaper foods, such as chilli con carne, because the mince doesn’t stick and it keeps in lots of the meat juices.” This ability to make the most of cheaper cuts is essential at Bridgwater: Scott’s team has a very limited budget to deliver a plated meal, including main course and side dish, for students on free school meals.
“The heat up time is super-fast, too. It’s up to 50% faster than a stove. And the temperature control is incredibly precise – if I want 101°C, I get 101°C.”
This speed and precision is down to FRIMA’s patented VarioBoost system, which heats the pan to 200°C in as little as two minutes. The special FrimaTherm contact layer means heat is transferred quickly and uniformly all over the base of the pan, without heating the sides, so there is no scorching or sticking. It delivers absolutely accurate temperature control, enhancing chefs’ traditional cooking skills, yet cooks up to four times as fast as conventional cooking equipment.
“The FRIMA has loads of other really useful features, such as the VarioDose, which adds water by the litre,” says Scott. “Plus, it is very easy to clean. One minute we can be using one of the pans to fry eggs, the next boiling pasta.”
Scott says that the simplicity of operation has been a big hit with staff. “From apprentices to head chefs, everyone wants to use it. It’s the first thing they go to.”
Safety is paramount, adds Scott, and the FRIMA scores here, too. “The tilting pan makes it very easy to handle and drain the food. It’s much safer than lifting pots and pans around, especially for the less hefty members of staff!”
As well saving space, the FRIMA is very energy efficient – it uses 40% less power than conventional appliances. There is little waste heat, for example, when boiling water it is 95% efficient, which is even better than induction. “Like everyone, we look to save energy costs. The FRIMA is a whole lot better than having the burner on all day!
“Its multifunctionality is amazing, the food quality is great, and it’s so fast. It’s a superb piece of equipment, no question.”
Click here for a video of the FRIMA in action at Bridgwater College.