Convotherm Takes the World Stage at the Bocuse d'Or
Every two years, the Bocuse d'Or World Cooking Contest attracts the world's most talented chefs to participate in a few intense hours' worth of culinary feats of strength. Using their own chosen ingredients and a standardized lineup of equipment provided at the venue, teams of two chefs each race to produce a unique dish that will win them the prestigious award.
Teams produce one chicken dish and one fish dish in an intense culinary event where speed, efficiency, and fine-tuned control are essential. Given the intensity and focus on innovation that defines the event, one would expect for the cooking equipment provided to each culinary team to be equally as proficient as the chefs. That's where the Convotherm combi oven by Manitowoc comes in.
Prized for its speed and versatility, the combi oven has enjoyed a great deal of popularity in Europe, where real estate and utilities come at a premium. Essentially combining the abilities of a steamer and a convection oven in one unit, the combi oven stands on the cutting edge of culinary technology, so it's no wonder that the Convotherm has been the cooker of choice at the Bocuse d'Or. Like the competition, it continues to evolve from year to year; manufacturers are constantly finding ways to fine-tune the oven's cooking abilities to accommodate a more diverse menu.
Efficiency and Versatility
The combi oven really is the best of both worlds, combining the power of steam and convection, two technologies that are celebrated independently for their speed and efficiency. Steam is an excellent way to transfer energy, and when it's used to cook, it releases its energy immediately on contact with food. It also helps keep food moist without soaking it and reduces shrinkage, which means less food loss in cooking.
Convection uses a fan to force heated air to circulate around food, speeding production and providing an even bake. Together the combination of these two methods can accomplish more tasks than either can alone. The Convotherm can roast a juicy ham as easily as it can steam a crunchy batch of broccoli.
The Combi oven is strongly associated with the molecular gastronomy movement that has dominated the global food scene in recent years because it enables chefs to achieve innovative, unprecedented results. This equipment also enables cooking sous-vide, a hallmark strategy of many world famous chefs, and one that has been strongly associated with Bocuse d'Or's namesake, Paul Bocuse himself. The Convotherm also includes a core temperature probe allowing chefs to cook to an internal temperature instead of relying on time or visual cues.
At Bocuse d'Or, presentation determines 30 percent of each team's ultimate score, and no piece of equipment is better suited to preserve the visual appeal of food than the combi oven. Whereas other methods of cooking can make food dull and mushy, steam preserves vibrant colors, textures, and flavors. It also helps maintain food's natural moisture, so it stays plump and juicy, and maintains its nutrient content.
From Haute Cuisine to the Buffet Line
The Convotherm's usefulness extends well beyond its use to prepare cutting edge world cuisine; it's just as useful to the everyday restaurant owner. It can be used to steam up big batches of frozen vegetables in under half an hour, then switch seamlessly to baking pans full of breaded fish filets in less than 15 minutes.
The chef is not left guessing how best to prepare his recipes with this equipment. The oven includes several built-in modes, each for the different kinds of cooking.
- Delta-T, for ultra-gentle, slow cooking of tender meats and roasts.
- The Bakepro feature allows chefs to set moisture control and rest times for proofing and baking bread.
- A Crisp and Tasty function removes moisture from the cabinet to maintain the texture of crunchy foods.
- A reconstitution function reheats pre-cooked food while preserving texture and flavor.
The Convotherm's design has been refined to include a host of ingenious features. Unique in the industry, the "Disappearing Door" swings out and pushes back into the wall of the cabinet, allowing you full access to load and unload the oven. An Advanced Closed System, or ACS, controls the circulation of heat and air within the cabinet to enable speed and efficiency. The cooking modes also will not engage unless the cabinet is completely sealed. The company compares its functionality to that of a pan lid: it helps to keep heat and moisture inside the system for quick, even heat and consistent results from batch to batch.
The Convotherm offers highly-customizable programming. Up to 399 cooking procedures can be saved, each containing up to 20 steps, so virtually any recipe can be programmed in. Simple "Press & Go" menu icons can be customized with an image of each dish to pose no language barrier to staff. A password-protected manager mode prevents unauthorized changes to settings.
A self-diagnostic system and detailed servicing functions can be viewed right on the screen, and if operators ever get stumped, the unit includes on-screen help in the form of a topic-based video function. There are also ethernet and LAN interface USB ports for updates, cooking profiles, images, and HACCP data. These can be downloaded and shared remotely to ensure compliance with your company standards and consistency across locations and between equipment.