With much of the country slipping in and out of heat waves this summer, smart foodservice operations are finding novel ways to cool down their kitchens. Here are some of the more unique techniques they're trying as the mercury climbs.
1. Freeze your clothing
Along with relying on AC, back-of-house staff at Burger Bar in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., use iced-up towels to keep cool throughout the day. In the morning, they wet and freeze towels that are rolled to fit easily around their necks or underneath their hats, general manager Kevin Taggart says.
At Foode & Mercantile in Fredericksburg, Va., employees similarly employ bandanas as makeshift icepacks. “We soak bandanas in water, freeze them and tie them around our necks,” co-owner and executive chef Joy Crump says.
4. Customize the air vents
The staff at B&B Butchers & Restaurant in Houston relies on fans to keep air moving throughout the kitchen and uses cooling towels while working. Proprietor Benjamin Berg also added a more permanent solution: installing a custom air vent that he says is longer than typical vents and puts more air into the kitchen.
5. Get creative with fans
Many restaurants use fans in and around the kitchen; however, executive chef Nick Melvin of Venkman’s in Atlanta says that his chefs position them to blow air at the kitchen ground. By lowering the fans’ direction, air can circulate around workers’ ankles, providing heat relief. “The fan thing might sound silly but it actually works, and the chefs love it,” Melvin says.
6. Try cold treats
To stay cool and caffeinated, the staff at Easy Bistro & Bar in Chattanooga, Tenn., drinks iced espresso and tonics, says co-owner Erik Niel. BOH workers at Texas-based Dugg Burger make hydrating aqua frescas with ingredients like cucumber, lemon, mint and basil, note co-owner Greg Watson and store manager Kim Bennett, adding that the drinks can be made with a variety of produce and herbs on hand. As an added cooling method, the staff also freezes fruit juices into popsicles.
7. Allow a costume change
Chef Jason Alley of Comfort and Pasture in Richmond, Va., allows his chefs to switch from pants to shorts during the warmer months in an effort to beat the heat. Bill Herman, president of Burger + Beer Joint, which has locations in Florida and Puerto Rico, also supports lighter clothing and says his staff wears short-sleeved shirts when working in the kitchen.