As editor of Chippychat magazine, I get sent editorial content from time to time from PR companies with stories about their clients and their products and services that they hope will be of interest to my readers. I always go through every single one and read them – then choose anything that I think might challenge, inspire or innovate the ChippyChat audience. One such piece that really caught my eye was the new entrant onto the commercial gas grills market: Synergy Grill by Active Food Systems in Cambridgeshire.
There were several things in the article that interested me. The first thing was that the grill made some pretty big claims about reducing gas comsumption by over 50%. The second thing that caught my eye was the extremely clever way they had designed the chargrill to be self cleaning and very user friendly. Thirdly, it was a completely British invention. I ran the article and within a week or so of the magazine coming out, Active Food Systems marketing manager Morag Anderson got in touch to tell me that several ChippyChatters had contacted their office about the Synergy Grill.
One of those ChippyChatters was Gregg Walker of The Fryery in Hockley Essex. He has been in the trade seventeen years since the age of 14, working initially for his father Colin Walker and then stepping into his shoes to run the business himself. Gregg had calculated that his old chargrill was costing well over a pound an hour in gas to run and he was fed up with having to strip it down weekly to clear out carbon and unblock the gas burners from food debris.
“We’ve seen competition increase massively in recent years and rather than take it on the chin, I decided to evolve and move with the times. We’ve had a chargrill for about fifteen years and I’d already decided that I wanted to offer a more up to date menu like ribs, piri piri chicken strips and grilled fish to compliment the excellent fish and chips we were producing from our 5-pan Hopkins range. When the Synergy commercial grill came onto the market, the decision was easy.”
As an operator and food service consultant, I was already intrigued by the claims made about the Synergy grill and so when Gary Evans, MD of Active, invited me down to meet fellow ChippyChatter Gregg and see the Synergy Grill in action, I jumped at the chance.
A new era has begun…
The science behind the new design all makes sense.
Gary explained “The design of most conventional restaurant grills is very basic and crude. The burner system is literally a cast matrix with holes drilled into it. The burning gas leaks out these holes and rises through lava rocks or fretts with burnt fumes, smoke and heat escaping up into a canopy. The idea being that the food is cooked in the middle of that in a “cooking zone” to recreate an authentic barbeque environment.
The Synergy Grill is different. Inside the belly of the chargrill, an insulated ceramic basin houses two simple but very clever ring burners that mix gas with air to produce a very blue high temperature flame. That heat is then circulated around the inside of the basin by a fan before it heats the high grade cooking grid and polished griddle plate. The effect this has on the “cooking zone” is nothing short of spectacular.
Even though the “cooking zone” is hotter, that heat isn’t rising or trying to escape. Cooked meats and fish retain their moisture, stick less and cook faster without burning. The heat penetrates and marks without being harsh or dry. Any fat that would normally drip or turn to greasy soot or carbon is atomised and produces far less smoke and virtually no clear up is required at all. To top it all, this commercial grill uses less than half the gas.”
Gregg added “I was amazed how much nicer everything looked and tasted coming off the Synergy Grill. I had to re-train myself in many respects because it was so quick. It’s so clean and easy to use – even the canopy doesn’t get any where near as dirty.”
Having seen it with my own eyes, and tasted Gregg’s menu, I have to agree. It’s not often a product comes along that has the potential to turn a whole industry on its head but this modest company in the heart of rural England have come up with something very special. That’s why it was a winner at the Hotelympia Innovation Awards.