Chef Steve Redzikowski Reveals His Must-Have Foodservice Equipment
Behind every chef, there is usually a wise mentor, a dedicated staff, and a strong will to create delicious food. What’s often overlooked is a wide array of tools that make cooking easier and more efficient. Colorado Chef Steve Redzikowski has gotten help from all of these things. Along with many different cooking experiences, each element has shaped him into a a master chef.
Back in the late 1990s, just before Redzikowski graduated high school, he made pizzas at a small mom and pop shop. Longing for more experience, he worked his way up to become the Saucier of Manhattan’s hottest restaurant at the time, Le Cirque. After learning life-changing skills there, Redzikowski moved on to another lauded New York City eatery, Jean-Georges, before setting his sights on Napa Valley’s groundbreaking restaurant, The French Laundry. But a quick stopover in Aspen, Colorado changed his mind about going to California.
In Aspen, while enjoying an active mountain lifestyle, Redzikowski began cooking at one of the town’s finest ski hotels, The Little Nell. Soon, he landed in Boulder as Chef de Cuisine of Frasca Food and Wine, before finally making it out to Sonoma, California for a stint at Cyrus. In 2010, he decided to venture out on his own, starting the woodfire-focused restaurants Oak and Acorn, plus the fast-casual rotisserie spot, Brighter.
With such deep experience at some of the finest restaurants in the country, it’s easy to see why Redizowski relies on certain foodservice equipment to help him turn out amazing cuisine. Below, this hard-working chef discusses which foodservice products he can’t live without and why.
You’ve worked a lot of positions in many kitchens. What is your current day to day?
“With Brighter, we put a partner in charge of that now, and he calls me if he needs help. Acorn too. I’m more active with a hands-off approach, more administrative. But with Oak, it’s more hands on. I work the line four to five days a week. That’s the one spot I’m really hands-on with.”
How do foodservice products help you?
“Nowadays, I’ve really changed around the way I was thinking. When you grow a little more you realize you need help from people and machines. Food TV has really messed it up for us [chefs] — it looks so fun. But for real cooks, it’s hard to get people to come to work on time or work forty hours, when years ago 40 hours a week would be part-time. Plus there are fewer cooks out there. People don’t want to do this as a profession anymore. And, because people are less reliable, I need machines to help me.”
So which commercial foodservice products do you use every day?
“Oak and Acorn use a woodfire oven and grill. It takes true skills to learn and work that. For Brighter, instead of doing woodfire, we got an oven that looks like it’s woodfire but is a gas flame. I can do things in that oven really similar to what I can do in the wood fire, but I don’t have to train a person to operate it. It’s set! You don’t have the same headache. On my next venture, I’m thinking about getting the same thing.”
“We used to have metal shelves in our walk-in. When we went to re-do them, because they rust, my rep showed me CAMBRO shelving. It’s heavy duty. I can stand on it [laughs]. You can remove each one of the shelves and run it through the dish machine. I would never go back to the metal shelving again.”
“I was the biggest anti-Sous-vide guy. But when you’re cooking steaks that are $25 to $28 per pound and a cook overcooks them because he’s getting killed on the line, you need an easier way. So, if we have those expensive proteins we will circulate those with the sous-vide. [The steak will] cook to temperature and we give them a kiss on the grill.
“We don’t have a [ventilation] hood at Oak, so we’re used to using induction burners. They work so well — ten times faster than any product that we’ve been using.”
“We sampled a blender — the heavy duty restaurant kind. I told the guys to beat this thing up and we’ll see what it’ll do. That blender works better and has outlasted all of our other blenders.”
“Another great piece of machinery is our rotisserie. This thing will hold 46 to 48 chickens and rotisserie them. The leg and thighs are completely tender and will pull right off the bone, but the breast is juicy as well. It’s great.”
What are your favorite dishes to create with some of these products?
“The thing that makes flavor is caramelization. With our gas oven, you can do the same kind of things as in a wood fire, so we roast all of our veggies, like Brussel sprouts. Brussel sprouts used to stink. I grew up with my mom just poaching them, so they would come out like some kind of bad cabbage. Now, everyone loves sprouts because we’re creating that caramelization, that flavor. Now, I bet poached sprouts would be sent back [laughs].”
Will you be getting any new foodservice products soon?
“Our next piece of equipment is a tabletop refrigerator/cooler with shelves. We have to pack a lot of our proteins, like steaks, in big CAMBRO bins with ice and salt. With this tabletop cooler, we can have a protein box that sits on the line, making it so much easier.”
Which products would you like to have if you had infinite space or budget?
“I would love to have one of those island suites. It’s awesome because the chefs are working across from each other. They could see what each other are doing and coordinate. They have huge countertops for more space. It’s just a massive piece of equipment that makes life a lot easier.”
Why is having reliable, durable products important?
“Equipment shouldn’t be something that’s going to keep you up at night. There are so many other things in a restaurant that will drive you crazy — guest requests, trucks running late, employees [laughs]. So why add on more stuff? If there’s something out there that makes it easier, use it. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is if the guest is happy.”
What advice do you have for restaurant owners, cooks or chefs that need equipment?
“My friend is starting a soft-serve ice cream place. I let him know that places like Elevation Reps have test kitchens where you can go try out pieces of equipment. It’s really about finding the best piece of equipment right off the bat. One that won’t break down later on. One that’s easy to clean; that doesn’t have a lot of nooks and crannies or needs to be taken apart. Because we don’t have time for that! My advice for any young chefs is: if you have the chance to go check the equipment out and test it, in a kitchen, do it!”
Elevation Rep’s Test Kitchen