Precision blast chiller brings calm to Norfolk pop-up restaurants
Running an outside catering company from a smallholding in Norfolk may be many people's idea of a perfect job. However, in high season the Owsley-Brown Food Company, West Bilney, near Kings Lynn, might be catering for 250 people every other day, with a mix of weddings, anniversary parties, pop-up restaurants, corporate events and shoots. It's a small team, so life can get hectic. They've recently invested in a Precision blast chiller - and its calmed things down, sped things up and increased capacity.
Matthew Owsley-Brown set up his upmarket food company when he sold Fishes, a popular restaurant in Burnham Market (locally known as Chelsea on Sea). “We love the restaurant game but, with a young family, we were after a bit more flexibility. Also, this gives us more variety - every event is different.” A highly experienced chef, who has worked with the likes of Rick Stein and Cyrus Todiwala, Matthew knows all about high pressure kitchens.
“The blast chiller was an essential. Not just because it allows us to cook in bulk and chill down safely, but also because we can spread the workload - we can cook one or two days in advance, so we don't need to panic about deadlines. At the same time, it's increased our capacity so that, with a little forward planning, we can supply more food, more quickly.
“It's really great for big parties, especially from a food safety and quality point of view - it means we can get everything squared away.” The Precision model is different from the blast chillers Matthew Owsley-Brown has used in the past. “Mainly, it's the simplicity of the thing, that's what we like. It's very efficient and a doddle to operate: you just push the button. It has timer programmes but I prefer to use the food probe - it works very well and runs the blast chill cycle for just as long as is needed, so you minimise power consumption.”
When the blast chill cycle is complete, the Precision unit switches over to storage mode automatically, so once it's loaded and the button pushed, there's no need to monitor it.
Running costs have to figure in any equipment purchasing decision, especially for something like a blast chiller which pulls plenty of power. “The Precision unit only needs a 13 amp supply, whereas the ones I've used in the past required 3-phase,” says Matthew Owsley-Brown. “Energy-efficiency and ease of installation are significant bonuses.”
The Precision blast chiller at the Owsley-Brown Food Company is an upright cabinet, made of stainless steel throughout, with a capacity of 35kgs (model number PCF 40). It offers both blast chill and blast freeze functions. Its highly efficient design features microprocessor-controlled variable speed fans. Despite only having a 13 amp supply, chilling from +70C to +3C takes 90 minutes or less, freezing from +70C to -18C takes no more than 240 minutes, as per government guidelines. After each cycle the cabinet goes into auto-defrost and then storage mode. It's mobile, so can be easily moved for floor cleaning, and needs no drain.
As for Mathew Owsley-Brown's verdict on the Precision Blast Chiller: “It's really, really useful.”