Teachable Moments: Hands-on equipment training leads to getting the most out of iCombi Pro’s advanced technology at Quapaw Nation casinos
Space savings and versatility are just a few reasons Greg Bolton, food and beverage director at Downstream Casino Resort, swapped out convection ovens and a rotating rack oven for RATIONAL iCombi Pro combi ovens. The Quapaw, Okla., casino operates a variety of food and beverage concepts and each one relies on RATIONAL.
“We got to a point where we knew we would be in a position to do combi cooking,” says Bolton, who’s also a RATIONAL Certified Chef. “We looked at several different styles and brands and RATIONAL was the one that we felt fit our profile best because of all its amenities.”
Bolton oversaw the transition to iCombi Pros at the casino. He also traded a traditional tilt skillet for a RATIONAL iVario Pro. And when it came time to build Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff, Ark., he helped specify iCombi Pros for it.
Small Footprint, Big Impact
Bolton has walked into plenty of kitchens throughout his foodservice career; his mother started her first restaurant when he was nine years old. Over time, one thing he’s noticed is that kitchens are growing smaller.
“At the end of the day, our footprint is only going to become smaller in the back of the house and larger in the front of the house, requiring more production from a smaller footprint,” Bolton says. “With a RATIONAL, you have that capability.”
Downstream Casino Resort, for example, replaced six convection ovens with four iCombi Pros in its buffet and still managed to increase production amounts, even with fewer staff members. The equipment cooks fast, Bolton says. Plus, it can do so much more than a convection oven; the casinos use iCombi Pros to slow roast meats overnight, proof dough and even cook sous vide-style.
Making the Move
To ensure employees used the iCombi Pros to their full potential, and didn’t default to dry heat in manual mode, Bolton focused on training. He took the following steps:
- Got up to speed. He learned everything he could about combi ovens. “I was intrigued because I knew from the beginning the equipment was going to do two things: It was going to be more efficient and it was going to be a labor-costs savings,” he says. By learning as much as possible, he in turn could better walk staff members through
- Worked side by side. “The key thing for a chef overseeing a transition from convection to combi is to be hands-on and being able to be there,” with staff members, Bolton says. “Keep an open mind that they don’t like change and they feel uncomfortable sometimes.” Throughout training, he collaborated with employees and touted the benefits of the equipment. He continues to train, helping employees find new and better ways to do things.
Slow and Steady
Staggering the equipment installations also helped with training. Downstream Casino Resort first added an iCombi Pro to its bakery, and then gradually put in the rest. “We kept the installations about six weeks apart so each kitchen would have time to acclimate,”
The iVario Pro marks one of the casino’s most recent installations and employees are exploring all the ways to use it. Bolton appreciates its programmability—especially helpful with industry-wide high turnover rates—and the even heat distribution. In the future, he is hoping that other items in his kitchen, such as his flattop grill, would work
Pro Tip: RATIONAL’s ChefLine marks one tool the casinos use for ongoing training. Here, corporate chefs provide culinary support. Dial 866-306-CHEF (2433).
All photos by Allison Rezendes