Nahum Goldberg

By:  Nahum Goldberg, LEED AP
Senior Associate/Project Manager – San Francisco Office

Despite health concerns related to the consumption of fried foods, frying will still have its place on many restaurant and institutional menus, and most commercial kitchens are still being equipped with fryers.  Vegetable frying oil, after repeated exposure to heat and food elements in the fryer, degrades and must be exchanged for fresh oil. Proper handling and recycling of the used oil integrates sustainable values and good business practices since the used oil has considerable value to the burgeoning biodiesel industry. Additionally, how the operator handles used oil is critical to worker safety and to the overall cleanliness of the facility. 

Initially An Environmental Challenge
Spent cooking oil from fryers should never be poured down the sewer drain because it can solidify and clog sewer systems, causing huge costs for property owners and water districts.  Local and national laws and codes require that the oil be captured before entering the public sewer lines.  Oil that does get through pollutes waterways and clogs ground water absorption systems.

While not the main focus of this article, incidental spills and oily residue is often washed down the drain while cleaning the kitchen or processing food. As a result, in-line oil and grease interceptor tanks are used to collect the grease and oil before it hits the public sewer system.  Required in commercial food service facilities, such central grease capturing devices must be emptied regularly, and the oil must be disposed of properly by specialized service companies.  Installing these devices and contracting with removal vendors is a cost that must be borne by the owner or operator.

On the other hand, the disposal of fryer oil – initially seen as a cost of being environmentally responsible – has turned into a financial plus for operators. 

Waste Vegetable Oil – A Commodity With Increasing Value
As most operators/ managers know, waste vegetable oil has become a highly sought after, valued commodity. The value of the used oil fluctuates based on commodity prices for “yellow grease” and biofuels. One only needs to Google the words “stolen cooking oil” to see pages and pages of recent news reports on sophisticated oil theft operations all over the country – New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles to mention a few. This is no surprise since the value of biodiesel has risen from about nine cents per gallon ten years ago to well over $3 a gallon recently, in line with oil price increases in general.

National and regional oil collection companies actively are seeking new business and will compensate (rebate) for the used oil.  There are generally no collection equipment costs when food service operators enter into a contract with an oil collection service.  The collectors are eager to get the oil and make their profit from reselling or processing it. Contracts may contain variable pricing or may “lock in” to long-term prices, may depend on volume and quality of collected oil, and may be tied to the commodity price for “yellow grease”.  Some local companies encourage a donation program whereby operators can opt to give their proceeds to local schools and non-profits – or alternatively the operator can receive a quarterly check. As in any service or product offering, learning the local offerings, terms and contract details will prove valuable in negotiating the agreement with an oil collection firm.

What to Do With Fryer Oil??
Let’s discuss briefly some options for handling waste vegetable oils – and don’t forget – always check local building department and waste water district requirements for your area and application.

For the small establishment or caterer, even a few gallons of oil need to be handled properly. Once cooled, return to original packaging, seal well and label.  Seek a local recycler or disposal method compatible with local codes. Local waste districts will usually have drop off locations for residents. Regional processors such as Sirona Fuels in N. California or The Alternative Fuel Foundation in the Northeastern U.S. can provide you with locations for delivery, and in some cases will even pick up smaller quantities of oil. See links below for more info.

For small restaurants, with a low-to-mid volume of used oil, the best solution is to drain the cooled oil to a bucket and transfer either to the original containers or out to a 55 gallon drum in the dock area for collection. Drums are usually provided free of charge by the collector. A tremendous step up from schlepping buckets of oil around is to use an oil transport unit, available from the prominent fryer manufacturers, which includes a spill resistant tank and a pump for transfer from the fryer to the collection vessel.

For larger frying programs, such as an operator with several fryers and a mid-to-high volume of used oil, a direct plumbed oil transport system could be considered. This type of arrangement greatly improves workplace safety as it eliminates the handling of hot oil and prevents dangerous spills. Cleanliness is also enhanced and careless dripping and spills are prevented. Used for decades by most major fast food companies, we have found that institutional operators and facilities managers are generally pleased with the direct plumbed systems for the same reasons.

The direct plumbed system connects the collection tank, available in 100 – 300 gallon versions and located near the pickup or dock area, directly to the fryer or fryer battery. Keep in mind the fryers must have a pumped filter system with installed 3-way valve to pump oil out. Alternatively, there are other methods, such as a wall-mounted pump station adjacent to the fryer(s). The pump station usually includes a wand, which can be inserted into the fryer vat to pump out the used oil, transporting it directly through the pipes to the collection tank on the dock.  Coordination between fryer manufacturer, plumber and oil collection company is required for a properly installed system.  Check out the links below for more information and options.

Collection Tank Options
As mentioned above, various tanks such as the basic 55 gallon drum or a mobile +-100 gallon mobile tanks are usually offered at no charge by the oil collection companies who are eager to contract with operators. Frontline International and Darling/Cleanstar also sell the larger more sophisticated tanks for direct plumbed systems. Features include safety valve systems, fill gauges, overfill alarms, line heating systems and more. Darling recently introduced an indoor 200 gallon “BOSS spacesaver” oil collector. The 48” x 27” footprint unit combines functionality as an oil storage tank while supporting wire shelves from front mounted standards and is designed to accommodate small facilities who might not have the space for other methods. Links to several equipment suppliers’ websites can be found below.

To prevent the likelihood of oil reaching the ground water or sewer systems, local codes often require secondary containment systems for outdoor tanks or waste oil holding areas. Some tanks have integral dual wall containment. Used oil receptacles should generally be placed in covered areas with basins to capture spills or overruns. For smaller venues with limited space, this can be a major challenge. A plastic weather proof containment system designed for a 55 gallon drum is a low cost solution. A link to a manufacturer website is provided below. Always check with local authorities for requirements.

Whichever tank collection system is used, a collection truck will come periodically with suction equipment to remove the oil or they may switch out the smaller tanks or drums. Larger collection tanks can be plumbed to a convenient location where the collection truck’s suction hose can connect. Large collection tankers have suction capacity that allow emptying of the collection tanks in a matter of minutes.

Remember to get complete information about collection tank alternatives, location access requirements, and spill clean-up procedures before signing a collection company contract.

Onsite Biodiesel Processors and Oil Powered Generators
This year’s National Restaurant Association Show’s Kitchen Innovation winner in this area featured the Springboard Biodiesel Processor which produces high grade ASTM biodiesel in a small footprint fully automated process. For a larger facility this may be the way to go – efficiently transforming your used oil to fuel for your vehicles.

 The Vegawatt, an NRA Kitchen Innovation Award Winner from 2010, converts used oil to power and heating.

In principal these innovative technologies makes great sense, but should be looked at carefully to assure appropriate sizing per your oil usage, return on investment and equipment reliability references. See links below for more info.

What’s Next?
By saving waste vegetable oils and converting them to energy and fuel  – restaurants and other food service facilities take their efforts a step further – from saving energy to creating energy.  We will be looking forward to seeing further innovations in equipment, systems and operational practices that will encourage foodservice operators to generate renewable resources.

Links and Resources
The links below are examples relevant to the subject matter. Please note they are not meant to be comprehensive nor are we endorsing any suppliers. – Tips on cleaning and maintaining your grease interceptor 

USDA Weekly Yellow Grease Commodity Pricing Report (commodity pricing source)

 Waste Vegetable Oil Collection – Services and Equipment 

Alternative Fuel Foundation – N. Eastern U.S..

 Darling Industries – National Grease Management 6 11 08.pdf

 Frontline International – National – (Equipment Only)

 Sirona Fuels – N. California Area

 Yokayo Biofuels – N. California Area 

 Spill Containment System for 55 Gallon Drum

 Vegawatt – Cogeneration Device

 Springboard Biodiesel – Biodiesel Processing Devices


By: William V. Eaton, FFCSI – Chairman of the Board, Washington, DC Office
And Nahum Goldberg – Senior Associate, San Francisco Office

Culinary Schools tend to have a personality all to themselves, driven to a great extent by a combination of the teaching faculty and the history of the school itself.  Schools with decades, and in some cases centuries of history, have a strong basis in tradition.  That does not say that they are not forward thinking, just that there is history and tradition to be considered as they continue to mature.   Newer schools tend to look at the historic leaders for guidance and direction and then strive to match, or even surpass, the cornerstone institutions.  Each seems to find its place in the fabric of Culinary excellence, providing a firm basis in culinary skills and then fostering the individual growth of the student so that he or she can attain the position in the industry that fits the skills and passion exhibited.  

As we work with culinary schools across North America, we form a partnership with the various stakeholders including faculty and administration in order to define the ultimate goals of the institution and then work carefully to provide the tools necessary to meet the vision.  Standards of design often relate to the class size and individual laboratory and student workspace as well as how the workstations are developed and whether students work individually, in pairs, or occasionally in groups of four, or even six.  There is no “right” configuration, but one that meets the teaching format of the faculty.  Some important elements and considerations include accessible workstations, teaching and demonstration stations with maximal visibility by students, and the inclusion of 21st century technology options such as smart cameras and screens for demo stations, prep and cooking cams to view the Café kitchen, POS/printers/communications technologies in the Café, and where applicable, the infrastructure for educational recordings and broadcasts.  These details are narrowed down as a direct result of our research in the early programming phases. Generally, as the faculty and instructors download their ideas, we are able to combine and sort them into the best arrangement for each teaching application. 

The most significant trends in the industry relate to preparing the students for the vast array of culinary options that currently exist and are changing and expanding daily. While not every student is destined to be a highly acclaimed chef, just as not every athlete is destined to be an Olympic Medalist, none should be dissuaded from aspiring to that position.  Teaching laboratories require the best in equipment, a variety of manufacturers, and a variety of fuels. Flexibility in design is key to “future-proofing” the facility as menu, curriculum and area usages change over time.  This can be achieved by making cooking equipment mobile, plug-and-play and not built-in.  Utility systems (power, water, fire suppression systems and drains) can be placed at key locations to allow for equipment changes.  Worktables and other items can be put on casters with ceiling mounted cord reels.  In the end though, most students will find themselves to have seen their best kitchen while in school until such time as they have the backing to build their own restaurant or are fortunate enough to be selected to open a new property. 

The industry is focused on sustainability although no one is quite sure what that means.  To many it is simply “being green” yet the lengths one goes to attain that goal determines the seriousness of the commitment.   Fresh ingredients obtained locally is a big step, so a well-designed deboxing and washing station should be included for vegetable sanitation for local produce deliveries.  The behind-the-scenes actions of energy and water conservation, composting and recycling are important lessons as well and should be designed into the facility. A direct plumbed used cooking oil disposal system should be considered, providing a better product for biodiesel recycling in a safer, cleaner manner. 

One cannot ignore the importance of eating healthy food and making healthy choices in order to combat the problems facing the nation relative to the combined impact of obesity and hunger.   Working for a better nation and world through the knowledge of food done well cannot be overemphasized.  The culinary school environment should be one where students learn today’s methods and are inspired to create a better tomorrow.

By:  Nahum Goldberg, LEED GA
Senior Associate – San Francisco, CA

Synopsis:  One area of innovation particularly relevant to my work is that of farm fresh produce sanitizing solutions for medium to small commercial kitchens. This is an up and coming food safety issue as more operations go Farm to Fork.

Why Sanitizing Produce is Becoming More of An Issue

Ready-to-eat packaged produce is being replaced with field fresh items that need deboxing and washing. This takes us back to the days before large produce processing plants began washing, cleaning, cutting and sanitizing our produce and delivering this convenience in sealed bags. Today, most of our clients are looking for fresh, in season, local farm-produced items. Our chef partners and their clients want to see and smell the source of the products. They want to step out into the muddy field and pick it themselves – and then flaunt their muddied field clothes to their clients.  Farm to Fork, transparency, reduced carbon footprint from transportation, greater freshness, local connection to seasonality and nature, social responsibility  – all these points are gaining momentum in the retail and institutional dining food industry and what is better to express these values than to support your local farm. But don’t forget to clean and sanitize the produce because the big daddy packaging plant is moving out of the picture.

Produce + Pathogens = Danger on Your Table

It did not take much research in the matter to learn that during a ten-year period from 1998 – 2007 the Centers for Disease Control recorded 684 outbreaks (an outbreak is more than 2 people sickened by the same source) involving 26,735 cases of illness from pathogen-contaminated produce. Over this period, produce was actually the second most common source of foodborne outbreaks, with total cases of illness nearly equaling all cases from poultry, beef and pork combined! So next time your stomach goes south, don’t necessarily blame that chicken, burger or porkchop because the source might have been the fresh garnish such as a sliced tomato, leaf of lettuce or chopped parsley…

Produce contamination can be very difficult to combat as fruits and vegetables are often served raw, without the heating or cooking which kills most pathogens. On top of that, produce has irregular shapes, oftentimes with nooks and crannies that can harbor  pathogens. And another thing we should know – cutting contaminated produce transfers the problem into the interior so wait until after it is cleaned and sanitized and use sanitized utensils.

So How Do We Set Up A Kitchen to Deal With This Problem?

In my role as a commercial kitchen designer, I am putting in a dedicated produce wash station in almost every application. Kind of reminds me of the days before packaged produce had inundated the commercial market.  Some areas of the world are still like that  –  washing and sanitizing everything – and there is a thriving equipment industry supporting this. Italian Nilma or German Kronen are great examples, both with products serving commercial kitchens and larger industrial applications.

Equipment, Means and Methods

Produce sanitizing options are varied with the most basic equipment solution being a worktable with a 2-compartment sink and a good pre-rinse faucet. Fruit and produce washing and sanitizing must precede slicing, cutting or other mechanical manipulation of the product.   The large packaged salad provider, Fresh Express, sponsored a symposium in Monterey, California in 2008 and presented 12 different research studies, two of which demonstrated how cutting, cubing or slicing prior to surface wash and sanitization enables pathogens to enter the vascular system of the plant. Light removal of outer leaves is  advisable as a first step.

But back to the equipment story… Moving up from the basic sink washing station we see integrated sinks with turbulent water wash pumps, sometimes with water chillers. Cold water is key to keeping the produce firm and better prepared for slicing or other mechanical processing. Continuous temperature control is advisable if the product will not be served for more than 4-6 hours after the processing. Ice is often added to the process water, and one should keep in mind, ice can be a source of contamination if not handled properly. Then there are basket and lift systems. Some systems, like Powersoak’s “Produce Soak” system and Steelkor/Duke’s “Xgreen”, in addition to using sophisticated turbulence pumps, integrate various chemical solutions as sanitizing agents and have procedural aids and monitoring systems built-in that assist in tracking for HACCP and assure a proper process has taken place. Nilma offers a two-basin system with controlled agitation which does not use chemicals, and they tout a very high level of success in removing pathogens. Nilma is reportedly moving forward with additional models for use in the growing US market.

Creating Pathogen Killing…  Water

Perceptions about chemical sanitizing of our fresh produce are sometimes negative. No one wants to tell their client that the lettuce just came out of a sanitizing solution or chemical treatment even if they are FDA approved, organic and totally non toxic.  It seems the next step would naturally be to seek out a solution to sanitizing that eliminates the need for chemicals. Enter Ozone and ECA generators into the produce stations.  San Jamar is offering its Saf-T-Wash System which is an ozone generator that provides ozonated water to rinse produce. No chemicals are used or washed down the drain. This is for soaking and final rinse systems. Produce should be soaked, rinsed and freed of any particles or oils. MVP from Montreal presented a recirculating sink set up with chilled, ozonated water.  They use their GO03 model WMS and also have an acivated carbon recirculating vent system so as ozone is released from the turbulent wash tank, it is drawn into the system and inactivated so staff is not exposed to ozone emissions that can otherwise present adverse health effects. There are Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) permissable exposure limits for ozone which must be met and the manufacturers must comply. Ozone has been shown to be a highly effective and fast acting oxidizing agent.  But like many things, controls are needed to protect safety and health.

Another “chemical free” system is Electro-Chemical Activation (ECA). These on-site devices use inputs of salt water and low voltage power to produce two non-toxic streams of elecrolytes.  One is a natural surfactant, the other a broad spectrum sanitizer. Coupled to a produce washing process, this rinsing system kills harmful bacteria and inactivates virus in a short time.  Most are inactivated on contact but additional contact time is advisable to better ensure reductions below infective levels.   The washing process may include rubbing, turbulence and spraying. The ECA rinse at the final stage helps seal the deal, reducing chances for cross-contamination. The ECA and ozone generator systems can be used in equipment sanitizing processes as well. Word is there are systems under development integrating the two solutions.

An ultrasonic system, under development in the late 90’s, was shelved when vibrations from the process transmitted through the sinks and tables and had adverse effects on welds and seams and the cost to integrate dampening made this enhancement impractical.  Some entrepreneurial group will likely find a way to overcome those detractions in the future.

Treat Your Produce Well and It Will Last Longer

All of the above solutions claim a longer shelf life is given to produce and that makes lots of sense – wash it properly, remove the  pathogens and it will stay fresher longer. Additionally, drying is a critical step for leafy products and various drying solutions exist from tabletop to large-scale machines.  Several centrifuge type systems exist today, and they are critical to extending shelf life of produce whenever there will be more than a day between processing and consumption.

Produce (Sanitation) is a Growing Issue

So, produce sanitizing is a growing concern.  Most of my clients are totally ‘on board’ with sourcing the local produce, though not all have realized the need for the careful sanitizing process. Others are aware of the threat of contamination, but have not found a viable, safe method or system.  It won’t take long for people to catch on and address the issue a bit more seriously. In the meantime we are designing the eqiupment solutions into our projects and many capable suppliers with varied equipment and peripheral solutions are lining up to meet the needs.

For further info check out the following:

Useful References

Equipment and Systems Providers


By:  Nahum Goldberg
Senior Associate
San Francisco Office

One might ask what does commercial foodservice facility design have to do with seismic safety. Here in California there is a lot happening in this arena. As in many other areas such as energy and sustainability, California seems to have taken the lead in engineering for seismic safety as well – in the U.S. at least – and not only in the large-scale public and institutional projects.

Earthquakes are a fact of life and like any other hazard, people try and deal with them and mitigate the potential losses. The level of damage has to do with the magnitude and depth of the seismic event and the preparedness of and integrity of the structures affected. No doubt, stricter building codes and their enforcement help reduce the damage. Still, even when structures remain standing and usable, infrastructures are damaged, heavy equipment toppled and those in the vicinity suffer the consequences.

In order to prevent items from flying or falling on people during an earthquake and to reduce the overall damage, engineers prescribe anchorage or bracing methods for everything, from wall shelving to walk-in coolers, to hoods, and even for countertop equipment such as coffee urns and mixers. 

Until recently, the requirement for seismic bracing of equipment was most prevalent in state funded schools, hospitals and other public institutions.  Private projects rarely required seismic anchorage, but this may be changing. In recent months, a local city building department has focused its efforts on anchorage enforcement citing the California Building Code.  Plan check comments expressly required engineering of anchorage for all equipment heavier than 400 lbs and taller than 5’-9”. Until now, this type of enforcement was virtually unheard of in private projects. One does not need a seismograph to sense the rumblings of change.

Seismic Engineering – The realm of the Structural Engineer

Building codes prescribe necessary anchorage performance and design criteria. The new 2007 California Building Code (CBC) requirements aren’t quite as simple as the last version.  Instead of relying on USGS seismic zones for each locale’s design requirements, the 2007 CBC now uses “seismic design categories” which are determined based on SDS (the spectral response acceleration parameter at short periods) and the Occupancy Category.  This is not the lingo of the average foodservice designer. Thus for the Foodservice Design Consultant, working together with the Structural Engineer is becoming more critical in creating the tailored anchorage solutions for each application.

The Code Enforcement Leaders – California School and Hospital Agencies

For obvious reasons of public safety and facility preparedness, schools and hospitals have led the way with the most stringent safety and anchorage requirements.  Unfortunately, to the dismay of designers and contractors, much of the implementation has been left to the individual inspector’s interpretation of the codes and, as there is a limited body of knowledge and precedence rulings, some of the decisions have appeared to be exceeding the intent as interpreted by the designers and users.

California’s Division of State Architect (DSA) provides design and construction oversight for K-12 schools and community colleges and various other state-owned facilities. This is a particularly scrutinized sector with special requirements and review processes.

Even more stringent than the DSA is the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). Based in the state capital, Sacramento, OSHPD’s Facilities Development Division (FDD) reviews and inspects health facility construction and enforces California Building Standards code, as they relate to health facilities construction.  Both OSHPD and DSA have come out with a few welcome guidelines and standardized solutions to specific foodservice equipment applications – such as the DSA’s Interpretation of Regulation (IR) A-14 on Walk-in Box anchorage.

OSHPD’s guideline has Pre-Approval listings (OPA’s) for anchorage methods for certain equipment used in hospitals. This preapproval is a boon to architects or designers specifying vital equipment solutions. Unfortunately, few if any kitchen equipment items have OPA’s. The old “R” numbers, which predate the OPA’s, have been discontinued and are no longer valid for new projects. Where one R number used to cover a manufacturer’s high density shelving unit, today each high density unit would require a structural anchorage design stamped and signed by a state licensed Structural Engineer – taking into account structural characteristics of the building, location of the item, size and loaded weight of the equipment.

As Foodservice Design Consultants, our experience with the intricacies related to the anchorage and installation options and idiosyncrasies of the specific code review bodies are of considerable value in keeping a project on schedule and in control of the budget.  For health care and school projects we generally provide info on the loaded weight and dimensions for each equipment item. With this information and the equipment spec sheet, the project Structural Engineer proceeds to design anchorage methods for shelving, wall mounted handsinks, walk-ins, hoods – everything above a certain weight or height as listed in the applicable code. Some items may be held for deferred submittal, once the supplier is chosen and field conditions verified. Certain manufacturers will provide stamped anchorage drawings for a fee, or with the understanding that they will be the supplier.

For the items below the code weight and height prescriptions, anchorage per manufacturer’s recommendations or per the older (2001 edition) Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractor’s National Association (SMACNA) standard foodservice anchorage details are usually accepted. The SMACNA details have been around for years – word is that they are currently updating the anchorage guideline for national use and that it would adopt the most stringent guidelines, namely those of the current California Building Codes. 

As in other areas of code enforcement, more standardization would ultimately reduce confusion, expedite the work and save valuable time and money for everyone involved. In the meantime, as long as many of the decisions are left to individual inspectors, designers will continue to cover the topic in general terms in their specifications and the contractors and kitchen equipment installers will continue to fight the battles on each project. So another role of the Foodservice Design Consultant is to foresee and preempt these issues early on, and with proper specification and coordination avoid project delays and added costs – especially considering the extremely long code review processes with the public agencies and growing Contractor pushback.

New building should remain intact, but what about operability of vital equipment and services … and kitchens?

Due to more stringent building codes and engineering techniques, newer buildings are expected to remain standing after a major seismic event – but what about continued safe operation of the vital infrastructure and equipment? There is a greater awareness and focus now on continued operability of equipment and parts thereof. For all OSHPD projects, Special Seismic Certification Preapproval (SSC) of certain vital equipment and components that are part of the designated seismic system is required.  At this point in time, only active mechanical and electrical components that must remain operable following an earthquake require an SSC. Certification of these items can be attained in a standards testing lab with actual shake testing (!).  These SSC items might include ventilation systems, fire protection systems and the like, but with the intent of the code being that the facility must be reasonably capable of providing services to the public after a disaster, we may see this expand someday to include the dish machine, the ovens, kettles, ranges, refrigeration and exhaust systems.    

Will kitchens be included in “vital equipment” in critical service facilities, such as hospitals where we surely need services up and running immediately after a major shaking event? State code does require emergency and disaster plans for the hospital foodservices and the appropriate licensing authorities review and enforce this but they may not necessarily depend on all the equipment working so other temporary solutions must be planned for.

No one argues the importance of proper anchorage solutions – to keep the equipment from moving or falling on someone during a quake and potentially to allow for operability after a quake.  However, as codes change and enforcement intensifies, and as project budgets are tightly monitored, it takes an experienced team to avoid project delays and added costs throughout this complex process. In the future, considering the direction codes and safety concerns are going, commercial foodservice consultants may find ourselves specifying a whole new breed of seismically certified foodservice equipment designed to switch on and operate perfectly following what we call in California – “The Next Big One”.

Resources and Links:

Link to OSHPD SSC presentation

Link to shake testing videos

Link to DSA website

Link to DSA Interpretation of Regulations Doc IR A-14

Link to USGS website

Link to OSHPD Facilities Development Division website

Link to SMACNA website