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Bravo restaurant hooked on cold-storage drawer for fish

Arefrigerated drawer that keeps fish handy for cooks on the line and remains consistently cold, even when it is opened repeatedly, is contributing to greater efficiency, reduced waste and improved food safety at one Jackson, Miss., dining spot. Dan Blumenthal, executive chef and co-owner of Bravo Italian Restaurant and Bar here, has used the Randell FX Series refrigerated drawer to store fish for about three months in a beta test with Unified Brands, the Jackson-based equipment manufacturer and parent of Randell.

“I like the way it holds temperature consistently,” Blumenthal said. “No matter how often you open it, it stays at 33 degrees Fahrenheit.”

He sets the temperature for optimum quality and food safety.

“It gives me peace of mind because I know someone isn’t going to sell a marginal piece of fish,” he said.

The drawer is so consistent, he said, that he doesn’t need to transfer fish from the drawer to the walk-in cooler each night, as he did with his former fish storage unit. That version was a conventional three-door refrigerator that didn’t maintain as cold a temperature.

The device is essentially a single drawer with an insulated, removable insert. It slides into a rectangular unit that holds the compressor. It is integrated into the Bravo cooking line as the base of a six-burner cooktop that is the sauté station. The insert has three cubic feet of storage capacity for different varieties of fish.

“They find it very easy to pull out the drawer, take out what they need and push it closed with a knee,” Blumenthal said.

Storing fish underneath the sauté station has an ergonomic advantage over the former setup, in which fish were kept in a refrigerator a few steps down the line. Saving even a few steps matters on Bravo’s busy line, where eight cooks jostle for workspace and an average dinner shift can include 275 covers.

“It’s much more efficient to have the fish stored right there,” Blumenthal said.

Sautéed items like the Panéed Redfish for $21.95 and Pan-Seared Jumbo Scallops for $23.95 are big hits at Bravo, which Blumenthal describes as “mid- to fine-dining Italian.” It has an average dinner check of $27 to $30, including alcoholic beverages. Annual sales are $3 million.

Blumenthal said the drawer insert is designed to keep cold air in contact with the food even when open. The cold temperature gives fish an extra day or more of storage life than it had stored in the old refrigerator, which used to reach 40 degrees Fahrenheit after repeated door opening. Because he throws away less fish, he believes he is saving money, although he hasn’t calculated how much yet.

Another feature he likes is the unit’s easy cleaning. The insert can be removed, hosed down and sanitized without getting the refrigeration mechanism wet. Blumenthal said he did not know how long the beta test would continue. Unified Brands has provided the drawer at no cost for the duration.

“If there’s any downside, it’s the lack of a rack inside to hold pans of food,” Blumenthal said. “It’s just one huge tub.”

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