|Holding: Not a “Dirty Word” Anymore
The term “holding” has often been associated with quick serve restaurants or a shameful secret that no well-trained chef would admit to. We surveyed 369 chefs from around the country to find out if holding is still a “dirty” word in today’s kitchen. 70% of those surveyed were executive chefs or chef/owners at restaurants that ranged from fine dining to upscale casual and private country clubs to hotels.
Fifty percent cited a holding cabinet as an essential piece of equipment in the kitchen and 54% utilize them during daily operations. Due to the fact that 72% of those surveyed have the need to rest meats or proteins during service, most chefs reported relying on a holding cabinet during peak times or throughout service to hold food at the proper and safe temperature before plating. In fact, temperature control was the number one benefit of holding cabinets while service volume and moisture retention were also popular attributes of holding cabinets. Some chefs have turned to holding cabinets for slow cooking proteins. Sixty-five percent cited needing multiple environments, moist and dry heat, during the holding process which explains the growing popularity of combi ovens, often times replacing holding cabinets.
When asked about the perception of holding, 64% of chefs thought it was acceptable. An additional 21% remarked that holding was necessary when it comes to large functions or preparing certain foods. But the term “holding” often gets a negative connotation in the kitchen due to misuse, lack of training and food safety issues. It’s also believed that holding cabinets can diminish the quality of the food. Negative perceptions aside, many chefs complained that they don’t have sufficient holding equipment to serve their needs, while others still believe holding cabinets are strictly for fast food restaurants, which is where they got their introduction into the food service industry.
Surprisingly, space requirement was the biggest factor that dissuaded chefs from using a holding cabinet, followed by food quality and difficulty to clean. Ninety-two percent of all respondents would accept holding in their restaurants if these issues could be overcome and believe that advancements in technology will play a role in making holding more common at all levels of restaurants.
“The term "holding" does have a negative connotation, but with current techniques and equipment it doesn't have to be. With the CVAP, immersion circulator, Gastrovac, et al. they can be used to cook and hold food at their perfect temperatures versus the old school thought of a huge hotel hot box filled with dinners two hours prior to an event.”
- Executive Chef Patrick Sheerin of The Signature Room in Chicago, IL
“I could go either way on this, but in my operation holding is necessary. Unfortunately, with all of the different foodservice options and cooks’ abilities, holding food isn't an option, it's a necessity.”
- Executive Chef Anuj Kapoor of a resort in New Delhi, India
“Food should be cooked to order; food is an artisan craft, not meant for volume. Leave the food for the monoculture to fast food.”
- Chef/Owner Jason Logan of Bistro Corlise of Bend, OR
Fine Dining/Upscale Casual - 75%
Hotels/Clubs - 22%
Quick Serve - 8%
Caterers - 6%