Dawn Before the Darkness: What the Upcoming Solar Eclipse Means for Food Service Operators

On the morning of August 21st the sun over California will dim by about 70% as America experiences its first coast-to-coast solar eclipse since 1979. Back in the 70’s, solar was a futuristic technology, but now we are living in that future and on some days, California meets as much as 40% of its electric demand with solar power1. No one knows exactly what effect the loss of solar radiation will have on the State’s electric grid but best guesses put the loss of peak generation at about 6000 Megawatts or enough electricity to power up 6 million homes2.

Don’t worry, the folks who operate California’s electric grid have been planning for this event and will ramp up natural gas and hydroelectric generators to make up for the lost solar power. They do not anticipate any power outages or brown-outs but, they will have to keep a sharp eye on the continuously changing solar supply and adjust the power mix carefully as the moon’s shadow passes over the State2.

The eclipse will be a big event for astronomers and science nerds like me (I have already ordered my Bill Nye Eclipse Glasses) but, the spike in carbon output, as those natural gas-fired power plants are turned on, is kind of a bittersweet side effect. I plan to help ease the load on the grid that morning by turning off any unnecessary lights and deferring other electric use – like clothes washing and drying and dishwashing until later that evening.

As a commercial food service operator, you can do your part to make up for the missing solar by taking a few simple actions. As a bonus, you will also save money even when the solar comes back online and you will still be cutting carbon. Here are a few easy ways to save electricity:

  1. Install efficient lighting: If you haven’t already upgraded to LED lighting, now is the time. You can definitely screw in some LED replacement lamps between now and August 21st. For some really big bang-for-the-buck, replace those 60 watt incandescent Edison lamps with 4 watt LED Edison lamps – that’s a 15-fold reduction in electric power use. Also be sure to turn off any unneeded lights (empty dining rooms, storerooms, offices) or signage.

  2. Clean your refrigeration coils: Really dirty coils can double the electricity use of your coolers and freezers. It’s easy to clean the coils and it will also make your equipment last longer. This is particularly important since refrigeration energy use is directly related to outdoor temperature. If August 21st turns out to be a hot day, then clean coils will take even more load off the electric grid.

  3. Make sure the temperature in your refrigerators and freezers is set properly – don’t overcool – and during the eclipse, try not to load your boxes or run your defrost cycle. Keeping compressor use at a minimum that morning will take a big load of the system.

  4. Don’t turn your exhaust hoods on until you need them: Wait until you fire up your appliances before turning on your exhaust hoods. Running the hoods when they are not required is a waste of fan power.

  5. Service your air conditioning units: Poor maintenance is a major cause of rooftop AC unit failure and a drag on the electric grid. Get a preventive maintenance plan in place before the <21st and tune up your AC units. Then on the morning of the 21st, try to raise the AC setpoint a degree or two if possible – just until a little before noon. The sun will be close to full brightness by noon and you can lower the temperature for lunch service if you need to.

  6. Be very efficient with your Dishmachine operations: Load your racks as fully as possible so you run fewer racks through the machine. This is especially important for high temperature dishmachines that have both electric tank heaters and electric booster heaters.

There may be an effort by organizations opposed to renewable energy to use this eclipse as an example of why renewable energy is not a good idea. But, the bottom line is that the eclipse will not take down the electric system and it will not disrupt commercial food service operations. Still, if you believe that renewable energy is an important part of California’s energy future, and you are interested in limiting carbon emissions, saving money and sending a positive message, then please join me on Monday morning, August 21st as we walk lightly on our electric system and also step outside to witness a truly amazing astronomical phenomenon. You’ll be able to spot me – I’ll be the one with the nerdy Eclipse Glasses on!

1 A Solar Eclipse Could Wipe Out 9,000 Megawatts of Power Supplies by Naureen S Malik, July 13th 2017, Bloomberg Technology: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-14/a-solar-eclipse-could-wipe-out-9-000-megawatts-of-power-supplies

2 Solar power will take a hit during the Aug. 21 eclipse, June 9th 1017, Washington Post Health and Science: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/solar-power-will-take-a-hit-during-the-aug-21-eclipse/2017/06/09/0f43c9aa-4c7c-11e7-9669-250d0b15f83b_story.html?utm_term=.f6207dadd498

Wasting Away: Reducing Food (and Energy) Waste for Restaurants

Richard Young, Director of Education


The Food Service Tecnology Center (FSTC) held two educational seminars in June covering the relationship between food and energy waste. The seminar at the PG&E facility in San Ramon featured presentations from the FSTC’s Richard Young and Claudia Pingatore who were joined by guest speakers Samantha Sommers (ReThink Disposable), Mike Goldblatt (Copia), Kerry Flickner (Foodservice Sustainability Solutions), and Anne Baker & Kimberly Lam (Republic Waste Services). At the San Diego presentation, Richard Young was joined by Ana Carvalho from the City of San Diego and Island Restaurants’ Mike Schuster.

A variety of food and energy waste-related subjects were presented during the two sessions including composting, recycling, hardware technologies for reducing pre- and post-consumer food waste streams, software solutions for food rescue, and reducing the use of disposables. The discussion was lively and the speakers covered all aspects of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. The big take-away: “Reduce” is by far the most cost effective and sustainable approach to cutting food waste. That said, it was agreed among all participants that there is still work to be done to improve consumer behavior/expectations, kitchen inventory management, and worker training before significant food waste reduction becomes a reality.

Republic Waste

Anne Baker (left) & Kimberly Lam with Republic Waste Services present at the FSTC food waste seminar on June 14th, 2017 in San Ramon, CA.

One interesting question that the FSTC asked concerned the relationship between pre-consumer food waste and energy use in the kitchen. Specifically, if you cook less food, does that lower the energy bill? Using the FSTC online cost calculators, we ran a series of simulations on different appliances in which the amount of food cooked was reduced by 10%. The results varied for different types of appliances, but a 10% reduction in food cooked resulted in an average 4% reduction in energy use – demonstrating that food waste reduction does have an impact on the energy bill. This also reinforced the fact that, from a sustainability standpoint, everything in the commercial kitchen relates to everything else and nothing can be taken for granted.

While 4% is not a huge number, it’s not trivial and certainly helps the bottom line. If you combine pre-consumer food waste reduction with a tight appliance ON/OFF schedule, it’s not hard to cut energy use by 5% to 10% across the cookline. Food waste reduction is THE hot topic in the foodservice sustainability world and for good reason: it’s something everyone can agree on and it’s a challenge for which there are numerous good solutions.

Foodservice Sustainability Solutions

Kerry Flickner with Foodservice Sustainability Solutions explains how their equipment technologies can be used to reduce the waste stream created by commercial foodservice.

Here’s a list of resources to help get you started on your own food waste reduction journey:

The PG&E FSTC champions Meals on Wheels while Promoting Energy Efficiency

Mark Duesler, Chef Consultant/Program Advisor

markdOn Sunday May 21st, the PG&E Food Service Technology Center was invited by The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards to help support their booth at the 30th annual Meals On WheelsStar Chefs and Vintners Gala donor event at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco.

For those not familiar with Meals on Wheels, it is a program dedicated to providing seniors with friendly visits and nutritious meals. Their mission is to fight against senior neglect and malnutrition. As a way to help fund the project, they hold the Star Chefs and Vintners Gala annually, which has become a culinary who’s-who event for San Francisco. The Bay Area’s biggest chefs and winemakers come out to give donors an extraordinary culinary experience as a show of appreciation. It starts with a reception featuring small, savory bites paired with local wines and moves to a plated dinner prepared by some of San Francisco’s finest chefs. This year’s event included dishes from Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions and Thomas McNaughton of Flour and Water among many others. All in all, the event raised nearly $3.2 million for Meals on Wheels, which will result in some 640,000 prepared and delivered meals for seniors across San Francisco.


Pastry Chef, Melissa Duesler, and Executive Chef, Mike Ward, of The Restaurant at Wente prepared beet macarons with deviled egg filling, Passmore Ranch caviar, and garden chive blossoms for Meals on Wheels’ Star Chefs and Vintners Gala on Sunday May 21st in San Francisco.

This was a rare opportunity for the PG&E FSTC to gain exposure with some of San Francisco’s premier restaurants that may not know of the FSTC’s various consulting services like our new equipment demo program, Try Before You Buy, and our upcoming educational seminars, which are free to PG&E customers. The event was a fantastic way for us to give back to the community, while also having a chance to work alongside the chefs and operators we look to serve. It also gives us a chance to find out what challenges or projects they are working on. Whether it be to save money on energy, streamline their operation, or tackle labor and consistency issues, we can offer viable solutions or resources to point them in the right direction.

Anyone who knows restaurant operators, knows that time is of the essence and being able to meet with them before and after the event was extremely valuable. As a former chef at Wente, I’m fortunate to still have such a strong relationship with the organization and the chef team. The ongoing FSTC connection with Wente has been a real gateway into finding and helping restaurants understand the mission of the FSTC and what we can do to help them save energy and money. As such, we are looking forward to supporting more events of this type in the future.

For more pictures from the event, please click here.

On This Earth Day…

Claudia Pingatore, Energy Analyst


On Earth Day, we pay respect to the bounty and beauty of our world.

Here at the FSTC, environmental stewardship is at the foundation of our daily work to educate and incentivize the foodservice industry to use energy and water more efficiently. It’s important for all of us – even the busy kitchen operator – to step back and remind ourselves of why we work to protect the environment.

We all rely on Earth’s resources for our lives and our livelihoods—our economy, our culture, and our quality of life are directly related to our environment. If the Earth suffers, we suffer with it. It’s easy to forget this intimate relationship in our daily lives, especially when we have control over our immediate surroundings. We have to look outward – to glacial recession, extreme weather events like severe drought becoming commonplace, and the extinction of otherwise healthy species – to recognize the impact our behavior has on the planet and the impact climate change can have on us.

Impending doom aside, exercising environmental stewardship is an expression of appreciation, a humble “thank you” to the beautifully complex ecosystem that makes our world possible.

In turn, we’d like to express gratitude to the people that help us help the planet: the state government and utilities that recognize the importance of resource conservation, the ratepayers that support these efforts, and especially the business operators that care about their environmental influence.

Karen's Garden

An example of the FSTC’s ongoing commitment to waste diversion: The FSTC’s Karen Ravipaty takes spent coffee grounds from the lab to fertilize her home garden. Pictured above: Roses (left) and California poppies.

So, what now? Take action – even if its something small – to honor Earth Day! Here is a short list of ideas:

  • Go for a hike or a swim in a lake. Pick up some litter. Get a little dirty and embrace the elements.
  • Educate yourself! From FSTC’s seminars to a world of online resources, knowledge is within reach.
  • Eat out on Earth Day! Support restaurants in the Bay Area (and around the world) that have resolved to fight climate change by pledging $1 for every customer they serve on Earth Day to offset their carbon emissions and support the foodservice-centric, climate change-fighting non-profit, ZeroFoodprint.
  • Show your support for the international Paris Agreement (a cooperative plan to both mitigate and prepare for the effects of climate change), which turns 1 year old this Earth Day and is facing the possible withdrawal of American support.
  • Look for energy and water conserving opportunities in your facility, such as those listed in our DIY kitchen audit guide.
  • Publicly express some love for the planet and all its creatures – post a picture or statement about how your life is enhanced by a healthy environment.

Whatever you do, we would love to hear about it! Tweet us @FishnickFSTC #EarthDay

Equipment Maintenance: Too Many Stories to Tell…

Richard Young, Director of Education


I was recently invited to moderate a panel on Foodservice Maintenance and Repair at the Gas Foodservice Equipment Network’s (GFEN) Commercial Foodservice Workshop. The meeting was held at Piedmont Natural Gas’ (PNG) Demonstration Kitchen located in PNG’s John H. Maxheim Natural Gas Technology Center. Not only is this a great test kitchen with an excellent chef (Thanks Chef Doug Allen for all the good eats!), it is just up the road from the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association (CFESA) headquarters, which meant that CFESA’s Director of Training, Dan Reese, would be joining us as a panelist.

For anyone not familiar with CFESA, they are the U.S. trade association of professional service and parts distributors. Their mission is to train and certify service agents and work with manufacturers to make sure agents have the requisite technical resources and OEM parts. Considering how much a broken piece of kitchen equipment can hamper operations, having a knowledgeable service tech walk through the back door armed with the right tools and high-quality parts is a no-brainer. Your cousin’s wife’s neighbor may be a brilliant fix-all, but if your combination oven goes down, you need to be on the line with a CFESA trained and certified pro.

Joining Dan on the panel was Mick Jackson, a veteran technician and area manager for Whaley Foodservice out of Charlotte, NC. Both Mick and Dan are veteran service technicians, so I was truly looking forward to our session. In preparation for our panel, I read several Back Story articles in Foodservice Equipment Reports Magazine (one of my favorites is called Karate Kid, which you can check out here).

GFEN Panel

(Left to Right) CFESA’s Dan Reese, Whaley Foodservice’s Mick Jackson, and the FSTC’s Richard Young conduct a panel on Foodservice Maintenance & Repair at the GFEN Commercial Foodservice Workshop on April 5th, 2017 in Charlotte, NC.

Anticipating that both my panelists were great storytellers, I started by asking each about the “craziest thing they have ever seen on a service call.”

Dan immediately replied, “…what haven’t we seen? If you can name it, we’ve seen it! There are too many stories…” They proceeded to regale us with a collection of oddities and some major themes began to emerge:

  • Many appliances are not installed properly. A common story involved an operator adding new gas appliances to an existing service that was too small to accommodate them. A call to the service tech inevitably followed because the appliances would never reach cooking temperature. The moral: You do not have an infinite supply of gas or electricity coming into your kitchen!
  • Once installed, most appliances are never commissioned on start-up. Efficient combustion requires the right mix of fuel and air and every kitchen gas supply is a little different. Likewise, water using appliances require a certain water quality and composition that can change radically depending on locale. When you install a new appliance, you must work with a qualified technician if you want your appliance to live long and hit maximum food production.
  • Deferred Maintenance (appliance neglect) is the norm. Kitchen professionals know that this one needs no further explanation. Most appliances need regular TLC. Dan & Mick had plenty of stories about unwanted service calls related to deferred maintenance. Their bottom line on deferred maintenance: An expensive last-minute service call will definitely put you in a bad mood (please don’t take it out on the service technician).

Some good news: Horror stories are fun, but making money is more fun and the ultimate goal of our panel was to investigate how to reduce expensive and unnecessary service calls. Mick and Dan had good news for the audience. Technology is coming to the rescue and making it easier to:

  • Train service technicians using online, on-demand training modules.
  • Diagnose appliance failure using built-in control boards in newer, high-tech appliances.
  • Expand the knowledge base of service technicians using 3D electronic versions of service diagrams and exploded views loaded on laptops and tablets.
  • Track inventory and service records using RFID, scan codes, and databases.

Moving towards a technology-enhanced future will require foodservice operators to overcome their tendency to ignore appliance maintenance while service techs will need to embrace some new and unfamiliar tools, but the potential for energy, cost, and time savings will be worth it. Perhaps we will reconvene our panel in a few years and there will no longer be “too many stories to tell…” Hopefully, we will be down to just a few really good gems.

Foodservice Forecast 2017: Has Cutting Waste Become More Profitable Than Unit Growth?

Richard Young, Director of Education


The Food Service Technology Center kicked off 2017 with our annual Foodservice Forecast seminar featuring presentations by Foodservice Equipment Reports‘ Robin Ashton, the California Restaurant Association‘s Jot Condie and Jessica Lynam, and myself. This year’s seminar touched on the size and shape of the foodservice industry, challenges faced by California restaurateurs, and national sustainability trends.

During his Size and Shape of the Industry presentation, Robin noted that in 2016 Americans made 61 billion visits to restaurants, or about 189 visits per capita. That may seem like a lot, but despite high consumer confidence and strong personal disposable income numbers, 189 visits per capita represents a decline from the historical high of 210 visits in 2001. That drop in traffic is reflected in the fact that there are about 10,000 fewer restaurant units than the historical high of 635,000 back in 2014.


(Left to Right) FER’s Robin Ashton, CRA’s Jot Condie, the FSTC’s Richard Young, and CRA’s Jessica Lynam present the 2017 Foodservice Forecast at the FSTC in San Ramon, CA on January 10th, 2017.

In fact, much of the restaurant industry has been in contraction for the last few years with independents, mid-scale, and casual dining taking the biggest hits. Meanwhile, the overall commercial foodservice industry continues to expand with other commercial operators (e.g. supermarkets and lodging) and non-commercial operators (e.g. senior living facilities, universities, and hospitals) grabbing more consumer dollars. The bottom line for restaurant operators is that “…the U.S. restaurant market is the most mature and saturated in the world”* and “…sliding same-store sales have chains in all segments slowing unit growth.”* However, many of these operators are buying new equipment to replace the aging equipment they held onto during the industry down years after the “Great Recession”. As a result, the equipment and supplies market remains strong. In fact, operators are buying even more equipment than they predicted they would need.

Here’s why Robin’s message is so important: The restaurant industry is not going to be increasing profits based on unit growth in the coming years. This is a saturated market and most of the building is going to revolve around refurbishing and refreshing existing spaces. The real estate boom is over. However, there is still plenty of profit to be made by cutting energy waste. Every dollar saved on energy is a dollar in pure profit. You normally must sell about $20 of food to make a dollar of profit (5%), but a dollar saved on energy goes directly to the bottomline. If the entire commercial foodservice industry cut their energy bill by 1%, the resulting savings would amount to about $400 million in profit! The surprising conclusion is that cutting waste has become more profitable than unit growth. Therefore, during this time of stalled growth and heavy equipment purchases, it makes more sense than ever to pay attention to what you are buying and opt for the most energy efficient appliances.


Richard Young presents the 2017 Foodservice Forecast at the FSTC in San Ramon, CA on January 10th, 2017.

The PG&E Food Service Technology Center is a great resource for identifying efficient equipment. The Center’s website (www.fishnick.com) hosts a library of research reports, lists of efficient equipment, and online calculators to help you quantify the potential savings of more efficient equipment. There is plenty of profit to be had by restaurants that learn to use energy as effectively as possible.

*Source: Robin Ashton, Publisher, Foodservice Equipment Reports magazine.The Foodservice Equipment & Supplies Market: 2017 FER Forecast Update.

Organic Waste Recycling for Foodservice: What You Need To Know

Claudia Pingatore, Energy Analyst


Until 2016, commercial organic recycling was limited to the dedicated few. Now, thanks to California’s AB 1826, there is a centralized system that businesses, cities, and haulers can – and in some cases, must – partake in. Let’s talk about what that means for you.

What do I need to do?
If you produce 4 cubic yards* (the size of a standard commercial bin, not the smaller ‘cart’) or more of organic waste per week, you must separate and recycle that waste. This is usually done by purchasing the service from your hauler (existing or otherwise), and is what we will focus on here. This will involve learning what is accepted in your area, setting up the proper on-site infrastructure, and training your staff.

Here is a brief overview of the terms used by the various stakeholders in the world of organic waste recycling, which often cause confusion:

Organic matter comes from a living organism; food waste is one type of organic matter. When people differentiate between these two terms, they could be talking about other non-food organic waste streams like landscaping waste and cow manure.

Recycling is a general term referring to the breaking down of materials in order to produce something else with them. Composting can be considered a form of recycling. It refers specifically to the breakdown of biodegradable waste (e.g. all organic matter) for soil amendments. In the case of food waste, many refer to it as “recycling” because the product could also be used for energy instead of soil amendments.

Items that are biodegradable break down into their components via natural processes. A compostable item is a certain type of biodegradable item that breaks down relatively quickly into humus, a substance that enriches soil.

An extensive list of composting terms and their definitions can be found here.

What will this cost me?
Costs vary by region and hauler, but should be comparable to your recycling service fee. In some cases, such as here in San Ramon, a limited volume of organic recycling is included in your existing recycling rate, so that you don’t pay anything extra! In addition, added costs could potentially be offset by reduced landfill collection – if you have enough organic waste to fill a whole trash bin, you won’t need to pay for that bin anymore.

What goes in the organics recycling bin?
Food scraps and other eligible compostable waste go in the green bin – this is in addition to traditional ‘green waste’ from landscaping. Collectively, this is organic waste, and all organic waste goes in the same bin. Food scraps are easy – anything from coffee grounds to meat (including bones) to bread can be recycled. The tricky part is paper and products labelled “compostable”.

What about my other products, such as compostable serving ware?

  • Any food- or oil-soiled paper product (e.g. napkins, plates, and pizza boxes) is accepted in the organics bin.
  • Any unsoiled paper products should go in the regular recycling bin.
  • Lined paper products, such as coated paper plates, are complicated since some coatings are plastic and others, like wax, are compostable. Since it can be difficult (if not impossible) to tell what material the lining is, the current rule of thumb is to put clean/unused products in the regular recycling bin with other paper and plastic.
  • Other natural fibers such as bamboo are fine for composting, as long as they aren’t treated or combined with other materials.
  • Bioplastics that are labelled compostable may or may not be accepted: products that are third-party certified as compostable (look for the below labels) certainly should be, however, any without a certification are questionable.
  • The important thing to note here is that each hauler will have slight variations on what they can and cannot recycle, depending on the process they use. So start by going to your hauler. All major haulers have information online, often times downloadable signage as well, on what they will and won’t accept.

Potential confusion over the compostability of certain products is one reason reusable serving ware is always ideal. While many products are likely a non-issue, green-washing can cover up myriad chemicals that we don’t want getting mixed up in potential crop soil amendments. The other reason, of course, is the significantly lower lifetime environmental impact. But if reusables won’t work for your operation, be sure to buy disposable products that you know are indeed compostable. Look for the following labels when making these purchases:


How do I get my staff and co-workers on board?
Setting up a proper infrastructure on-site is the foundation of a successful organics recycling program. This includes:

  • Bin Placement: Put appropriately-sized green bins (or countertop pails) in all areas where food waste is frequently generated. Also, be sure to put green bins beside any other trash and recycling receptacles. Using uncoated paper bags or cardboard boxes is an alternative that requires less maintenance, since they can be thrown directly into the compost bin.


  • Bags: If buying bags, make sure they are compostable (contaminating organics with a plastic bag would be unfortunate after all that separating!). Go for heavy-duty versions as compostable bags are notoriously problematic with heavy loads. Alternatively, skip the bag altogether by dumping directly from the pails/bins.
  • Signage: Signage is essential for behavioral reinforcement. Put signs on all pails and bins, clearly noting it is for organic waste. The most effective signs rely on pictures rather than text – and the more customized to your particular waste stream, the better. You can request signage from your hauler or CalRecycle.
  • Manage the Waste: Dump bins frequently to avoid odor and pest issues. Delegate duties fairly and if necessary get your custodial staff on board.

Aside from infrastructure, your approach to staff matters. Typically, explaining the importance – the “why” behind the system, rather than just the “what” – can spark a baseline level of cooperation.

What can I get out of this?
Sustainability in foodservice has been an upward trend for years with many operators already implementing measures that reflect the values of their customers. Tapping into that PR value with a little public boasting can help attract and retain customers. A well-designed dining room display, for example, can show how your kitchen team works together to reduce waste, making your customers feel like their patronage is also contributing to that sense of community. You can take this PR-approach to the next level by composting your own food waste, applying it to your garden, and incorporating the food into your menu, creating a true closed loop of sustainability. That kind of effort tends to get its own recognition, such as the Zero Waste platinum certification awarded to Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.!

Are there other options to getting a green bin?
You are not required to get a green bin from your hauler, you are only required to recycle organic waste. That is, if you have 4 cubic yards or more that would otherwise be thrown away. Therefore, other options include:

  • Compost on-site, as discussed above. This can be done in traditional ways such as an outdoor pile you tend to manually, or even low-maintenance vermiculture.
  • Other pricier options for on-site composting include equipment such as composters and digesters. See this helpful FES article for more information.
  • Haul your own green waste to an organics recycling facility.


  • Prevent food waste entirely to the point where you fall below the threshold. Prevention (or “source reduction”) is in fact the ideal diversion as outlined by the food waste hierarchy to the left. This doesn’t mean, however, that the amount you do generate should go in the trash!
  • Divert food waste from the trash in other ways. For example, donating edible foods to people or even livestock, both of which are the next best solutions in the food recovery hierarchy. The below organizations are just some of the options available for those in the East Bay Area:

What can I expect in the future?
Aside from more clarity on acceptable materials and generally more streamlined processes, slight regulatory changes can be expected in the near future. In 2019, the organics recycling requirement will extend to people who generate 4 or more cubic yards of overall solid waste, not just organic waste. In addition, the threshold for compliance might drop in 2020 to 2 cubic yards if a certain percent diversion from landfills is not met by then.

What if I still need help?
This mandate is enforced by the state agency CalRecycle, however, jurisdictions are charged with administering it at the local level since they hold the contracts with the haulers. As such, you have several resources for help:

  • Your hauler. Questions on hauling logistics, billing, and acceptable waste can be directed to your hauler. If unsure who that is, look on your waste collection bin or bill.
  • Your local jurisdiction and/or CalRecycle. Broader questions that can’t be answered by your hauler can be directed to either of these entities. If unsure of your local jurisdiction or where to find a regional CalRecycle liaison, refer to this search form.

Whether you are new to food waste recycling or a seasoned pro, instituting an organics waste recycling program in a cooperative commercial setting will have its hurdles. But the ultimate benefits are tremendous:

CO2 vs. Methane
The breakdown of organic waste releases CO2, the poster-molecule for greenhouse gases. However, methane is a 28-36 times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Methane is released in oxygen-deprived environments such as landfills.

  • Millions of tons of energy-rich material will be delivered back to the biosphere or converted to useful power instead of going to the landfill.
  • Methane emissions (a significant
    contributor to climate change) will be
    significantly reduced.
  • Green sector jobs will be created.


*If you are wondering how to quantify your organic waste, you cannot accurately know without separating and measuring the volume. But simpler, albeit less accurate, options include (1) using the EPA’s estimated threshold for participation based on number of employees (for restaurants, its 51, including part time workers), or (2) eyeballing it, keeping in mind that 1 cubic yard = a cube with 3-foot sides.

Introducing Chef Mark Duesler!

Michael Karsz, Research Technician

markdThe FSTC is proud to introduce the newest member of our team, Mark Duesler! Mark will fill a vital role as Chef Consultant/Program Advisor at Frontier Energy and oversee the new equipment demonstration program at the FSTC facility. With 20 plus years of experience in foodservice including 15 years working in commercial kitchens, Mark will have the opportunity to share his knowledge and expertise with the FSTC technical staff and restaurant operators alike.

Duesler is a professionally trained chef who has worked in multiple full-service kitchens from small, family-owned restaurants and multi-course, fine dining establishments to chef-driven farm-to-table concepts. Duesler graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 2004 and has worked in many restaurants including the Restaurant at Wente and Bacara Spa Cafe.

Mark debuted his culinary acumen at the FSTC’s Greener Restaurants: The Power of Green seminar on December 7th. The seminar focused on environmentally responsible and sustainable foodservice management including discussions of proper waste handling, locally-sourced food procurement, energy efficient equipment, and water conservation practices. Mark set out to create a custom menu to capture the essence of the sustainability theme while delighting attendees’ palettes along the way. Attendees enjoyed such menu items as pancetta and mustard seed-topped deviled eggs (a big hit!), crispy brussel sprouts with pumpernickel creme, and slow-braised short ribs with gremolata. For a full look at Mark’s menu for the event, click here.


Chef Mark Duesler’s spread for the Greener Restaurants seminar on December 7th, 2016.

With a successful event under his belt, Mark is now focused on building out the FSTC’s equipment demonstration program known as Try Before You Buy. The program offers foodservice operators a rare opportunity to cook on equipment (combis, smokers, induction cooktops, fryers, among many others) at the FSTC facility before committing to a purchase. The program will not only serve the practical interests of the restaurant operator, but will enable the FSTC to demonstrate live the myriad benefits of energy efficient equipment and new, energy-saving technologies. Charles Billies, owner of Souvla Restaurant in San Francisco, has already taken advantage of the program: “Our testing of the equipment was a complete success – certainly made possible by [the FSTC’s] generosity, superb facility, and extraordinary team. It was also through conversation with the FSTC that I was convinced to switch my existing fryer to an ENERGY STAR® certified fryer.”


New FSTC team member Mark Duesler prepares a custom meal for Greener Restaurants seminar attendees on December 7th, 2016.

FSTC Director of Education, Richard Young, is also excited to have Mark at the helm of the Try Before You Buy program: “Over the twenty-nine years that the Food Service Technology Center has been in operation, cooking equipment has evolved dramatically as have cooking techniques. Combination ovens, blast chillers, and rapid cook ovens coupled with farm-to-table, cook-chill, and sous-vide give operators a much wider choice of cooking platforms and techniques than ever before. Chef Mark Duesler speaks the language of the commercial kitchen while at the same time understanding the science behind the cooking equipment – offering visitors to the FSTC a bridge between food and technology that is not usually available to anyone outside of the largest chain operators.”

Mark’s exposure to a wide range of foodservice concepts gives him a unique understanding of the wants and needs of foodservice operators across the industry. Already having displayed his exemplary culinary prowess, Mark will look to strengthen the bond between the FSTC and its foodservice customers in the coming new year through education, demonstration, and shared experience. Welcome aboard Mark!

Solid Fuel Cooking: Codes & Standards

Rich Swierczyna, Senior Engineer

RichWith the rise of exhibition and front-of-house cooking, solid fuel appliances are gaining a foothold in commercial kitchens, most notably in establishments like pizzerias and BBQ restaurants. These appliances are fueled by highly combustible material such as charcoal, briquettes, mesquite, or hardwood. Many restaurant operators prefer this method of cooking for the unique charred or smoked flavoring it lends popular food items such as pizzas, beef brisket, sausages, etc., that other types of fuel, like natural gas, do not provide. However, even though this cooking method imparts a desirable flavor, the process poses great fire and health risks making proper ventilation particularly imperative to the restaurant operator.

Nationwide, the International Mechanical Code (IMC) and Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) models typically govern the installation of commercial kitchen appliances. For California, the California Mechanical Code (CMC) is based off the UMC. In either case, the model codes refer to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 96 for the installation, operation, and maintenance of the equipment. In general, for safe operation and maintenance, the ventilation of solid fuel cooking appliances must be separate from all other cooking appliances. The exemption to the requirement is if solid fuel is only used for flavoring. The major point of contention has always been the definition of cooking with solid fuel vs. flavoring with solid fuel. How can an operator tell the difference?


Solid fuel cooking appliances, such as the ubiquitous wood-fired pizza oven, require special ventilation attention and a vigilant inspection schedule (via Instructables).

The ASHRAE 154 standard on kitchen ventilation has the most conservative approach. It defines a solid fuel appliance as an appliance that combusts solid fuel such as wood, charcoal, or coal to provide all or part of the heat for the cooking process. It defines a solid fuel flavoring cooking appliance as an appliance that uses an energy source other than solid fuel to provide all of the heat for the cooking process, but combusts solid fuel solely for the purpose of imparting flavor to the food being cooked, e.g. a natural gas combination oven with a “smoker box” attachment. Essentially, if solid fuel is involved in any point of the cooking process, it is considered a solid fuel operation and requires a separate exhaust system.

However, the model codes typically rely on NFPA 96 which is more specific in determining the difference between solid fuel for flavoring and solid fuel for cooking. The CMC refers to Solid-Fuel Cooking Equipment as “cooking equipment that utilizes solid fuel” [NFPA 96:]. This equipment includes ovens, tandoori charcoal pots, grills, broilers, rotisseries, barbecue pits, or other types of cooking equipment that derive all or part of its heat source from the burning of solid cooking fuel. The ventilation requirements of these appliances have been recently revised. Solid fuel cooking equipment requires a separate exhaust system with two notable exceptions: (1) If it is installed under a water-wash hood listed under UL300 (i.e., cooking equipment not requiring automatic fire-extinguishing equipment) or (2) If the solid fuel is used for flavoring only. For the second exception, the code limits the size, amount, and rate at which solid fuel is consumed by the appliance. This is to minimize the amount of available fuel in case of a fire. The solid fuel must be contained in a smoker box and the box must be protected by the fire suppression system. Spark arresters must be placed before the grease filters to minimize the passage of airborne sparks and embers into plenums and ducts. Sparks and embers can ignite built up creosote (a by-product of solid fuel combustion) in the exhaust ducts. Creosote adheres to the exhaust duct walls and because of its low flashpoint, poses a severe fire hazard. Monthly duct cleaning as recommended in the code should be strictly followed.

The wood-fired grill would require a separate ventilation hood apart from the other appliances in your commercial kitchen (via GrillWorks).

Incidentally, Demand Controlled Kitchen Ventilation (DCKV) is not recommended for solid fuel cooking. The cooking and thermal plume generated during cooking and ready-to-cook conditions are too similar to allow for any airflow modulation or potential energy savings.

The code clearly defines the parameters for the installation, operation, and maintenance of solid fuel appliances. However, vigilant oversight is necessary. During follow up inspections, inspectors have often found more than the allowable amount of solid fuel used as fuel instead of flavoring. As we have seen, there is a fine line between the definitions, but the results of too much solid fuel can be disastrous.

What’s On Tap?

Kiana Caban, Communications Assistant

KianaThe FSTC attended the 2016 California Craft Beer Summit, a three-day event with an interactive expo, multiple educational sessions, and a concluding beer festival in Sacramento, CA this past September. The annual event is hosted by the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA), an entity dedicated to connecting and empowering California craft brewers through advocacy, education, and communication. The Summit brings together craft brewers, visionaries, innovators, business partners, distributors, retailers, and beer lovers across the state to showcase and highlight the craft brewing industry’s growth and success.

Beer brewing is a water and energy intensive process. It takes about 20 gallons of water to produce one pint of beer. Most of that water is used in growing barley and hops, however, a significant amount is used in the brewing process itself. In addition, an essential part of brewing is heating and cooling liquids as rapidly as possible, which requires a lot of energy. Most breweries also operate taprooms and restaurants, which have their own energy and water demands (and where the FSTC could really assert its years of foodservice expertise!) Armed with these notions, the FSTC sought to learn more about the craft beer industry’s practices, while also educating the industry on water- and energy-efficiency at this year’s Summit.


FSTC team members (from left to right) Janel, Kiana, Michael, and Andre prepare the FSTC booth at the California Craft Beer Summit expo on September 8th, 2016.

Co-hosting the Water Innovations Showcase booth with the nonprofit group American Rivers, the FSTC created various displays showing how brewers and facility operators could save water (and energy) in their breweries.


The FSTC’s hands-on wort-chilling demonstration presented at the California Craft Beer Summit on September 9th, 2016.

Making It Cold: Savings are Brewing. This hands-on brewing demo featured a copper coil immersion chiller, a (simulated) bucket of wort (aka not-yet-fermented beer), and three buckets of cooling water. The goal was to visually demonstrate the substantial volume of water required to quickly cool down hot wort before fermentation in the brewing process. Seeking a better grasp on the attending breweries’ operations, we asked, “How much water does it take to cool your wort?” Attendees had widely different answers depending on the size of their chillers. We followed with, “What do you do with your leftover cooling water?”

We found that most larger breweries already have sustainable mechanisms in place for water conservation that include reusing cooling water for cleaning brewing equipment, bottling lines, kegs, etc., or even using a glycol cooling system in place of water altogether. However, we learned that some smaller breweries and homebrewers still dump their used cooling water down the drain. With an ongoing statewide drought and the ever increasing price of water, we encouraged these brewers to find reuses for all that wastewater.

What’s Brewing in Your Business? The FSTC also displayed a “Think Tank Questionnaire” where we surveyed some of the attendees about the specifics of their brewery, their foodservice operation (if applicable), their heating/cooling system, etc. This provided a better understanding of California brewery demographics and how the FSTC can assist the brewing industry in its efficiency and sustainability efforts in the future.


FSTC members attend one of many “Tap Talk” sessions in which brewmasters discussed topics ranging from the rise of barrel-aged and sour beers to business growth and opportunities at the California Craft Beer Summit on September 9th, 2016.

Alongside the interactive sections of the booth, we also had four stations equipped with different energy and water saving tips that most any brewer or brewery could utilize.

Refrigeration Savings are Brewing. Many breweries use custom walk-in coolers for fermentation and keg storage. As such, we recreated the FSTC’s “4-on-the-door” mnemonic to help brewers limit energy waste in walk-ins. “4-on-the-door” is 1) Install an auto door closer, 2) Check door hinge alignment, 3) Inspect and maintain door gaskets regularly, and 4) Add strip curtains as a secondary barrier to heat infiltration.

Water Savings are Brewing. For the brewery restaurant or taproom operator, the easiest and most inexpensive measure you can take to conserve water is to switch to a low-flow pre-rinse spray nozzle. By changing out that old high-flow nozzle to a 1.15 gpm or less nozzle, you can save approximately $1,800/year! Check out California rebate-qualified PRSVs here.

Dish Machine Savings are Brewing. By purchasing an ENERGY STAR® dishwashing machine, breweries can cut costs in half! A standard dishmachine costs $1,200/year to operate, whereas an ENERGY STAR® dishmachine costs $600/year to operate. For more tips on dishmachines, please visit fishnick.com


The FSTC’s Richard Young demonstrates the energy savings of switching from an incandescent Edison bulb to a LED Edison-style bulb at the California Craft Beer Summit on September 9th, 2016.

Energy Savings are Brewing. Efficient lighting can save you big money. With the power required to light one Edison bulb, you could light fifteen similar LED bulbs! A 60 watt Edison bulb’s annual cost to operate is $45/year, while a 4 watt LED Edison bulb’s annual cost to operate $3/year. What large savings for something so simple to change!

The craft brewing industry was built on innovation, collaboration, and a shared sense of environmental responsibility. With that in mind, the FSTC was heartened to learn that the industry has taken great strides in sustainability and energy efficiency with many of the largest craft brewers leading the way. At the same time, much more can be done to engender energy and water saving best practices industry-wide, not only in the back brewhouse, but in the restaurant and taproom too. The Craft Beer Summit gave the FSTC valuable insight into the scale and particulars of this exciting industry, while also working to expand the FSTC’s energy- and water-saving influence.