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.