Behind the scenes at ICC Sydney

09 November, 2017 by Madeline Woolway

In its first eight months of operation alone, ICC Sydney hosted 400 events and 800,000 visitors, including a several food-related events — all of which have yielded a number of unique insights into the future of the foodservice industry. Hospitality magazine caught up with ICC Sydney’s director of Culinary Services, Lynell Peck to discuss the latest technology, data collection tools and foodservice trends, such as nutrition and menu personalisation.

How do you use wireless temperature monitoring and what impact has it had on the business? 

ICC Sydney is the largest standalone site in the world to have implemented Monika — the temperature monitoring system. Monika monitors temperatures across our 3,000sqm main kitchen, satellite kitchens, cool rooms, fridges, freezers and other mobile units, providing the team with real-time information.

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We also use Monika’s wireless digital hand-held probes for measuring food temperatures upon stock receivership, and during cooking and service. These probes wirelessly transmit temperatures back to our computers, ensuring total traceability throughout storage, production and serving. This is key to allowing us to operate to a world-class standard when it comes to both the safety and quality of the food we serve.

The use of Monika in our kitchen saves time immensely because staff would otherwise need to manually record the temperatures. The monitors are extremely accurate, monitoring both the food and air temperature of the units every 10 minutes and thus providing a live feed to the system.

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Given the efficiency and security of the data Monika delivers, this type of technology is becoming more prevalent in foodservice industry and I have no doubt it will continue to do so.

How do you put the e-Water system to use at ICC Sydney and what are the main benefits for your business?

eWater has had a huge impact in the way we keep our kitchen clean. eWater is produced by applying an electrical charge to salted water, a process known as electrolysis, which then changes the water’s pH properties, creating an effective cleaning or sanitising solution. It is completely safe in food preparation environments and very effective in killing food-borne bacteria.

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At ICC Sydney we use eWater for hand washing, food preparation and the cleaning of kitchen surfaces and equipment. The greatest benefit of eWater has been the reduction of chemical usage within the kitchens and back-of-house areas. This reduction in chemicals not only provides a safer working environment but has also reduced our costs as we do not need to purchase food sanitisers.

There is definitely an expectation that the foodservice industry will — and should — become more environmentally conscious, so systems such as eWater will only increase in popularity.

What data do you collect in the kitchen and how do you use it to enhance your culinary offering? How has data optimisation increased in kitchens?

At ICC Sydney, we have put data at the heart of our kitchen and stewarding’s operations. We believe it is essential in providing a clear insight of our operations and the use of our equipment.

The data we receive from our equipment is highly instrumental in assisting us with being as efficient as possible during production — Monika is a good example here. We analyse the data it provides us to monitor how our cool rooms behave during defrost cycles and to ensure our food is always stored at the optimal temperatures. We also use our Rational ovens with pre-programmed recipes. These ovens ensure consistency of the product whilst providing data on when the food was cooked, the time it took and its temperature.

Along with this, we use data captured from client surveys and from suppliers to support the development of new menus and processes that we know will be delivered to the highest standards.

What are some new food labelling trends? How do they help the ICC Sydney team to maintain high standards for food quality and safety?

It’s amazing that something as simple as food labelling has had such an impact on the foodservice industry and we believe providing product information is key to allowing us to maintain the best quality of care for our clients, delegates and guests.

ICC Sydney caters for all dietary requirements, including medical, religious and lifestyle choices, and so all ingredients are carefully regulated through our extensive food labelling system, which specifically highlights food, based on the inclusion of allergens.

Labels are attached to corresponding dishes by the chefs prior to dispatch to ensure they are easily identified by our team and diners. In our kitchen we use Avery Dennison printers. It is a simple system to use as our team members just select the correct label, which has been pre-programmed in the device, and the quantity to print. This is all done on an easy-to-use touch screen.

New food labelling trends revealed at the recent FoodPro exhibition sees the industry moving towards food labels that are being developed to change colour with temperature or time, and can be programmed to release preservatives in order to increase the shelf-life of a food item. Innovations like this will be of great benefit for largescale kitchens.

What are the key principles of nutrition-first menu planning and how do they relate to ICC Sydney’s ‘Feeding your performance’ philosophy? How does ICC Sydney execute nutrition-first menu planning? How much has demand for nutrition-first menus grown?

Nutrition has emerged as a key factor in business success: what we eat plays a vital role in helping delegates concentrate, ideate and process information, thus improving event success.

As part of ICC Sydney’s commitment to delivering world-class experiences, we have embraced an industry-first Feeding Your Performance culinary philosophy, which sees our team deliver ‘smart’ dishes comprising fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, expertly combined to drive both physical and mental performance. Prior to opening, ICC Sydney worked with leading nutritionists Dr Joanna McMillan and Teresa Cutter to review our culinary collection of menus. Our chefs are constantly adapting the menus, taking advantage of burgeoning seasons of particular ingredients to give our guests the freshest culinary experience, of which is full of nutrients without the preservatives.

Alongside nutrition, a core part of this philosophy is providing diners with quintessentially Sydney experiences though our focus on provenance. We take pride in delivering nutritious dishes packed with the best and freshest NSW produce, sourced from over 60 local businesses.

Our unique approach is making us stand out in the industry, and we believe the demand for food that immerses delegates in the local culture and supports their wellbeing will only grow.

What do you predict will be the biggest trends in foodservice in 2018?

In July this year, ICC Sydney hosted FoodPro, the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology’s (AIFST) 50th Anniversary Convention, and the Dairy Industry Association of Australia State Conference, bringing some of the industry’s brightest minds together to discuss the latest in food technology, market updates and scientific research.

It was a fantastic to see the industry sharing knowledge and creating opportunities for the industry.

In terms of trends, we will see the continued rise of personalisation, with the CSIRO revealing it has begun research into how technology can be used to create personalised diets based on genetics and lifestyle. We predict that this trend will result in more personalised or custom-created menus for clients that are based on lifestyle choices rather than what we are seeing at the moment which is related to medical conditions.

Data will continue to drive provenance where our suppliers source their raw ingredients, our consumers want authenticity and quality as to where their food has been sourced and produced.

With countless ideas, discoveries and new initiatives revealed, the future of food is one that will be forever evolving and advancing.