Rep Prep: 10 Minutes with Florida Foodservice Equipment Expert Alberto Soddu
Rep Prep from Eaton Marketing is an informative series that gives you access to one of our foodservice equipment experts. In this edition, spend 10 minutes with Alberto Soddu, and learn about his Italian background and how it led him to Eaton Marketing.
Give us a little background on yourself.
I’ve lived and worked in Miami, Florida since arriving from Italy in 1990. I studied Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales at their North Miami College. Star chef Michelle Bernstein came out of the same course and started a very accomplished career. Many other talented chefs came out of the same program, as well.
After my first year in the program, I went straight to work for a well-known local chef, Mark Militello. I was hired to run the pasta station at Mark’s Place, his first of many successful locations in South Florida. The multitudes of pasta recipes and variations my talented Mamma served me while growing up in the Old Country helped me get through this demanding cooking-line position.
While working at Mark’s, I developed some followers for my pasta-cooking abilities, and soon after, a regular customer offered me a position to be his personal chef at his home. This new gig gave me an opportunity to play with new and high-end ingredients, and shone a light on the aspect of procurement and sales of gourmet foods. I immediately loved being around delicious foods that were part of my culture, but they were also uncommon in the ‘90s in the restaurant industry in Miami.
I quickly recognized that I could actually sell gourmet food to the emerging new chefs experimenting with new trends and having a blast while doing it. The new salesperson in me flourished. I loved, loved, loved to sell things that were the centerpiece of a successful menu or gave recognition and value to a restaurant. I was hooked, and this brings me to the next point.
Out of all the lines represented by Eaton Marketing, which one is your favorite?
The Jade/Beech Ovens line.
Why is it your favorite?
Behind this manufacturer combined line there is some serious Research & Development elements and amazing results. When I work in the planning stages of a project with a consultant or a dealer, I can rely on a team of dedicated individuals at the factory, located in Brea, CA, who can assist me in developing custom-made pieces that will contribute to the success of the venue in which they are installed.
It’s incredible how a simple sketch drawn on a legal pad can become an eye-catching object and an incredible cooking machine. The motto at the factory is “If you can conceptualize an idea, we’ll build it for you.” From that simple sketch, the ideas are transformed in masterpieces used in incredible locations around the world. Pizza ovens, tandoor ovens, Robata grills, plancias of any size and for any application and look.
How does it provide return on investment for operators?
The quality, performance, and dependency offered by these brands will make any serious operation a success. The looks, compared with the ability of creating unordinary recipes, guarantees the success of the establishment. The reliability of a good burner, a steady and strong flame, the heavy-duty materials used in the fabrication process, and the simplicity of use, guarantees that the kitchen staff and the chef feel they are in control at all times. These are machines made to last a lifetime, and that’s what “return on investment” means to me.
Tell us about the most successful install you've ever seen using products from this line?
Zest Restaurant by Cindy Hutson. The cooking line is entirely by Jade, and the pizza oven is by Beech.
Where is your favorite place to go out to dinner?
The River Oyster Bar in downtown Miami, Brickell area. Chef David Bracha has uncompromising respect for the ingredients, and dedication for flavor continuity and kitchen staff training guarantees that customers will keep coming back for more. You have to try it!
Does it contain foodservice equipment represented by Eaton?
No, it doesn’t, even though Chef Bracha has installed their equipment from other major manufacturers we represent.
What do you usually order?
So many incredibly flavorful dishes to choose from (besides the availability of fresh oysters flown in weekly from across the U.S.), but my favorite is Coconut Steamed Mussels, Roasted Oyster, Whole Branzino in Salt Crust, and Thai Barbequed Ribs.
How has foodservice equipment changed in recent years?
In the last five years, there has been a large influx of cheap, undependable cooking equipment manufactured in Asia. The quality of materials employed in the manufacturing process is simply appalling. Operators are at times unaware that the inconsistencies in fabrication and choices of materials will, in little time, create a hassle for them and disrupt their business. One dollar saved on the initial purchase will come back to haunt them. They will have to deal with unexpected break-downs and unreliable service companies in charge of fixing the problem.
Cooking equipment takes a beating from the continued use and the heat created in the process, for at least 18 hours a day in most cases. A Jade seam-less oven door in a 6-burner range can hold the weight of heavy-set cook stepping on it. Try to do the same with a cheap import. The whole unit weighs a whooping 690lbs!! Besides, Jade and Beech are made in America by Americans, and we need to support our manufacturing industry.
What do you see in store for the foodservice industry?
Technology is getting employed more often by the industry, and every day we see more instances where the human beings, and their expertise, are being replaced by machines and computers. We are being taken down a road where soon there will be kiosks in the streets selling fresh made pizzas without the help from a single human being. This might be the next logical cost-saving compromise for operators.
Personally, I’m not looking forward to that day. I believe cooking is an art and a form of expression, and I welcome the use of technology in this field as an aide to a creative professional. The foundation for my reasoning is reliability and quality materials made available to the professional in the kitchen. After all, we are talking about the development of one of the first discoveries in human history: good old fire! And we still cook with it.
Learn more from Alberto or one of our other foodservice equipment experts. Click the box below to set up your free foodservice equipment assessment from Eaton Marketing.