Pitco Fry Guy Focus: Introducing Nick Sortore

Fried foods are some of the most beloved in America. In our ongoing series, we sit down with the Fry Guys and Fry Gals who know how to get the most out of their fryers. In this edition, we sat down with Nick Sortore, the Arizona-based chef for Elevation® Foodservice Reps in Colorado. A veteran of the foodservice industry for over 20 years, Nick loves the hustle and bustle of working in a kitchen and understands what other chefs are looking for when it comes to equipment. 

How did you land in foodservice?

I was working in kitchens as summer jobs and hadn’t put much thought into making a career out of it. One year into college, and after a particularly rough day, I realized I was happiest amongst the other kitchen ruffians. I decided that pursuing math and either being a teacher, or an accountant wasn’t going to be for me. I enjoyed the daily abuse foodservice brought. I enrolled in culinary school and moved the following semester to Arizona. I’ve worked in every type of operation-from resorts to healthcare and everything in between in various roles over the last 20 years.

What is the most common question you get about fryers?

What’s the difference between the cheaper model and why would I spend more for the expensive one?

Let’s talk oil. Why do you think operators think oil filtration is a waste?

I think it’s mostly an up-front cost issue-and a lot of operators still try to filter manually through a sieve and think it’s cheaper that way. I believe they don’t realize how quickly they could pay for a fryer with filtration just through the savings. If they could cut their oil purchasing in half, they can typically recover those costs in a year. There is also the misconception of dark oil being dirty oil. The rule of thumb is with an 8 oz ladle of oil-if you can see Eisenhower’s head on a dime then you’re fine to fry.

What is the best piece of advice you would give someone who wants to add fried food to a menu?

Size your fryer correctly to achieve the best results. Making sure you have adequate space to keep from over-crowding the basket means you can have a more consistent product. You need that consistency to avoid becoming another place where everything tastes the same.

What are the most important accessories to have for fryers?

Filtration. Absolutely filtration. Aside from filtration-the best accessory is the one they need to be efficient. Some operators will need timers and lifts, while some will need a Fat Vat to safely transfer oil.

What are common frying mistakes that you see?

Too hot of oil and basing the cook of an item only on color. Trying to boost recovery time by operating at a higher temperature. That shortens the life of your oil and often over colors your fried items. For those cooks who rely on the color to determine the cook-they often don’t meet minimum internal temperatures.

How would you recommend fixing those mistakes?

Fryers can be simple-just have to pay attention to them. Too hot oil shortens lifespan and will overcook the outside of some products before getting the middle correct. Space under a hood is limited-so they can’t always add an additional fryer to avoid trying to cook too much that it drastically drops the oil temperature. Smaller batches will help-or if they can it’s recommended to size up the fryer.

What is the best fried food you ever had?

I’m a simple is better person-so small flavors done well. Something as simple as French fries in beef tallow is great. If I had to land on one item though, I had a lobster funnel cake that was absolutely top-notch.

What are your three best pieces of advice for a restaurant trying to make more money with fried food?

Filter, maintain a correct temperature, and size of your fryer to maximize output and cook time. Your food cost should be very low on fried items, and fried starches can fill a plate. You can make good money with easy, fried appetizers. Pick items that you can execute quickly and consistently. You can use these items to cut ticket times down and turn tables quicker. Filtration pays for itself and also removes the particles that burn and can impart off-flavors. The better you can treat your oil the less you have to buy.

We know what to fry. Schedule a culinary consultation with us to get some ideas for your operation!

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Topics: Fryers, Oil