The “Are Gas Stoves the New Cigarettes?” debate over a potential ban might be at boiling point, but for Hell’s Kitchen restaurant owner and chef Charlie Marshall, the prospect of a permanent gas outage is not a burning issue: he has already ditched the fossil fuel at The Marshal and believes his fellow chefs should follow suit.
“To me, it seems so archaic,” he said, adding that it was like “burning dinosaurs.” Marshall, owner and Executive Chef at The Marshal, at 628 10th Avenue between W44th and W45th Street, has long been operating just fine without gas. Committed to sustainability, he uses a wood-fired oven which is fueled by locally-sourced wood “for 90 percent of what we make.” For other needs, they have a portable induction burner, which he says is the future for kitchens.
Cooking with or without gas has become a highly-charged issued, thanks to interventions by the federal government and Governor Kathy Hochul. In December and again last week, a member of the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) floated a ban on the sale of gas stoves, after research showed that byproducts from gas stoves increase children’s risk of developing asthma. That idea was squashed by the White House this week after a firestorm on right-wing media.
In her State of the State speech on Monday, Hochul voiced support for a ban on the sale of fossil fuel “heating equipment” throughout the state by 2035, which has been taken to include gas stoves, as well as a ban on gas hookups in new smaller buildings by 2025 and a blanket ban by 2028, which would affect restaurants in new builds. This goes further than former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s citywide ban on gas in new construction by 2023, which exempts restaurants. In the New York Post, chefs flamed Hochul over what they considered to be a threat to the already beleaguered restaurant business.
None of that fazes Marshall, however. “We could have put in a gas-fired oven, but we’re farm-to-table, we’re environmentally friendly, we buy wind power — and that just doesn’t go hand in hand with burning dinosaurs to cook breakfast,” he told W42ST. Having previously owned a restaurant with induction power, Marshall was already familiar with the technology, and he felt that the initial investment was worth the long-term savings, as well as induction’s superior technical precision.
“If you’re trying to convert a gas kitchen, it’s very expensive,” he acknowledged, adding that restaurants looking to make the switch also have to apply for an increased electrical capacity with ConEd. “It’s one of the barriers to entry for a lot of these restaurants,” he said, and many chefs see the process as a headache. “It’s, ‘We’ve been doing it this way for 20 years, and now I’m going to turn off my gas and spend $50,000 bringing in new appliances, new electric and new supply from Con Edison and it takes forever and I’ll have to close, rip open the walls’ and so — it’s a tall order. It’s a lot for someone to convert,” he added.
Despite the initial cost of moving away from gas usage, “there are significant savings over time,” said Marshall. “Induction cooking and its heat usage is much more efficient and cost effective.” If restaurants move to induction, “your electric expense will be a little bit higher than it was, but not as high as your previous gas bill.”
And in terms of the quality of the food? “Advancements in technology over the last few years in induction have really made it an easier switch — because the coil burners that a lot of us are used to from when we were kids are really difficult to operate in a precise manner,” said Marshall.
“I think that’s what a lot of people think of when they think of electric cooking,” he added, but newer induction equipment holds heat well and cooks food to fine-dining standards. And for space-starved New York kitchens, portable induction burners and broilers can make food service easier than ever, allowing chefs to move equipment as needed and not to rely on one large stove that can break down at any moment.
“With induction, you don’t have the safety issues around gas,” said Marshall, adding that the risks around leaky gas lines include fires, and long shutdowns, like the snafu over a gas line which closed Chez Napoleon on W50th Street for almost a year. “If you have a fire with your deep fryer, you can’t turn off your deep fryer because the switch is on fire. You can’t turn that gas off somewhere else without pulling the stove out and turning off the shutoff. You have to turn on your Ansul system and extinguish everything,” said Marshall.
For hospitality professionals, moving away from gas is the future, says Marshall, who believes induction will become the standard. “Duh, and you can quote me on that,” he said. “Just like we’re not all driving around in V8s anymore and electric cars are becoming the norm, chefs are going to have to learn to cook without gas. It’s absolutely the way of the future — and anybody who’s opening a restaurant now should strongly, strongly consider electric.”