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A cooling apron for those hot days of summer cooking

So, as a project for a class, we were compelled to find an idea to solve another student's problem. The problem I chose related to keeping cool while cooking in a hot kitchen. As a personal residence, many of the options available for commercial kitchens, i.e. heavy-duty HVAC and exhaust fans, are relatively impractical. As such, I began thinking towards cooling the cook, rather than the kitchen. This led me to ponder how my brother, a solider, keeps cool in the Middle East while wearing full combat fatigues and a bullet proof vest. The answer there lies in cooling vests worn as close to the body as possible. Many of these cooling packs contain organic fluids which only cool to between 50 and 60 degrees (for comfort's sake). Additional online roaming gleaned stories relating to the detrimental effects experienced by professional male cooks due to their prolonged proximity to hot stoves at waist level. As a means of alleviating the bane of cooks everywhere, I am thinking of combining one of the oldest pieces of kitchen attire, the lowly apron, with the relatively newer technology of cooling vests. Though aprons aren't necessarily worn around the core (one of the best areas to maximize overall body cooling), they are generally worn tight and are placed perfectly to deflect the heat coming directly off the stove. Modern cooling packs are light and compact, therefore the addition of cooling packs into the apron would add undue weight and bulk. I believe this could be a practical idea to help lessen the impact of "slaving over a hot stove." Any thoughts on improving the idea? Or, on the other end of the spectrum, how effective could it actually become?

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    Nov 15 2012: Is the problem you are addressing dependent upon the ambient weather conditions? The wording of your headline indicates it is. Most first world occupied structures include thermostatically controlled heating and cooling systems. Who cares what the outside weather is? Slaving over a hot stove is more of a dramatic figure of speech than a real-world problem, except perhaps for restaurant workers. Is that your target consumer? If so the problem is motivating restaurant owners to invest in expensive, high-tech gear for their employees comfort. " If they can't stand the heat they can get out of the kitchen!" would be the likely response of owner/managers.
  • Nov 19 2012: This is definitely a superb idea. I had no idea that male career chef's are potentially exposed to long term side affects. A cooling device for cooking activities would be very helpful to any of us who cook, but ultimately a safety requirement for those who cook for a daily living. Understandably, apron's are what we all know as a protection device in the kitchen, but I think that it might be wise to go even beyond the traditional apron design. Maybe the entire front of the body can be incorporated into the cooling device as to make sure that someone who is in a hot kitchen environment all day is assured complete protection. Different levels of these cooling devices can be offered. Smaller apron's for the "home cooker" would be less expensive and less cumbersome versus the larger more expensive commercial kitchen cooling garments.
    • Nov 20 2012: Thanks for the idea, Christopher. I hadn't really considered adopting different design strategies for residential vs. commercial cooks, but it makes a lot of sense. As you point out, the inclusion of, let's say the Mylar, may prove more valuable to a commercial cook than someone cooking at home. Diversifying the design strategy could definitely make the project more cost-effective and viable.
  • Nov 18 2012: I truly think your idea is great for restaurants and other people cooking for a long period of time throughout the day. However it does seem the apron is not a cooking tool that the everyday person uses. I know in my personal life I do not know anyone that uses an apron anymore. I guess during Thanksgiving or other big events they do get used more, but would someone be willing to pay that much more for an apron they will only use a handful of times each year? I do not think so. I think if you focus this product to the commercial users then this product could become a major hit. Overall this is a great idea, I would love to see if you actually make it happen.
  • Nov 16 2012: First, I would like to express that I believe your idea is genius. I have found myself over-heating while cooking and would personally invest in a product like this. I also think that for professional cooks this would be a very useful item or a “must have”. I have never used a cooling vest or unit before and my first question would be how big is it and how much does it weigh? As you stated, it does not weigh much. At this point, the technology is already established so you could fit it to your product in any shape and weight. Great idea.
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    Nov 15 2012: I don't know if this will work, but if you change the design of the typical apron to make it wide, and add a second made of space blanket material (worn under the cotton one) with the shiny side facing the stove, it might help. If you have spent much time in a kitchen, you know how you don't want to inhibit movement. It could be dangerous. Space blankets weigh next to nothing and they're very effective.

    It's not below the waist that gets me in the kitchen. It's the part that's over the stove, so you might want to include a fan in a chef's hat (like the pith helmets or baseball caps that have solar powered fans built in)
    • Nov 16 2012: That could be a pretty good addition, TED Lover. As those Mylar blankets reflect something like 80 percent of incoming heat, it would prove very effective at keeping the localized heat of the stove from penetrating the apron. Combine that with the cooling layer from the packs, and maybe even Gordon Ramsey wouldn't have room to complain (though I think that may be towing the line just a bit...).
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    Nov 15 2012: As active cooling systems are pretty expensive, you may also take a look at rechargable 'Phase Change Cooling Materials', such like this:

    http://www.coolvest.com/RPCM_Cooling_Vest/default.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

    As you apron is used for cooking, a 'food grade' classification should be considered, in case of coolant leakage.

    Good luck with your interesting idea and let us know when it's available!
    • Nov 16 2012: Thanks for the comment, Lejan. I'm glad you brought up the technology used in the RPCM cool vests, as that was material I had considered for the aprons. Those particular vests are nice because they can be effectively cooled to their lowest levels in a bucket of ice water. Additionally, that cooling material holds at 59 degrees, meaning the packs won't be uncomfortable to sensitive areas.
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    Nov 15 2012: Good idea.....just go on
  • Nov 15 2012: See that Ted talk about sanitary mapkins. I don't know about demand Maybe