Title:
Food storage and serving device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A sealed portable container for storing a food item such as cheese in a refrigerator, transporting the item to another location, and serving the item to individuals. The container having a housing with an interior adapted to store the food item, and a drawer insertable into the storage container for inserting and removing the food item within the housing. The container forms a seal between the drawer and the housing for retaining the freshness of the item when the drawer is fully inserted into the housing. The drawer may be used as a serving tray, and additionally, the drawer may be used as an integrated cutting surface.



Inventors:
Croft, William F. (Wooster, OH, US)
Huthmaker, Todd J. (Beaverton, OH, US)
Luna, Christian (North Royalton, OH, US)
Application Number:
10/856032
Publication Date:
12/01/2005
Filing Date:
05/28/2004
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
312/296
International Classes:
A47B71/00; A47B88/00; A47G19/26; (IPC1-7): A47B88/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20130169125CORNER IMPROVEMENT IN WINDOW CARRIER FOR CRACK WINDOWJuly, 2013Kristensson
20080157640Cabinet Facilitating Storage, Transport, and Assembly and Its Packing MethodJuly, 2008Chen et al.
20090320724SWIVEL BASE WITH INSTALLATION AIDDecember, 2009Walburn
20090256453LATCH-TYPE LOCATING DEVICEOctober, 2009Wang et al.
20070001557Hinged and removable frame with sliding platesJanuary, 2007Cianetti
20060185563Lift mechanism systems and methodsAugust, 2006Sweere et al.
20040195942Hidden door hinge for vending machineOctober, 2004Carter
20150146354Remote Actuated Leveling MachanismMay, 2015Franz
20120026653PLASTIC HOUSING FOR LIQUID CRYSTAL DISPLAY, MANUFACTURING METHOD THEREOF AND LIQUID CRYSTAL DISPLAYFebruary, 2012Zhou
20080264090Ice machine with drainOctober, 2008Sowa et al.
20050017613Front-release lock arrangement for slide assemblyJanuary, 2005Cirocco et al.



Primary Examiner:
GROSSO, HARRY A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Lempia Summerfield Katz LLC (Chicago, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A portable food storage and serving container comprising: a housing having an exterior wall and an opening, the exterior wall bounding a storage interior; and a drawer having a tray with a top surface, the tray slidably and removeably insertable into the storage interior through the opening, the drawer forming a seal and closing off the opening when the drawer is fully inserted into the housing interior.

2. The container of claim 1, wherein the drawer further comprises a drawer face coupled to the tray, the drawer face arranged to close off the opening.

3. The container of claim 2, wherein the drawer face and tray are integrally formed as a single unit.

4. The container of claim 2, wherein the drawer face is removeably mounted to the tray.

5. The container of claim 4, wherein the tray comprises a connector carried near a front edge of the tray, and wherein the drawer face is removeably mountable to the connector.

6. The container of claim 5, wherein the drawer face comprises a receptacle, and wherein the connector of the tray is removeably insertable into the receptacle of the drawer face.

7. The container of claim 6, wherein the receptacle of the drawer face comprises at least one aperture and wherein the connector of the tray comprises at least one flexible tab, the tab adapted to releasably engage the aperture of the drawer face upon insertion of the connector into the receptacle.

8. The device of claim 2, wherein the drawer face comprises an inner surface having a perimeter, the inner surface having a skirt extending inwardly from at least a portion of the perimeter of the inner surface of the drawer face.

9. The device of claim 8, wherein the skirt comprises at least one radially outwardly extending sealing lip that bears against at least a portion of the housing to form a seal between the drawer and the housing when the drawer is inserted in the storage interior.

10. The device of claim 9, wherein the opening into the housing interior comprises an opening perimeter and an inner surface, and wherein the at least one sealing lip comprises a first sealing lip to form a first seal between the drawer and the opening perimeter, and a second sealing lip to form a second seal between the drawer and the inner surface of the housing interior near the opening perimeter.

11. The device of claim 1, wherein the top surface of the tray comprises a cutting surface.

12. The device of claim 11, wherein the cutting surface is integrally formed as the top surface of the tray.

13. A cheese storage and serving device comprising: a housing having an exterior wall bounding a housing interior, the exterior wall terminating at a front end that defines an opening into the housing interior; a drawer having a drawer face coupled to a drawer tray adapted to support at least a portion of a block of cheese, the drawer removeably slideably mountable within the housing; and a seal formed when at least a portion of the drawer face bears against the housing when the drawer is in a closed position.

14. The device of claim 13, wherein the drawer tray comprises a top surface having a perimeter and having a lip extending upwardly relative to the top surface near at least a portion of the perimeter of the top surface.

15. The device of claim 14, wherein the lip is positioned on an end of the drawer tray opposite the drawer face.

16. The device of claim 13, wherein the drawer tray has a bottom surface with at least one beam extending downwardly from at least a portion of the bottom surface.

17. The device of claim 13, wherein the drawer face is removeably mounted to the drawer tray.

18. The device of claim 17, wherein the drawer tray comprises a connector carried near a front edge of the drawer tray, and wherein the drawer face is removeably mounted to the connector.

19. The device of claim 18, wherein the drawer face comprises a channel, and wherein the connector of the drawer tray is adapted to be removeably inserted into the channel of the drawer face.

20. The device of claim 18, wherein the drawer face comprises at least one aperture, and wherein the connector of the drawer tray comprises at least one tab, the tab adapted to releasably engage the aperture of the drawer face.

21. The device of claim 13, wherein the drawer face comprises an inner surface having a perimeter, the inner surface having a skirt extending inwardly from at least a portion of the perimeter of the inner surface.

22. The device of claim 21, wherein the skirt comprises at least one radially outwardly extending sealing lip arranged to bear against the housing when the drawer is in the closed position.

23. The device of claim 22, wherein the opening into the housing interior comprises an opening perimeter and an inner surface, and wherein the at least one sealing lip comprises a first sealing lip to form a seal between the drawer and the opening perimeter, and a second sealing lip to form a seal between the drawer and the inner surface of the housing interior.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to food containers, and more particularly to device for storing and serving cheese.

DESCRIPTION OF THE RELATED ART

Cheese is typically sold in either a pre-sliced packaging or in a large uncut block size. In either case, cheese may require refrigeration to prolong consumer shelf life. Therefore, some refrigerators contain integrated cheese storage containers for storing and keeping cheese. For example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,725,294, 5,729,997, and 5,909,937 each contain an integrated cheese keeper within the refrigeration compartment. In other instances, a consumer may simply place the cheese in storage bags, tub and lid type container, or other similar devices. In any event, an individual typically stores the cheese in one container while removing and transferring the cheese to another device for cutting and/or serving purposes.

In some examples, a non-sealed cheese storage device may be integrated with a cutting device to allow an individual to quickly slice the cheese block. For example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,103,579, and 4,697,488, each describe a cheese storage device having an integrated cutting system. These storage containers, however, do not provide an integrated sealed storage container and/or serving tray, and still may require the removal and transfer of the cheese to other devices.

In still other examples, a cheese storage device may include a storage and cutting system, including a removable top and base. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,289,591 describes a cheese storage device having a base and a cover for placement over the base. The described container, however, is a simple lid placed over a base supporting a block of cheese and does not provide an integrated sealed storage container and serving tray drawer.

In view of the foregoing, there remains a continuing need for an improved cheese storage and serving device.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of one example of a cheese storage and serving device constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of the cheese storage and serving device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a front perspective view of one example of a housing of the cheese storage and serving device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a plan view of the housing of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 is a cross-section front elevational view of the housing of FIG. 4, taken along the line 5-5.

FIG. 6 is a cross-section left elevational view of the housing of FIG. 4, taken along the line 6-6.

FIG. 7 is a front perspective view of one example of a drawer tray of a drawer of the cheese storage and serving device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 8 is a bottom perspective of the drawer tray of FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 is a cross-section left elevational view of the drawer tray of FIG. 7, taken along the line 9-9.

FIG. 10 is a front perspective view of one example of a drawer face of the drawer of the cheese storage and serving device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 11 is a rear perspective view of the drawer face of FIG. 10.

FIG. 12 is an enlarged cross-section left elevational view of the assembled cheese storage and serving device of FIG. 1 showing the housing, and drawer in the closed position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DISCLOSURE

The embodiment described herein is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the scope of the invention to the precise form or forms disclosed. Instead, the following embodiment has been described in order to best explain the principles of the invention and to enable others of ordinary skill in the art to follow its teachings.

Turning now to the drawings, FIGS. 1-12, together illustrate one example of a cheese storage and serving device 10 constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, the cheese storage device 10 generally has a storage container or housing 12 and a drawer 14 movably mounted within the housing 12 for movement between a removed or open position (not shown) and a closed position (FIG. 1). By way of example rather than limitation, a block of cheese 16 (shown in phantom in FIG. 2) can be stored in the cheese storage device 10. The position, arrangement, size, variety, and quantity of cheese blocks 16 can vary at any given time. Additionally, the cheese storage device 10 may store and serve any number of different items similar to cheese.

As shown in FIGS. 3-6, the housing 12 includes an exterior wall, which in this example includes a bottom panel 20, a rear panel 22 extending from and connected to the bottom panel 20, a pair of upstanding side panels 24, 26 extending from and connected to the rear panel 22, as well as the bottom panel 20, and a top panel 28 extending between and connected to the upstanding side panels 24, 26, and extending from and connected to the rear panel 22. The bottom panel 20, the rear panel 22, the side frames 24, 26, and the top panel 28 may each be constructed using any suitable manufacturing technique. For example, each of the panels 20, 22, 24, 26, and 28 may be constructed as an integrated one-piece unit from a variety of materials including, for example, plastic (such as polycarbonate, polyethylene, polystyrene, polypropylene, or the like), or other non-plastic material can also be used to manufacture the housing 12 within the scope of the present invention, such as glass, metal, wood, and/or other material. In one embodiment, for example, the housing 12 is formed of molded polycarbonate. It will be appreciated that the exterior wall of the housing 12 may be manufactured in any number of shapes and/or sizes, as desired.

Still referring to FIGS. 3-6, the bottom panel 20 includes a forward portion 30, a rearward portion 32, and a pair of interconnecting side portions 34, 36. Similarly, the side panel 24 of the housing 12 includes a forward portion 38, a rearward portion 40 and top and bottom portions 42, 44, respectively, and the side panel 26 of the housing 12 includes a forward portion 46, a rearward portion 48 and top and bottom portions 50, 52, respectively. As shown in FIG. 5, the bottom portion 44 of the side panel 24 meets the side portion 34 of the bottom panel 20 along a seam 54. Similarly, the bottom portion 52 of the side frame 26 meets the side portion 36 of the bottom panel 20 along a seam 56. Preferably, seams 54 and 56 are commonly formed molded manufacturing seams, such as, for example, molded plastic seams, or other suitable seams.

The rear panel 22 of the housing 12 includes a pair of side portions 58, 60 and top and bottom portions 62, 64, respectively. As shown in FIG. 4, the side portion 58 of the rear panel 22 meets the rearward portion 40 of the side panel 24 along a seam 66, while the side portion 60 of the rear panel 22 meets the rearward portion 48 of the side panel 26 along a seam 68. As shown in FIG. 6, the bottom portion 64 of the rear panel 22 meets the rearward portion 32 of the bottom panel 20 along a seam 70. Again, the seams 66, 68, 70 are preferably commonly formed seams as described above.

The top panel 28 of the housing 12 includes a forward portion 72, a rearward portion 74, and a pair of interconnecting side portions 76, 78, respectively. As shown in FIG. 5, the side portion 76 of the top panel 28 meets the top portion 42 of the side panel 24 along a seam 80. Similarly, the side portion 78 of the top panel 28 meets the top portion 50 of the side panel 26 along a seam 82. As shown in FIG. 6, the rearward portion 74 of the top panel 28 meets the top portion 62 of the rear panel 22 along a seam 84. Again, the seams 80, 82, 84 are preferably commonly formed seams as described above.

As best shown in FIG. 3, the forward portion 30 of the bottom panel 20, the forward portion 38 of the side panel 24, the forward portion 46 of the side panel 26, and the forward portion 72 of the top panel 28 together cooperate to form an opening 86 into a housing interior having a perimeter 88. As is illustrated, the housing interior is defined within the bottom panel 20, the rear panel 22, the side panels 24, 26, and the top panel 28.

It will be appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the art that while the housing 12 can include a plurality of separate panels subsequently attached along the plurality of seams, the housing 12 of the disclosed example is manufactured as a single molded part wherein the panels and the seams are all integrally formed in a molding process.

Turning now to FIGS. 2 and 7-11, the drawer 14 generally includes a drawer tray 100 and a drawer face 102 (FIG. 2). Particularly referring to FIGS. 7-9, the drawer tray 100 includes a forward edge 110, a rearward edge 112, a pair of interconnecting side edges 114, 116, a top surface 118, a bottom surface 120, and a perimeter 122 defined by the edges. Optionally extending upward from the top surface 118 along at least a portion of the perimeter 122 is a retaining lip 124. In the disclosed embodiment, the lip 124 extends at least partway between the side edges 114 and 116 along or near the perimeter 122 adjacent the rearward edge 112. The lip 124 can be utilized to provide retain the block of cheese 16 on the drawer tray 100. Of course, it will be appreciated that the lip 124 may extended along a greater or lesser portion of the perimeter 122 of the drawer tray 100 as desired.

As mentioned, the top surface 118 may be used to support and serve the typical block of cheese 16. The top surface 118 can be formed such that a person utilizing the cheese storage device 10 may use the top surface 118 of the drawer tray 100 as an integrated cutting surface, or cutting board, upon which the retained cheese may be stored, sliced and/or served. For example, the top surface 118 may have a; separate cutting board mounted on the top surface, or may alternatively provide a suitably durable cutting surface integrally formed as or on the top surface 118.

In the illustrated embodiment, extending from the bottom surface 120 of the drawer tray 100 are a plurality of beams 126A, 126B. As best shown in FIG. 8, one beam 126A extends along the perimeter 122 of the drawer tray 100. Additionally, two beams 126B extend the length of the drawer tray 100 between the forward portion 110 and the rearward portion 112. The depicted beams 126B are generally parallel to the side portions 114, 116 of the drawer tray 100. The beams 126A, 126B may be integrally formed with and/or attached to the bottom surface 120 of the drawer tray 100. The beams 126A, 126B may provide the drawer tray 100 with additional strength and rigidity, as well as provide a surface upon which the drawer tray 100 may slideably engage the housing 12. Any number or arrangement of beams, ribs, ridges, or other stiffening elements can be utilized as desired.

Extending from or near the forward edge 110 of the drawer tray 100 is a drawer tray connector 130. The drawer tray connector 130 includes a first upstanding wall 132 extending from the perimeter 122, and a second upstanding wall 134 spaced from and depending generally parallel to the first upstanding wall 132. The connector 130, in this example, also has a top wall 136 extending between top edges of the two upstanding walls 132, 134, a plurality of support ribs 138 extending from the top wall 136 and between the two upstanding wall 132, 134, and a pair of connecting tabs 140. The length, width, and shape of the drawer tray connector 130 are configured to be received in the drawer face 102 as will be described in greater detail below.

In this example, the tabs 140 are flexible fingers formed in the top wall 136 and are shiftable or bendable between a releasing position (not shown) wherein the tabs 140 are generally parallel and co-planar to the top wall 136, and a locking position (FIG. 7) wherein the tabs 140 are angled upward relative to the top wall 136. In the illustrated embodiment, the tabs 140 are biased upward toward the locking position and are utilized to removeably secure the drawer tray 100 to the drawer face 102 as will be described below. The tabs can be physically bent downward to the releasing position.

Turning now to FIGS. 10-12, the drawer face 102 includes a bottom edge 150, a top edge 152, a pair of interconnecting side edges 154, 156, an outer surface 158, an inner surface 160, and a perimeter 162. A skirt 164 extends inward (i.e., away from the outer surface) around the drawer face 102 near the perimeter 162 and has a plurality of side walls 165, 166, 167, 168. In this example, the side walls 165, 166, 167, 168 are joined to form one contiguous skirt surface and generally follows the contour of the face 102.

Extending radially outward from the surface of the skirt 164 is a first sealing lip 170 and a second lip 172 spaced rearward away from the first sealing lip 170. As best shown in FIG. 12, in the illustrated embodiment, the first sealing lip 170 is sized to rest or bear against the opening perimeter 88 of the housing 12, to prevent the drawer face 102 from entering into the opening 86 and to provide a generally air resistant seal between the drawer face 102 and the housing 12 when the cheese storage device 10 is in the closed position (FIG. 1). The second sealing lip 172 is sized to be insertable into the opening 86 of the housing 12 and to bear or rest against the inner surface of the housing 12. The second lip 172 provides another generally air resistant seal between the drawer face 102 and the housing 12 when the cheese storage device 10 is. in the closed position (FIG. 1). It will be appreciated that the lips 170, 172 may extended along the entire skirt 164 as shown, or a greater or lesser portion of the skirt 164 as desired. Furthermore, it will be appreciated that the air resistant properties of the seals formed by the lips 170, 172 against the housing 12 may vary based on the selected material, design, manufacturing tolerances, and/or other factors. A separate seal or O-ring can also be optionally added to either supplement or replace one or both of the lips 170, 172.

As illustrated in FIG. 1, extending from the inner surface 160 of the drawer face 102 is a drawer face connector 174. The drawer face connector 174 is spaced upward from the skirt 164 and the bottom edge 150 of the drawer face 102 and extends rearward parallel to the lower skirt side wall 167. A receptacle or closed end channel 176 is thus defined between the lower side wall 167, the drawer face connector 174, and a portion of the side walls 166, 168. As illustrated in FIG. 12, the length, width, and shape of the channel 176 are configured to receive the drawer tray connector 130 therein to removeably connect the drawer face 102 to the drawer tray 100.

Returning to FIG. 11, the drawer face connector 174 includes a plurality of apertures 178, 180, the number of apertures corresponding, in this example, to the number of tabs 140. The apertures 178, 180 are sized and positioned on the drawer face connector 174 such that when the drawer tray connector 130 is fully inserted into the channel 176, the tabs 140 snap fit into the apertures 178, 180. Specifically, prior to assembly, the separate drawer tray 100 and drawer face 102 may be aligned such that the drawer tray connector 130 is positioned in front of channel 176 of the drawer face connector 174. As the drawer tray connector 130 is inserted into the channel 176, the tabs 140 contact a surface of the drawer face connector 174, shifting the tabs 140 from the locking position towards the releasing position. Once the drawer tray connector 130 is sufficiently inserted into the channel 176, the tabs 140 enter the apertures 178, 180, lose contact with the surface of the drawer face connector 174 and snap back to the locking position. The drawer tray connector 130 is then releasably secured within the channel 176. To separate the drawer tray 100 from the drawer face 102, the tabs 140 must be shifted toward the releasing position by pressing downward, to allow the drawer tray connector 130 to be removed from the channel 176.

The drawer tray 100 and the drawer face 102 are described herein as a plurality of separate components assembled to form the drawer 14. However, the drawer tray 100 and the drawer face 102 may be manufactured utilizing more than two components, or as a single molded part wherein the drawer tray 100 and the drawer face 102 are integrally formed in a single molding process. Moreover, if the drawer tray 100 and drawer face 102 are separate components, the attachment device may be any suitable attachment device, including any permanent or removable attachment means.

In the described example, the drawer tray 100 and the drawer face 102 are preferably molded of a relatively rigid, durable plastic material such as polypropylene. It will be appreciated, however, that the drawer tray 100 and the drawer face 102 can be formed from virtually any suitable plastic material as well as other substantially rigid materials as long as the device performs its intended purpose. For example, the components can alternatively be fabricated from polycarbonate, polypropylene, polystyrene, or like material as desired. Still further, as described above the drawer tray 100 may be fabricated from, or integrated with any suitable material, such as wood, glass, etc, such that the top surface 118 can be used as a cutting board.

In operation, the assembled drawer 14 is removeably and slideably insertable into the housing 12. To utilize the cheese storage device 10, the drawer 14 may is partially or completely removed from the housing 12 and a block of cheese 16 is placed upon the upper surface 118 of the drawer tray 100. The drawer 14 is then fully inserted within the housing 12. The first and second sealing lips 170, 172 then form a generally air resistant or air tight seal between the drawer 14 and the housing 12, which aids in the retention of the freshness of the cheese 16. The seal also helps to retain the device in the closed configuration. The entire cheese storage device 10 may then refrigerated as desired. To access and serve the cheese 16, the entire cheese storage device 10 is removed from refrigeration and the drawer 14 is fully removed, or partially removed from the housing 12. Alternatively, the drawer 14 may be removed from the housing 12, leaving the housing 12 within the refrigeration. Additionally, the drawer face 102 of this example can optionally be removed from the drawer tray 100 if desired. The cheese 16 may then be sliced and served directly upon the drawer tray 100. To return the cheese to storage, the drawer 14 may be reassembled (if needed), reinserted into the housing 12 and returned to refrigeration.

Although particular examples of a storage container with dual access rack has been disclosed and described herein in accordance with the teachings of the present invention, the scope of coverage of this patent is not limited thereto. On the contrary, this patent covers all embodiments of the teachings of the invention that fairly fall within the scope of permissible equivalents.