The ChefSteps Transformation Contest: Show us yours.

 

This contest has closed! Big thanks to all who submitted photos, we’ll be announcing a winner soon. If you missed the deadline but still want to show off your stuff, please share it on the forum. We can’t wait to see what you’ve created.

Calling all cooks! We want to see how you get from sleazy to sexy—in the kitchen, that is.

This week, we’re releasing a meaty update to our comprehensive class Cooking Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics. It’s all about teaching you to transform cheap, tough cuts of meat—think chuck, shoulder, tongue—into amazing, flavor-packed steaks, braises, and deep-fried delicacies. To do this, we harness the power of sous vide cooking, selecting the perfect time-and-temperature settings to achieve the exact texture of our choice. It all adds up to game-changing recipes like Carnitas Tacos with Mole, Boeuf Bourguignon with Scallion Ash, and savory Beef Tongue Fritters.

But transformation is nothing new, right? When you take squishy, overripe berries and make a jewel-toned jam, you’re transforming compost fodder into a smooth, decadent spread. Same goes for aging tomatoes—the basis of so many amazing pasta sauces. Sushi chefs transform leftover tuna bits into maki-roll magic, while nose-to-tail types relish the challenge of turning stinky offal into melt-in-your-mouth delicacies.

But enough about those guys. This contest is about you.

In this class, we share our favorite transformation techniques, but now, we want to know yours. What’s your favorite way to take something inexpensive, overripe, leftover—whatever—and turn it into a killer dish, condiment, beverage, or ingredient?

What will you win?

We’ll select the idea that inspires us the most, and our team of chefs will send the winner a big basket that’s full of hand-selected amazing goodies for your kitchen (a $500 value), sourced from our favorite Pike Place Market shops.

How do you enter?

There are two easy ways:

1. Send us a short video of yourself explaining your favorite transformative technique or recipe. You can demo it, draw it, or just talk about it—no real rules, just be you.

2. Send us two photos—a “before” shot of the sleazy ingredient in question, and a second “after” image that shows how you transformed it. Include a brief description of what you did.

CONTEST JUST EXTENDED! Send video or images to info@chefsteps.com with subject line Transformation by 11:59 PST on Tuesday, May 5. We’ll announce a winner as soon as we get through them all.

So go on, show us yours. We can’t wait to see it.

Official contest rules:
Void where prohibited. No purchase required. You must be over 18.

ChefSteps Family Meal: “Vietnamese Subway” Edition

We like to eat. And even more than we like to eat, we like to cook. And even more than we like to cook, we like to cook together. That’s why we drop our TPS reports every Friday afternoon and gather in the kitchen for family meal. At restaurants, “family meal” is a venerated tradition where staffers gather together before service and eat a hearty meal, usually prepared by the kitchen staff and served buffet-style to the rest of the employees. At ChefSteps, we turn that tradition on its side: one or more of our chefs pairs up with a non-kitchen employee (a writer, perhaps, or a videographer, or a software developer) to make something amazing for the rest of us. Why do we do it? Because we believe that cooking and eating together makes us better at our jobs, and better at life. And we’re holding tight to that belief. (I mean really, can you blame us?)

chefsteps_family_meal_1

Last week, development chef Nick Gavin paired up with software developer (and home cook extraordinaire) Huy Nguyen to serve choose-your-own-adventure Vietnamese spring rolls (aka “Vietnamese Subway”). Huy’s been making spring rolls since birth, so he knows a thing or two about how to do it right. Read on for his tips on how to roll your own.

Quick Dip

Start with a rice-paper wrapper dipped quickly in warm water. It’s tempting to soak it for a few minutes, but trust us—just a quick dip will do. After you dip, lay it flat on your plate.

Lettuce First

Add green lettuce first, for structure and color, then vermicelli noodles, green onions, basil, mint, cucumbers, and whatever other fresh ingredients you want.

Level Up

Next, poach raw beef or bacon in one of two simmering mixtures: one made of beer, vinegar, and fish sauce; and one made of butter, lemongrass, and onions. (Dipping the beef in beer and vinegar is a Vietnamese tradition called bò nhúng dấm, by the way, and it literally means “beef dipped in vinegar” in Vietnamese.) If you’re feeling ambitious, as we were on this occasion, set up a binchotan (a Japanese charcoal-grill) and add charred shrimp and squid to your spring rolls. (We used octopus instead of squid because it looked nice and fresh.) If you’re not feeling ambitious, make sous vide chicken or pork belly and use that instead.

chefstep_spring roll

Roll On

Once your wrappers are filled with delicious treasures, roll those babies up tight. They key is to work quickly and confidently: pull the edge closest to you over the top of your fillings, then fold in the sides, and roll tightly until you have a nice little burrito. And hey, if you end up with a spring-roll massacre, just grab a fork. It’ll still be yummy. Make a simple dipping sauce out of lemon juice, fish sauce, sugar, and water for dipping, and voilà! You, sir or madam, are the Vietnamese spring roll master.

What should we prepare next Friday? Add your suggestions in the comments below!

Coffee or Booze? On St. Patrick’s Day, You Don’t Have to Choose

Derby-Mourning-ChefSteps
ChefSteps resident musician Hans Twite also happens to be a killer bartender. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we asked him to come up with a Seattle-y riff on the traditional Irish coffee—after all, what better way for ChefSteps to celebrate any holiday than with booze and coffee?

So Hans set out to develop a simple, semi-sweet cocktail with a lot of character, a lot of booze, and a little caffeine. He used Seattle-based Herkimer coffee, Noah’s Mill whiskey, and a drizzle of maple syrup to round it out. With a nod to our penchant for party tricks, Hans lit the whiskey on fire, burning off a little bit of heat from the alcohol, and imparting a mild smoky flavor while at it. Even the whipped cream has complexity—Hans added a touch of Bénédictine to taste, bestowing a bitter, herbal note to the cool topping.

Derby-Mourning-Ingredients-ChefSteps
The final product is an easy-to-make layered drink: hot coffee on the bottom; smoky booze in the middle; and silky, freshly-whipped cream on the top. Irish coffee purists will surely squirm at this unconventional version of the classic—that’s why we changed the name to Derby Mourning. Put that in your corn-cob pipe and smoke it.

So raise a glass to Seattle, to Kentucky, to Dublin, and back again with Hans’ new cocktail. We hope you love it. Sláinte!

Our New Mobile App Was Built by Unicorns

Here’s what happens when people who love cooking and learning work together. 

IPHONE APP

It’s only a matter of time before you hear of Nick Cammarata and Andrew Hsu, so we might as well get it out of the way. Call them what you will: entrepreneurs, prodigies, unicorns. We’ve thrown all those words around here at ChefSteps, and they’re all true. Nick and Andrew spent the last four months building our brand new mobile app, and we couldn’t be prouder to show it off.

NICK_ANDREW

In their combined 44 years on this planet, Nick and Andrew have done more than many will do in a lifetime. By age 16, Nick had founded his first start-up company; by 18, he was awarded a Thiel Fellowship to skip college and work on software solutions to optimize teaching strategies at the high school level.

In Nick’s 2011 Thiel class was Andrew Hsu, a former 19-year-old PhD candidate in Stanford’s neuroscience program. Andrew started undergraduate at the University of Washington at age 12, and graduated at 16 with degrees in neurobiology, biochemistry, and chemistry. He left his PhD program at Stanford four years later in order to pursue the Thiel Fellowship. Nick and Andrew bonded quickly over their passion for education and learning. They started a company together last summer committed to developing high-tech solutions for learning and acquiring knowledge.

Enter ChefSteps. And guess what? We love learning, too. So we asked Nick and Andrew to build a mobile app that would encourage people to learn more about food and cooking through our recipes and videos.

“We’re both passionate about cooking and were instantly fascinated by the quality of the ChefSteps content, and wanted to help in any way we could,” says Andrew. “When we visited ChefSteps, we kept hearing people talk about how mobile technology was often used in the kitchen to view recipes, as mobile devices are way less unwieldy than laptops. So, we started working with ChefSteps on developing the mobile experience and decided that the initial release would be a beautiful mobile recipe viewer. We knew that ChefSteps’ content, photos, and videos had to be placed in the forefront of any design, and we hope that we’ve made a first step at showcasing it properly.”

We think Nick and Andrew did a great job, and we hope you’ll think so, too. Try out the app and please, as always, let us know if you have any feedback.

The ChefSteps app is currently live for iPhones running iOS7. It allows you to view, search for, and filter recipes, and quickly gather all the information to prepare, learn, and create your own recipes.

PSST: This is only the tip of the iceberg. Nick and Andrew are already at work on their next ChefSteps project, creating a new, modern, unified forum, commenting system, and community tools. Stay tuned for more from our unicorns-in-residence.

UPDATE: We hear you, Android and Windows users! Unfortunately, right now our community traffic doesn’t support the decision to develop non-iPhone apps. Invite your fellow Android and Windows users to join ChefSteps, and we’ll do our best to get development underway. Until then, borrow your friends’ iPhones and check it out!