Weeknote 1 – The Salazar Report

Another week here at ChefSteps and there’s a lot of new stuff going on. First of all: We made our goal for the t-shirts! Thanks to everyone for buying one (or three). If you missed out, don’t fret—it’s possible it’ll make a comeback someday if you demand it. And you will. Oh yes, you will. <whisper>chefsteps!</whisper>

We’re working on some big things coming up in the next couple of weeks—stay tuned! In the meantime, we’ve had a lot of good recipes come through, more than I can recall and more than I actually got to taste, but I can’t reiterate enough how damn good the fish and chips were. The fries alone are amazing and I kept eating them even though they were over-salted for the camera. Do yourself a favor and make some.

The view from my desk

Since I came on as a designer here, I’ve been trying to familiarize myself with the store, make it easier to navigate and add some fun stuff that we find useful. If there’s anything that we’re using that you’re curious about, please ask us. We’re working on sourcing some other things that are hard to find, so keep an eye out for that as well.

Another thing I’ve been working on: Did you know you can scale recipes on our recipe pages? Click on any recipe and you can click into any quantity and change it and everything will scale automatically with it. It’s a little-known feature right now, and we’ve been working hard at making it more obvious and at the same time unobtrusive and useable.

Hey folks, have a good weekend and enjoy the holiday (for those in the States). See you next week!

We’re Back!

A new day, a new design. Hi, everybody. I’m Tim and I do design here at ChefSteps. I took a couple days to clean up the blog design over here so figured I’d might as well throw a new post up as well. As you can probably tell, we’ve been working on a lot of new things over on the main ChefSteps.com site as well over the past few weeks: features, designs, and improvements. We are stoked and ready to go, we have a ton more stuff we’d like to roll out soon!

We’ve been doing a lot of experiments on the website, and we’ll be doing more to test and see what you guys find most helpful (Also, please tell us!). If you have any questions, comments, or general feedback about the website, we’d love to hear it. In the meantime, enjoy the minimalist quiet of our new blog design!

We like to go around and whisper chefsteps! every once in a while; it’s really fun to say and I think it’s a great way to inception ourselves into the public. Try it! Go ahead, I’ll wait.

See?

One last thing: We have a t-shirt! We’re selling it at teespring.com/chefsteps and are so close to our goal! It ends tomorrow, so please spread the word! Thanks!

ChefSteps ISO World-Class Designer

ChefSteps has come a long way in the past few months. Our sous vide course is closing in on the half-way mark, the forums are a hive of community activity, and we’ve created our first food product. Our team is continuing to push the limits of what’s possible in the kitchen, and figuring out new ways to share our fascination with the how’s and why’s of cooking using our skills as writers, photographers, musicians, and filmmakers. We’ve hired our second software engineer and continue to build out the site and the course; look for some great new features soon.

Taking a step back from all of that activity, we are headed toward a larger vision. We want to bring culinary education into the modern era, and use science to help you make your cooking more delicious and enjoyable than ever before.

We are ready to add another piece to this puzzle: a great designer that can help us make the website look and function in a way that does justice to that larger mission. Everyone here has tremendous respect for the work of designers. We know that a great designer doesn’t just make pretty pictures. They make or break the entire experience that the community has with your content. A great design enhances great information, makes it easy to find what you want, and directs you to things you didn’t yet know you wanted, all while being almost invisible.

Could you be the designer we are looking for? Or do you know someone who is? Here’s how to tell:

  • The pace of work at ChefSteps is breakneck. You are comfortable with that pace, with surfing uncertainty and refining on the fly. We believe in iteration, not immaculate conception.
  • You are a switchblade. You are equally capable of contemplating the information design of a meal timeline in a PDF ebook, designing a logo from scratch, figuring out what variations of a landing page we should test, or creating a new template for our weekly emails.
  • You know how to strike a balance between beauty and functionality. Beautiful pixels are important. Beautiful pixels that serve their intended purpose are golden. (Well, actually a lot of times they are #ffffff.)
  • You are both strategic and tactical. You’ll help hold the big picture of what we are trying to accomplish over the next several years, but will also be very happy to get into the nitty-gritty of what needs to get done right now.
  • You have a modern, minimalist aesthetic that will work well with our photos and video.
  • Working with a world-class interdisciplinary team in startup mode isn’t intimidating, it is your idea of a great time.

Bonus points:

  • If you are able to do some HTML and CSS yourself, in addition to handing over pictures to implement, that’s a great thing.
  • If you have a love of food and cooking, it couldn’t hurt.
  • If you live in Seattle, we’d love to have you on-site, but we’ll consider remote work if you can spend some time with us getting started.

Sound like a dream job to you? Got the skills? We’d like to talk with you. To start the conversation, please send an email to michael@chefsteps.com with:

  • A link to your portfolio or to one or more sites where we can see what you’ve built. If it was a collaborative effort, let us know what is yours.
  • A paragraph or two about why you think you’d be a great fit.
  • Take a look at the existing chefsteps.com and suggest 1 to 3 things that you think should be the highest priority to improve.

We look forward to hearing from you, and please send this post to anyone you think might be interested!

A DIY Christmas Spectacular | We Built a Gaggle Roaster

So we occasionally get up to some elaborate DIY exploits that involve cooking, fire, and metal fabrication. We’ve staged some pretty large exploits in the last couple of years (we’ll be sharing some photos from those events soon), but I thought some of you might be interested in the relatively small one we threw together for a holiday celebration last Saturday night.

The Construction Phase
We dubbed the device “The Gaggle Roaster.” It’s a rotisserie spit that can carry half a dozen geese, each one dangling by its legs. We did this so the weight of the bird would stretch the skin taut, and so that we would get radiant heat shining over the entire surface of the bird. This ensured evenly cooked birds with really crispy skin, which was a major goal. Each bird rotated at about 2 rpm. We geared it so the birds would counter-rotate, which means that each bird rotated in the opposite direction of the one next to it—there was no good reason for this other than it looked cool.

I sketched out the idea for this about  a week prior to the party. Our group of makers — including several of our friends at Furlong Fortnight Bureau — gathered to rapidly build and test the device at our friend Rusty Oliver’s shop (The Hazardfactory) between the hours of 5 pm and 3 am.

Our constructors included Neal Stephenson, myself (Chris Young), Rusty Oliver, Nathan Pegram, Daniel MacDonald, and Larry Felser.

We also fabricated a giant roasting pan, complete with our own custom gas manifolds to roast some vegetables to go with our geese. On full blast, this is probably something like a 500,000 BTU/hr stove top.

Here’s a view of Rusty Oliver (left), Daniel MacDonald (center), and Nathan Pegram (right) working on final assembly:
Rusty-Oliver Kevin-MacDonald Nathan-Pegram
Here’s Nathan tensioning the very long bike chain that drives the gearing:
Our careful engineering efforts involved load testing with about a 4X geese-overloading factor:

The Party Phase
Here are some photos from the actual gaggle-roast. No sous vide was involved, we went old-school — like 16th century British old-school.

Basic Cooking Method:

  1. Build a linear chain-driven, counter-rotating rotisserie spit that will suspend half a flock of birds.
  2. Build a large hearth with high emissivity material (firebrick is ideal)
  3. Build a very large fire that is at least 25% longer than the length of the spit, so that the ends of the spit see as much glowing infrared energy as the center.
  4. Once firebrick is warmed up, suspend birds and begin roasting. Surface temperature of birds should settle around 160 °F / 71 °C until core temperature of bird reaches something like 140 °F / 60 °C.
  5. For the final sear, move the geese closer to the fire and turn up the intensity of the radiant heat by blasting large volumes of air at the fire. A leaf blower or Shop-Vac blown in reverse will do nicely.
  6. Once the surface temperature of the birds reaches something like 270 °F / 132 °C, remove the birds and let them rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Carve and serve with a giant pan filled with choucroute and new potatoes.

Here are some photos that Ryan grabbed during the event:

Plumes of Combustion
Geese in Silhouette
 A Gaggle of Roasting Geese
 Turning Up The Heat!
Glowing White Hot

Forging Crispy Skin

And, yes, this was really delicious.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday — Chris, Grant, Ryan and the rest of the ChefSteps team.

ChefSteps is Chris Young, Grant Crilly and Ryan Matthew Smith.
Sign up for our free online sous vide cooking class and join our forum.

The ChefSteps Team Slows It Down With High Speed Video

We Run A Clean Kitchen, But Our High Speed Video Studio Was A Hot Mess!

Last week, the ChefSteps team and some of their friends (Neal Stephenson, Pablos Holman, Kevin Finke, and Rusty Oliver to name a few) made a mess. Not a little mess — an epic high speed video mess.

Grant Crilly demonstrates how to make applesauce with a mallet.

As of Monday morning, every cleaning tool had been put to good use to restore ChefSteps to its pre-shoot condition and the room was abuzz with snippets of conversation about the best things that had happened over the weekend. We’ll be rolling out some of those best things in time, but meanwhile, here’s a photo sampler from the weekend for your enjoyment.

Ryan Matthew Smith disappears into a floury cloud.

Neal Stephenson sneaks up on a cantaloupe
with his longsword by Angus Trim.

 Grant Crilly loads up a satsuma for the ride of its life.

From L-R: Ryan Matthew Smith, Nathan Pegram, Hans’ cousin, Greg Mattson, and Hans Twite look on in amazement. What are they looking at?

ChefSteps is Chris Young, Grant Crilly and Ryan Matthew Smith.
Sign up for our free online sous vide cooking class and our forum.

Help Us Prep Our Sous Vide Food Prep Course

Module 2: Preparation of our Sous Vide Cooking Course is in production and we could really use your input in several areas. Within the course, we plan on taking you through many aspects of food preparation including:

  • The importance of organization and working clean
  • The importance of working by weight
  • The efficiency of a scale
  • Trimming and portioning
  • Seasonings, brines, and marinades
  • Tips and tricks

We would love to know if there are any aspects of food preparation that confound, annoy or keep you from cooking all together. What could you really use help with?

Also, do you have any favorite aspects of food prep that you truly enjoy (chop onions, boil water) or any favorite tips that you’d like to share?

In addition to teaching you the ins and outs of sous vide, we also want to deepen your understanding of the science of great cooking and share with you the skills that will ensure excellent results. The more input from you, the better we can do our job of providing you with a great curriculum. So please, jump right in by commenting on this post, or even better, signing up on the ChefSteps Forum and joining the discussion.

Thank you,
Chris, Grant, Ryan and the rest of the ChefSteps Team

Thanks a Million, Wylie!

Friends helping friends.

The kitchen team at ChefSteps had a pretty crazy week getting ready for New York. It’s no small feat serving even 2 dishes 2400 miles from home for 60 guests, no wait, the count is now 78…aw, perfect! 6L of centrifuged strawberry broth, 120 topped and trimmed quail eggshells (Thanks to Trissa who cut them all open to exactly a 0.7 inch, then carefully cleaned, sanitized, dried, and packed them for travel), 3 kg of candied navy beans (bomb!), 7L of fromage blanc sorbet, 150 perfectly round passion fruit spheres (thank you, Nick), 2 heads of celery — vacuum compressed in centrifuged green apple juice … you get the idea.

Of course, we can only prep so much and be so prepared. But when things go wrong, well, that’s what friends are for. Once we arrived onsite at the Riverpark restaurant for Tim Ferris’ The 4-Hour Chef book launch, Ben and I quickly set up and arranged our tools. Mental check list: set up borrowed Paco Jet, freeze ice cream base in beakers, count out plates and place in fridge, check quail egg shells for damage … I soon realize that we’ve forgotten something pretty important. “Where’s the liquid nitrogen? Damn! Don’t panic, our friend Wylie Dufresne can save us!” Without hesitating, I text the New York Godfather of Modern Techniques and ask for some cold liquid gold. He tells me:

So that’s exactly what we did. Once we had our “dewar”, we cabbed it over to Clinton Street to  wd~50 and freeloaded what we could fit in our cheap little vessel. The loud cracking and snapping noise was not a reassuring sound when we were filling it up. “Is it breaking?” Wylie shrugs while further opening up the valve to get the liquid really flowing. “It definitely sounds like it,” I replied back.  “Eh … should be fine,” he said. I have had accidents while doing this before, especially in cars, and I was about to get back into a crowded cab. You gotta take risks, you know!

Ben and I obviously had very little faith in the dewar (it’s now officially a dewar) so we used the contents up for cryo-shattering some berries as soon as we arrived back at the Riverpark kitchen, popped them in the freezer and saved them for service. They looked beautiful and tasted amazing so it was all worth it for the ChefSteps crew.

Thanks a million, Wylie.

P.S. More on how awesome Wylie is another time.

Thanks, Wylie!

Visit ChefSteps to enroll in our online classes, prepare a recipe from our recipe gallery, and share it with our friendly culinary community.

Thanks a Million, Wylie!

Friends helping friends.

The kitchen team at ChefSteps had a pretty crazy week getting ready for New York. It’s no small feat serving even 2 dishes 2400 miles from home for 60 guests, no wait, the count is now 78…aw, perfect! 6L of centrifuged strawberry broth, 120 topped and trimmed quail eggshells (Thanks to Trissa who cut them all open to exactly a 0.7 inch, then carefully cleaned, sanitized, dried, and packed them for travel), 3 kg of candied navy beans (bomb!), 7L of fromage blanc sorbet, 150 perfectly round passion fruit spheres (thank you, Nick), 2 heads of celery — vacuum compressed in centrifuged green apple juice … you get the idea.

Of course, we can only prep so much and be so prepared. But when things go wrong, well, that’s what friends are for. Once we arrived onsite at the Riverpark restaurant for Tim Ferris’ The 4-Hour Chef book launch, Ben and I quickly set up and arranged our tools. Mental check list: set up borrowed Paco Jet, freeze ice cream base in beakers, count out plates and place in fridge, check quail egg shells for damage … I soon realize that we’ve forgotten something pretty important. “Where’s the liquid nitrogen? Damn! Don’t panic, our friend Wylie Dufresne can save us!” Without hesitating, I text the New York Godfather of Modern Techniques and ask for some cold liquid gold. He tells me:

So that’s exactly what we did. Once we had our “dewar”, we cabbed it over to Clinton Street to  wd~50 and freeloaded what we could fit in our cheap little vessel. The loud cracking and snapping noise was not a reassuring sound when we were filling it up. “Is it breaking?” Wylie shrugs while further opening up the valve to get the liquid really flowing. “It definitely sounds like it,” I replied back.  “Eh … should be fine,” he said. I have had accidents while doing this before, especially in cars, and I was about to get back into a crowded cab. You gotta take risks, you know!

Ben and I obviously had very little faith in the dewar (it’s now officially a dewar) so we used the contents up for cryo-shattering some berries as soon as we arrived back at the Riverpark kitchen, popped them in the freezer and saved them for service. They looked beautiful and tasted amazing so it was all worth it for the ChefSteps crew.

Thanks a million, Wylie.

P.S. More on how awesome Wylie is another time.

Thanks, Wylie!

Visit ChefSteps to enroll in our online classes, prepare a recipe from our recipe gallery, and share it with our friendly culinary community.

The Team At ChefSteps’ Online Culinary School Is Growing!


Our ChefSteps family is undergoing a growth spurt as we expand our team and build our company. We’ve brought in some extra help to hasten the launch of our Sous Vide course and are striving to build a company that will continue to excite our team and our students. We thought you might like to see some of the new faces alongside those of our founders’ at our beautiful location in Pike Place Market.

What would your perfect job be and where would you work if you could pick any place in the world? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned, there’s a lot to look forward to!

Cheers!
The Team at ChefSteps