We are super-duper pleased to present our interview with Grant Crilly, Cofounder and CCO at ChefSteps. Our regular readers will know that we are huge fans of ChefSteps. They are, in our view, one of the best online culinary schools and they have a superb body of content on their site.
Most sous vide fans will be familiar with Grant and his videos for ChefSteps. His videos typically receive thousands of views and his recent launch video for Joule, their sous vide immersion device, has already received more than 190,000 views! Chefs like Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal are famous TV chefs but Grant is revolutionising a new era of the internet chef.
Before he cofounded ChefSteps, Grant worked closely with photographer Ryan Matthew Smith on the Modernist Cuisine books. In fact, he was actually the first development chef hired by the Modernist Cuisine team. Grant has also been a chef at some of of the world’s best restaurants in Paris. He has worked with top chefs like Pascal Barbot at L’Astrance and Pierre Hermé at L’École Grégoire-Ferrandi.
With his wide experience, it is no wonder that Grant has such a huge following online and we are happy to bring you this interview!
SousVideGuys: Hi Grant, thanks for taking the time to chat with us and congratulations on the launch of Joule!
Grant: Thanks guys!
SousVideGuys: Did you always want to be a chef? What made you want to become one?
Grant: I could have done a bunch of different things. I have a huge breadth of interests that go beyond cooking and teaching. But, I grew up in a family of craftsman; we love doing things with our hands…we cooked dinner all the time, we did our own canning and smoking of food. I was always working from a young age and truly loved working. Some of my earlier jobs were working in professional kitchens as a dishwasher and I met so many chefs from all over the world and I realized if you learn to cook you can travel and work anywhere. That was a huge draw to me. And, I left for Europe for my first international apprenticeship when I was 19 years old.
SousVideGuys: Wow, amazing that you were doing your international apprenticeship at such a young age. If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
Grant: I have no idea. There were times when I didn’t want to be a typical chef, but was still able to apply my skills in different ways, but it has always been somehow interwoven with food, so I honestly don’t know what I would want to do that didn’t involve food and cooking.
SousVideGuys: I see, you must love to cook at home then? If so, what sort of dishes of yours are the most well-loved by your family and friends?
Grant: Yes, I cook all the time at home. No matter how much I have cooked at work, I will still always cook at home too. I find cooking at work to be inspiring and energizing, while I find cooking at home relaxing. At home, I make a lot of soups and stews; you don’t have to think about them much in advance and you can do super healthy or very decadent. I also find it’s a easy gateway for people to get into cooking when they start with soups or stews.
SousVideGuys: Yes, we love soups and stews too! Who is your favorite TV chef and why?
Grant: Gordon Ramsay. I really liked UK Kitchen Nightmares, the first TV show he did. He isn’t like the typical status quo TV chef. He isn’t soft and foofoo. He is an amazing chef, but he knows that isn’t what is appealing to most folks watching food-focused TV; they are looking to be entertained.
SousVideGuys: Name 3 celebs (dead or alive) that you would most love to cook a meal for. What would you cook for them?
Grant: Honestly, the people I want to be cooking for really are my friends and family. It is what is most satisfying for me. That’s what I want to do. And, I get to do it, so I feel very fortunate.
SousVideGuys: A lot of people feel that chefs, especially the ‘modernist’ ones, only eat fancy schmancy foods like foams, gels and emulsifications . Do you think that applies to you?
Grant: My philosophy on modernist cooking is not about changing the food we eat, but about changing the cooking process and how we get there. It may lead to new textures and flavors, but that isn’t necessarily the primary goal. I am not eating foams and gels all the time, but I can make a great gummy candy and better hollandaise than most chefs, because I understand the process and how it works and how to tweak the recipes because you understand the process and the science…I love eating comfort and nostalgic food as much as the next person.
SousVideGuys: So then do you eat fast-food? If so, do you have a favorite?
Grant: Sometimes I will. On road trips I am guilty of eating fast food, but not more than four times a year. And, never for breakfast. Not a great way to start the day. It’s pure candy; everything is made from sugar.
SousVideGuys: What’s your usual breakfast like then?
Grant: Every morning I have a smoothie I make with protein powder, almond milk, blueberries, kale, spinach, and peanut butter. Delicious!
SousVideGuys: What was the first thing you EVER cooked sous vide? Did it turn out well?
Grant: I first tried sous vide when I was 19 or 20 and doing an apprenticeship in Paris at the Le Meurice Hotel. We used a professional Rational oven — not a water bath — that is what they use there. We cooked lamb shoulder, and it was awesome. It opened my eyes to what could be done with a tough cut of meat by using the sous vide method.
SousVideGuys: We note that you are part owner of a patent listed as “Cryo-shucking of oysters”, WOW! And with Nathan Myhrvold of Modernist Cuisine too, no less! Please tell us more about how this idea came about!
Grant: When I was working with Nathan Myhrvold on Modernist Cuisine, we were using liquid nitrogen for so many things at the time. I was doing whole big batches of oysters and just decided to test them out with liquid nitrogen. They would very quickly become frozen solid and then we would lay them flat on a tray and place in the fridge and as they thaw — over the next hour or so — they pop open and the oyster slides out. It’s still something I do if I am trying to suck a huge amount of oysters for an event or big party.
SousVideGuys: Before Joule, what sous vide device did you use most at home? Sous Vide Supreme? Anova? Nomiku?
Grant: I used a Polyscience – I have been cooking sous vide for a long time. And, for a long time Polyscience was the main player for anyone wanting to try sous vide in their home. But, I have used them all.
SousVideGuys: What’s your favourite dish to cook sous vide?
Grant: What is most amazing to me about sous vide is what it allows you to do with tough cuts. You can do so much and get so much amazing flavor and texture — from an inexpensive pork shoulder or beef chuck.
SousVideGuys: What do you think of the displacement method of sealing food? Or do you believe a vacuum sealer is needed?
Grant: Displacement method works great at home. If you have a vacuum sealer it can be cleaner and be stored longer in your fridge and freezer, but it should not be a barrier entry for someone wanting to try sous vide. It is not necessary.
SousVideGuys: Which school of thought do you belong to? Season and salt your steak before you sous vide or after?
Grant: If you season beforehand it can work out lovely, but I find you can also over salt easier when you do it before you sous vide. I generally don’t salt before with beef, but I am more likely to do it with pork or fish because people tend to like what it does for the texture. With tough cuts of meat, I definitely salt before I cook; it can be amazing.
SousVideGuys: Sear once after sous vide? Or sear once before and again after sous vide?
Grant: Both – before and after. I say sear before because it’s easier to sear a steak when it’s cold and dry, plus it helps promote that great flavor throughout the cooking process. It also means you can just eat it right out of the bag, if you don’t have the time or energy to post sear. But, typically I do both for amazing flavor and that great post-sear texture.
SousVideGuys: We feel the same too! Which cut of beef do you most often sous vide at home? Ribeye? Tenderloin?
Grant: Ribeye! It has so much flavor and diversity in the muscles.
SousVideGuys: That’s our favorite cut too! There are now more and more sous vide devices on the market and even more are coming up. When the team was conceiving Joule, which feature was the most important consideration for the team? Waterproof housing, no display, small size?
Grant: One of our top priorities was creating a better cooking experience that was more dynamic using a smartphone. With a smartphone you get so much more than you would with a small display that can out-date quickly. With our app as display, you get a much better display experience with more screen space, technology that is constantly being updated and just fantastic integration between the app and your device. We don’t see it as no display. We see it as creating the best display experience.
SousVideGuys: We like the neodymium magnetic mount feature, how did the idea for this feature come about? Was it inspired by a problem you encountered?
Grant: Our design team came up with it as we wanted to get rid of the need for a clamp for an easier, cleaner process. It really is a great feature. Plus we will also have interchangeable clips so you can have a better experience when you do use a clip – one better suited for certain types of standard pots and another that will fit best on a Cambro or cooler.
SousVideGuys: Was it always the intention to develop a 220V version of Joule for customers outside of the US? If so, why is the release date so long after the US release?
Grant: Yes, it has always been our intention to bring Joule to international markets. We wish it was a faster process, but for the most part it comes down to certification, since the tests and requirements for each country are unique and it takes time to get through that process, but yes, we hope to start rolling out Joule to international markets possibly as early as the second half of 2016. For anyone interested in getting updates about availability in your country, go to chefsteps.com/joule and click “keep me posted.”
SousVideGuys: What’s the first thing the team cooked sous vide on the 1st prototype of Joule to test it?
Grant: Eggs because the hardware engineers could quickly and easily drop them in to test the device. Next we made salmon.
SousVideGuys: We love the name Joule! Who came up with the name?
Grant: Our co-founder and CEO, Chris Young came up with the name. Joule is the fundamental unit of heat energy, and sous vide is about adding a measured amount of heat to food to get a great result. It made sense to us given what sous vide is all about.
SousVideGuys: Thanks Grant for speaking with the Sous Vide Guys! And congratulations once again, on the launch of Joule. We look forward to testing it when it comes out!
And that concludes our interview with Grant Crilly. We hope you enjoyed the insights and his personal sous vide tips and techniques as much as we did. Special thanks to Amy Hatch for her help in arranging for this interview.
Until next time, sous vide soon and bon appétit!
To find out more about Joule, click here.
Grant Crilly’s Power Smoothie Recipe
- 8oz almond milk
- 3 oz whey protein
- 1 tbs peanut butter
- One big handful of fresh spinach
- Half of a frozen banana
- 20 frozen blueberries
Put all ingredients into a bender and blend until smooth.