Today, we are pleased to present our interview with Taylor Dawson, Product Evangelist at FirstBuild. He is a key member of the team that was behind the birth of the Paragon Induction Cooktop. The Sous Vide Guys are proud to be one of the first to speak to him just after the wildly successful Indiegogo crowdfunding launch of the Paragon. We got to ask him questions about his experience with sous vide and his insights in the conceptualization of the Paragon.
(Left to Right): Amelia Gandara, Aaron Ma, Taylor Dawson, Symon Harrah, Justin Berger
SousVideGuys: First up, congratulations on the amazing crowdfunding success thus far on Indiegogo for the Paragon Induction Cooktop!
Taylor: Thanks, we really appreciated your breaking coverage of Paragon, and the promotion of our Founders Day price.
SousVideGuys: We were really happy to see the shout-out FirstBuild gave us on your Indiegogo page as well. To see our logo next to The New York Times and CNet, well that’s a big deal for us, so we are grateful for that too!
And thanks for taking the time to talk to us!
SousVideGuys: Are you a home chef? If so, what sort of dishes of yours are the most well-loved by your family and friends?
Taylor: I am well known among my circle of friends for being very particular about the food that I eat and the food that I serve. My wife and I entertain on average 1-2 times per month (we would do more if we weren’t so busy raising 3 small girls). I really enjoy serving dishes that concentrate on perfectly roasted or grilled, seasoned meat. I’ve been perfecting both my fajita and carnitas recipes for years now. I take a lot of pride in serving tender and delicious meat.
SousVideGuys: Who is your favourite TV chef and why?
Taylor: Great question. I don’t have cable (we have cut the cord in favor of on-demand programming), so I harken way back to when I was a kid watching cooking shows on PBS on Saturday afternoon. Martin Yan, host of Yan Can Cook, is by far the most entertaining TV chef I am aware of. I was extremely excited when he appeared at the Builders Show in Las Vegas to feature the Bluetooth-connected temp probe that FirstBuild created for GE Cooktops that enables sous vide on their new induction line.
Martin Yan. Image source from ucanr.edu
SousVideGuys: What was the first thing you EVER cooked sous vide? Did it turn out well?
Taylor: I first became aware of sous vide about 2 years ago, but I didn’t have a cooker or know anyone who did. I first tried it about 6 months ago, and of course I tried steak first. I got a nice, thick filet and seasoned with salt and pepper, immersed for 90 minutes at 132°F (55.5°C), and seared. Then I sautéed some mushrooms in butter in the searing pan, added some balsamic and reduced. You probably already know the answer to your follow-up question. IT was a memorable experience, and I was converted for life.
SousVideGuys: How old were you and where was it?
Taylor: 35, and at home.
SousVideGuys: What sous vide device do you usually use?
Taylor: I have used them all. I think Paragon is unique because it’s compact and unintrusive. Nothing bulky in the pot and stores easily under the counter. The flexibility to monitor temperature of soups, oil, milk, and cheese is the icing on the cake, and that is where a lot of our development time is now focused. Ultimately, we want a device that is simple to set up, and that can cook recipes perfectly with the touch of a button. This could include variable target temperatures and burner heat settings.
SousVideGuys: What’s your favourite dish to cook sous vide?
Taylor: Steak. It has the best “wow” factor, and I love serving it to friends.
SousVideGuys: What do you think of the displacement method of sealing food? Or do you believe a vacuum sealer is needed?
Taylor: I just use the displacement method and a zip-top bag, unless I am doing veggies, in which case I prefer to vacuum seal.
SousVideGuys: Which school of thought do you belong to? Season and salt your steak before you sous vide or after?
Taylor: Is there an “all of the above” option available in this multiple choice? Salt beforehand to permeate and flavor the meat, generous salt after to create a tasty crust. I recently learned how using an appropriate amount of salt makes the meat taste so much better. I know that scientifically, salt is hygroscopic and supposedly draws moisture from the steak, but it doesn’t really match up with my experience, particularly when cooking sous vide. Maybe I’m just not particular enough.
SousVideGuys: What’s the first thing the team cooked sous vide on the first prototype for the Paragon Induction Cooktop to test it?
Taylor: Steak, veggies, and particularly eggs were what we considered the most important part of our test plan. As you know, for eggs just a degree one way or the other has a noticeable impact on the quality of the food.
SousVideGuys: What do you think of online comments that the lack of a circulator is a possible issue for keeping temperatures even when cooking sous vide with the Paragon Induction Cooktop?
Taylor: We’ve got a very solid engineering team with decades of combined experience in instrumentation and data acquisition. Temperature consistency was our first concern when evaluating the concept of using induction cooking for sous vide. There are a couple factors that work together for Paragon: convection currents and burner location. Our sous vide solution provides temperature uniformity similar to others.
SousVideGuys: The interesting thing about a sous vide induction cooktop is the possibility of cooking sous vide with liquids other then water (like oil for example) and bags other than polyethylene (like pig skin or pig stomach). This could open up a whole new world in culinary innovation. Was this something the team considered in building and designing the Paragon?
Taylor: You are right on target. Sous vide device makers seem to think that the terms “sous vide” and “precision cooking” are synonymous. Paragon is partly about sous vide, but we are also taking precision cooking into deep frying, candy making, and tasks that are currently tedious like trying to hold sauce at a constant low temperature. This new value proposition is what convinced me that Paragon would be a breakthrough product, and it’s why I spend my passion promoting the product.
We understand that cooking on a cooktop can be a stressful and error-prone process. The number of people who aspire to enjoy and serve great food currently dwarfs the number of people who have the ability and the experience required to cook it. Paragon addresses the “skills gap” by taking the guesswork out of cooking.
(Left to Right) Taylor Dawson and Justin Berger
SousVideGuys: Which did the team think of creating first; a sous vide device or an induction cooktop?
Taylor: It was always about temperature-controlled cooking. Our engineering team had experience with the whole gamut of heating devices. We felt induction was the best way to enable our vision of precision cooking that extended beyond sous vide, but we knew that a precision cooking device needed to be able to do sous vide as well. Sous vide emerged as the killer application, so we proved that we could make sous vide happen with induction.
Induction is a great cooking technology. Instead of pulsing on-off-on-off like coils, it provides constant, uniform heat output at any temperature from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. This allows us to be not only precise, but to avoid scorching delicate foods. Cooking well is nuanced, and we didn’t feel like a typical resistance heater would get us where we wanted to be.
SousVideGuys: When do you think FirstBuild will be creating a 220V version for customers outside of the US?
Taylor: This is a great question that we have been discussing as a team. As we are soaring past our initial funding goal, we have been working on stretch goals (additional features) to offer as we hit new funding benchmarks. Our funders (and potential funders) have been adding their comments to our discussion page. We would love to hear more from the Indiegogo community on proposed features.
SousVideGuys: Thanks Taylor for speaking with the Sous Vide Guys! And congratulations once again, to you and everyone on the team at FirstBuild on the success of the Paragon Induction Cooktop. We look forward to testing it when it comes out!
There you have it sous vide fans, our in-depth, sous vide-centric interview with Taylor Dawson, Product Evangelist at FirstBuild. Special thanks to Amelia Gandara for her help in arranging this interview.
Until next time, sous vide soon and bon appétit!