Introducing Joule: A Letter From Chris Young

We built Joule to fit seamlessly in today's kitchen. It fits in a drawer with your knives and your spatula, and you'll use it just as often.

Joule is small enough to fit in a drawer with your knives. We think you’ll use it just as often.

Revolutions have to start somewhere.

Despite massive advances in computing and the internet, globalization and manufacturing, the kitchen has largely been left behind. We’re going to change that.

In the last few years, ChefSteps has created and shared over 700 video-based recipes, which you’ve viewed over 50 million times from nearly every country in the world. And for those of you who’ve watched our videos or cooked our recipes, it won’t come as a surprise that we think sous vide has a big role to play in revolutionizing the kitchen.

The more we listened to your feedback, the more it became clear that many of you wanted a better sous vide cooking experience. We challenged ourselves to reimagine sous vide from the ground up, to create a tool that would inspire and empower cooks at every skill level and make sous vide a real part of today’s kitchen.

So we built it. And we call it Joule.

Joule represents three years of listening and reacting to your feedback, testing with community members, and inventing and reinventing until we got it right. But this is just the beginning. We built Joule for you, and we’re incredibly excited to get it into your hands, learn from your experiences, and decide what comes next. And yes, I’m being sincere when I say Joule is for you, and for every single cook in the ChefSteps community.

We hope Joule will encourage you to continue believing in the magic of the kitchen and sharing in the ritual of cooking and eating with the people you love. Grant and I founded ChefSteps with a conviction that if we focused on making cooks happy through our work, then our business would thrive. Those of you who have worked in the restaurant industry will recognize this as the business of hospitality.


PS. ChefSteps is truly a global community, and it’s important to us that we make Joule available to passionate cooks around the world. We’re working as fast as we can to bring it to you. If you’re interested in getting updates about availability in your country, go to and click “Keep Me Posted.”

Joule: claim yours now.


Preorder Joule today and be among the first cooks to experience the future of sous vide.

Smart and Gets Things Done Are Not Enough

Once upon a time, hiring programmers began with making a list of things they needed to know. Actually, you can still see plenty of job descriptions today that read like a snooze-inspiring checklist.

Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree or Military experience — At least 12 years of experience with Enterprise application design and construction with an emphasis on web architectures — At least 7 years experience in SOA environments working with SOAP or at least 7 years of experience with RESTful web services- At least 7 years of -.NET (C#), ASP.NET- — At least 5 years of experience with UI Design — At least 5 years of experience with -HTML.

That is excerpted directly from an actual, live job posting. And it keeps droning on like that for several more paragraphs. Painful, no? Do you wonder how its authors decided that it should be 7 years of .net, but only 5 years of HTML? Should you really not apply if you have 7 years of HTML and 5 of .net? Do they really not want you if you are the author of a major open source library but don’t have a bachelor’s degree?

On the plus side, pretty much only big, ossified corporations think this way anymore, which means that they are missing out on smart, awesome people. Cue evil laugh and nefarious rubbing-together-of palms — this means lots more smart and awesome for the rest of us.

Way back in Y2K, when otherwise normal people were avoiding elevators and stockpiling canned chicken, Joel Spolsky wrote an incredibly influential article called The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing. It is still well worth a read, but the biggest takeaway is: stop hiring for predefined skills. Instead, hire for two traits: Smart and Gets Things Done.

At ChefSteps, we take this advice seriously. You should hire smart people because they do smart things that make your products better. Smart developers write clean, concise, well-factored, reusable, tested, DRY, performant code. And you never have to give them the same feedback twice.

Smart is necessary but not sufficient. Your hires must also be people who get things done, because if they only sit around and theorize about smart things, you’ll never ship. And all that not-shipping is going to make you pretty darn stabby.

So where does experience come in? Great programmers pick up new stacks in short order. So it rarely makes sense to hire someone based on his or her familiarity with a particular language or tech stack. There are two exceptions to this rule. Actually, there is one full exception, and one half one.

First, the full exception: Sometimes, deep expertise just matters. Someone, for example, who has worked extensively on web-scale services — and wrestled with all of the SLAs and security issues they entail — just knows things on a visceral level. And that knowledge may well keep you from cutting yourself with very sharp objects. Sure, you can ask a great frontend developer to learn that stuff, but expect it will take them a year or more to be truly fluid at it. So when the stakes are high enough that stabby-ness is in play, go ahead and hire for expertise.

Onto the half exception. Let’s say you’ve got something absolutely urgent to do on a particular stack. Your iOS app is six weeks from shipping, and the critical new user onboarding experience isn’t done. Okay. This is not the time to bring in a phenomenal backend developer and get her up to speed on Swift. But if you find yourself with an immediate need, and don’t believe you will have an ongoing role for the person who can meet it, or know that hiring him means compromising your normal standards, you should use a contractor or agency to solve the problem. That solution has its own headaches, sure, but it’s better than forcing a lackluster hire on you and your team. Once the crisis is past, you probably should figure out how you got yourself in that mess in the first place.

So, Smart and Gets Things Done are great criteria for new hires. Let’s add a third: Not a Jerk. No matter how smart someone is, no matter how good his code or how fast he writes it, we’ve got no place for him on our team if he makes everyone else miserable. Frankly, I don’t care about the beer test or even the Sunday test. They can actually work actively against diversity and lead to a team of code bros. But if you find yourself interviewing the type of programmer who always has to be the smartest person in the room, or that gets his jollies from insulting coworkers, or — worst of all — shows himself to be ethically challenged, the door shouldn’t even have a chance to hit him on the way out.

The problem is: Smart, Gets Things Done, and Not a Jerk are table stakes. As competitive as the market is for engineers is these days, it is tempting to hire people who just hit those marks. But hire based on those criteria alone, and you may end up with a team of highly fungible, tremendously boring robots.

The context of your company or team matters a great deal. At ChefSteps, being part of a startup with a big vision means our hires need to gracefully embrace ambiguity and change. We are trying to reinvent the kitchen, not disrupt inventory management for janitorial supplies. If you expect to always have complete specs and perfect design docs before you build a feature, this isn’t the right place for you.

And you know what? I know myself as a manager and leader. If a developer is only productive when I hound her to keep her backlog organized and her bugs under control, and I can’t trust her to make important tradeoffs, we won’t work well together. My job is to help my team understand the overall context of what we are building as a company so our decisions are aligned. I do my best to make sure they have what they need to be successful, and shelter them from distraction. I find them awesome coworkers to execute with, and help them work through the inevitable human issues that pop up. I’m also super-excited to talk through technical issues, but I’m nowhere near smart enough or patient enough or in-enough-places-at-enough-times enough to coach anyone through her job on a daily basis. So to thrive here, engineers have to relish autonomy along with massive responsibility.

Beyond these fundamental requirements, every great engineer that I’ve worked with brings distinct additional strengths. Just to pick a few examples, they might:

  • Know every line of a multi-million line codebase and be able to diagnose a bug without even looking at any code.
  • Be unrelentingly optimistic and never give up on a goal, even if it takes years to come to fruition.
  • Crush any obstacle that comes between them and done. Before lunch.
  • Be a grizzled vet who has shipped so many things that they help the whole team make great tradeoffs…
  • … or be relatively new, but so motivated that if you take a chance on them, they will repay it 10x.
  • Bring a completely different perspective that changes how you think about a problem or a whole project.
  • Reduce your stress level because you know that anything that lands in their lap is 100% handled.
  • Make the team so fun that everyone can’t wait to get to work, or loves to hang out together outside of work.
  • Have a knack for isolating and eliminating the nastiest, most difficult to reproduce bugs.
  • Have the empathy and passion for education that makes them great at mentoring interns and less-experienced but promising newcomers.
  • Be so incredibly committed to your product that they will stretch in unexpected ways to make it a massive success.
  • Engage directly with users to turn them into evangelists and help the whole product team learn what they really need to build.
  • See the big picture of the architecture you are building and save the team years of wandering the right way down the wrong paths.
  • Be emotionally intelligent in a way that recognizes when colleagues need to talk about something difficult, or even initiate those conversations that would be easier to avoid.
  • Be passionate about growing the team and help you identify and interview terrific candidates.
  • Read all the blogs and be aware of the bleeding edge of tech. (Bonus points if they have enough taste and self control to know when to actually use the bleeding edge of tech).
  • Challenge you and call you out — very publicly if need be — when you are being a jackass.
  • Love to put on the headphones and knock out impossible features, impossibly fast.
  • Have a sensitivity to user interface that allows them to collaborate unusually effectively with designers.
  • Be a tool builder who will continually make your team more efficient.
  • Communicate effectively to other technical and non-technical teams.
  • Surprise you with futures and prototypes you’d have never thought of.

No candidate is going to bring all of these strengths to the table, but any great candidate will bring some of them. Ideally, your team will grow to include people with a diversity of them over time. To improve your odds, be sure to write job descriptions that communicate actual passion and the flavor of your company. Ask open-ended questions that invite candidates to show you their personality, follow-up about subjective skills in reference checks, and discuss them in your hiring decision meetings.

Now for the really subjective part. There is something else I look for in every hire, a proxy, of sorts, for that long list of soft skills: are the lights on in their eyes? There are plenty of candidates that I talk to that are … perfectly fine. They are solid programmers; they’ve shipped things; they are nice people. But certain people just have that spark, and when you see it, you know that you want to work with them because they are going to make your life and your team way better.

So, tell me, does all this jibe with your experience hiring engineers? Are there other things you look for in candidates? And how do you identify those subjective — but crucial — skills that will never show up on a checklist?

Michael Natkin is the CTO of ChefSteps. We are reinventing the kitchen. And hiring.

The ChefSteps Seattle Restaurant Guide

Seattleites love dining street-side at Le Pichet near Pike Place Market.

When the cooking enthusiasts in our community have a chance to visit our amazing hometown, they sometimes want advice on what to do in Seattle. You know—hiking, boating, gliding, catching a great show, shopping, beholding beautiful art. That sort of stuff. But truth be told, mostly people just want us to tell them where to eat and drink. As you might guess, we have no shortage of opinions on this subject. And we love knowing that visitors from Brazil to China come here and experience the best of what our devoted dining scene has to offer.

With this in mind, we created this informal dining guide to Seattle. It’s a list of the places we love, right now. We plan on updating it to include new favorites or forgotten standbys, too. Is every excellent restaurant in town on the list? No! Did we miss one? Inevitably! Let us know in the comments. We love checking out new places.

Fresh Oysters

Taylor Shellfish (Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square, and Seattle Center)
Taylor is the place for fresh, local oysters and the wines that go with them.


The croissants at Crumble and Flake are arguably the best in town—kouign-amann and other pastries are killer too, though. You can’t go wrong.


Cafe Besalu
Find pretty killer pastries—sweet and savory—at this neighborhood spot.

The Fat Hen
The eggs Benedict at this cool little storefront spot are the best! Weekend brunch can be busy, but worth the wait.

Prolific James Beard Award–winning restaurateur Tom Douglas owns this Greek-leaning spot featuring kebabs, meze, and tons of dips. Those are all served at brunch-time, along with a selection of egg dishes.

Capitol Hill:

Crumble and Flake
You can order up to six of any pastry at this little wedge of a bakery in lower Capitol Hill. You’ll need at least that many croissants—the very best in town.

Sitka & Spruce (in Melrose Market)
James Beard Award–winner Matt Dillon’s breezy, locally focused eatery in the Melrose Market serves a consistently delicious array of small plates—salt cod brandade, ling cod with peas and mushrooms—during its elegant weekend brunch.

The Wandering Goose
Order a biscuit sandwich with fried chicken at the counter, eat that, then go back for a big old slab of chocolate or red velvet cake.


Matt Lewis got Seattle hooked on his beignets and po’ boys back when he served them out of a food truck called Where Ya At, Matt? The truck still roves around town, but you can sample those dishes, along with French-Creole takes on brunch food—fried green tomato benedict, bananas foster pancakes—indoors during weekend brunch at his Fremont spot.

Queen Anne:

Boat Street Kitchen
It was a sad day when Renee Erickson closed her cafe next door, but at least we can still stop by the Kitchen for oeufs plats and a blueberry cream scone at brunch-time.




Quiet Capitol Hill coffee shop Analog makes its drinks with Herkimer beans, preferred roastery of the heavily caffeinated ChefSteps crew.


Slate Coffee
We love the clean brews at this modern roastery sourcing high-quality coffee from around the world.


Capitol Hill:

Read a comic book while you sip on a pour-over or espresso drink at this white-on-white cafe in a quiet section of Capitol Hill.

This highly influential company has two locations on Capitol Hill’s busy Broadway—grab something to go from the stand or hang out in the spacious cafe a few blocks north on the other side of the street.



Lighthouse Roasters
A great place to stock up on super-fresh beans to take home with you—Lighthouse is a kid-friendly neighborhood cafe with an onsite roastery.

Milstead & Co.

With an educated staff and first-rate coffee, Milstead—named for owner Andrew—is a must-visit for java super-fans.

Vif Seattle
Coffee in the morning, natural wines in the afternoon—lots to love at Vif.


Happy Hour



Take advantage of great deals on pastas and snacks during happy hour at Ethan Stowell’s modern restaurant in Belltown.


Locals frequent the daily happy hour to take advantage of beer and wine specials in the middle of the Belltown action.


Pioneer Square:

Damn The Weather

Fun fact: the owner of this cool cocktail bar in historic Pioneer Square is a former member of the Fleet Foxes. He also hosts a generous happy hour.


Le Pichet

ChefSteps designers discuss their favorite fonts over classic French treats—quiche, oeufs plats, etc.—at Le Pichet.

Downtown/Pike Place Market:


The chefs stock up on olive oil, salts, and all kinds of other stuff here, and the whole staff heads to the takeout counter at lunchtime for Sicilian-style pizza slices, plus fresh soups, salads, and sandwiches.

Le Pichet

Le Pichet really pulls off the whole French bistro look, and the food’s good enough to fool you too. Think fluffy quiches, lovely charcuterie, and one badass salade verte.


We’ve had about a billion business meetings at Lecōsho, so if we’re still into going there—and we are—it must be good. Reliable lunch options include a tasty house salad and a BLT augmented by a soft-boiled egg. Stop by in the evening for generous food-and-drink specials (spaetzle! steamed manila clams!) at happy hour.


International District:


Our favorite spot for unfussy, tasty Japanese food in “the ID.”


Pioneer Square:

Il Corvo

Long lines are the norm at Mike Easton’s tiny pasta place, but your reward for waiting is some seriously kickass dishes, which change daily and are pretty much all amazing.

The London Plane

Another Matt Dillon spot—The London Plane is even prettier than Sitka & Spruce and the lunch offerings are on-point.

Pizzeria Gabbiano

Mike Easton is just as good at making Roman-style pizza as he is pasta. EAT HERE.


Poppy in Seattle

The thali at Poppy—how gorgeous is this food?


The Walrus and the Carpenter

Simple, tasty seafood small plates with a subway-tile backdrop—everyone loves Renee Erickson’s white-on-white oyster bar.


Our own Nick Gavin suggests the meatballs over braised greens at Jason Stoneburner’s beautiful Ballard restaurant. (Brunch is good too.)


Spur Gastropub

Our own Ben Johnson used to chef here! One of Seattle’s few modern-food spots, it’s consistently good, even without Ben’s baller cooking. (And we’re way better with him.)


Capitol Hill:


Make reservations to try a multi-course meal at this excellent open-kitchen Italian spot. Wine pairings are skillfully selected to go perfectly with Nathan Lockwood’s well-sourced food, so splurge for the pairing, too. A wonderful special occasion restaurant.


Northwest takes on thali—Indian meals made up of a bunch of little dishes—dominate the menu at James Beard Award–winner Jerry Traunfeld’s colorful Capitol Hill restaurant at the north end of Broadway. If you’re in the market for a fresh snack and a cocktail, head to the bar, a favorite spot of the restaurant’s neighbors.



Sushi Kappo Tamura

The quiet-ish Eastlake neighborhood is a little off the tourist grid, but it’s definitely worth a visit to try some of the most skillfully prepared sushi in town.

Blind Pig Bistro and Babirusa

Head to this restaurant and bar duo and order anything with pork in it. Also drinks. They’ve both got great drinks. (Hint: These restaurants are in a weird-looking strip-mall. Don’t be deterred—the service, food, and ambience are lovely.)



Husband-wife team Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi (who also own Joule and Trove) serve Korean-style rice bowls and dumplings at this casual Fremont restaurant.

Madison Park: 

Independent Pizza

Tell our buddy Joe Heffernan that we sent you. We like his pizza so much we host almost all of our staff parties here.


Madison Valley


An underrated sushi spot in an unassuming Madison Street strip-mall, Nishino serves consistently impeccable sashimi, rolls, and side dishes.


Pioneer Square:

Bar Sajor

Yet another Matt Dillon place—this one is lofty and twinkly and romantic and serves up the Northwest-fresh food for which he’s famous—a great place for when you’ve got something to celebrate. (The editors also agree it’s the most beautiful restaurant in town.)


Queen Anne: 


It’s Canlis, Seattle’s most well-known fine-dining restaurant. Two people on our team used to work there, and the owners and staff share the commitment to excellence we work to maintain at ChefSteps. If you don’t have time to do the full dinner blow-out, stop by the bar to hear some standards on the piano while you drink a really good cocktail.




At Mkt, Ethan Stowell offers fresh, clean flavors and a chance to check out all the kitchen action.


Fresh soba noodles! Drinks! Do it.



Hotel Albatross

Awesome tiki drinks and a very nice kind of relaxed buzz in the air—this is a great bar.

Capitol Hill:


Order something bracing and bitter—negronis often feel like just the drink here—or lightly sweet and refreshing, like, say, one of the daily slushie offerings.


Tales of the Cocktail recently gave owner Jamie Boudreau the award for world’s best spirits collection. It’s the best spirits collection in the world, people. Yes, you may have to wait to get in. Go anyway.


For a more easy-going cocktail experience, go to Liberty. It’s a coffee shop by day, a boozy neighborhood hangout in the evening. Also, there’s sushi. Roll with it.

Tavern Law

A Capitol Hill cocktail bar from the owners of Spur, complete with a bewitching upstairs bar with a secret entrance.


It’s a high-volume cocktail bar with church pews and an owner who sometimes quiets the room to deliver an extremely entertaining “sermon.” Totally bizarre, but it’s fun, too.


Pioneer Square:

E. Smith Mercantile

A very well-kept Seattle secret, this tiny bar is nestled in the back of a shop that sells funky jewelry, home goods, and cocktail bitters. The lady bartenders kick ass, and the deviled eggs do, too.


Downtown/Pike Place Market:

Zig Zag (Pike Place)

A classic spot for cocktails in Seattle, and the best spot to go after you’ve done the rounds at Pike Place Market.

Want to develop cooking skills at home that rival those of your favorite restaurant chefs? Head to ChefSteps for easy-to-follow recipes that will seriously level up your kitchen game. 

Tim Ferriss Recipe Contest: We Have a Winner!

Abishai Powers makes slider buns for baby meatloaf burgers.

Abishai Powers makes slider buns for his baby meatloaf burgers.

Greetings, ChefSteppers. In May, we invited cooks to participate in a recipe contest, a partnership with The 4-Hour Workweek author Tim Ferriss in support of his TV show launching on iTunes. And we got some seriously impressive entries.

About the contest

We asked home cooks to create a dish based on a concept, technique, or recipe they learned from a ChefSteps class or video—free or paid—and then post the results on the forum. Next, our in-house contest committee (with Tim Ferriss also weighing in, of course!) reviewed the awesome entries, selecting a winner based on the creativity of the dish, the description of said dish, and the social media strategy used to promote it.

The prize: The winner will attend a special dinner cooked by our chefs in the ChefSteps kitchen. Joining this ambitious someone: Ferriss himself, plus CS founders Chris Young and Grant Crilly!

Meet the winners

The Powers family made the ChefSteps Slider Buns, adding taco seasoning for "pizazz."

The Powers made the ChefSteps Slider Buns, adding taco seasoning for “pizazz.”

Welp, we have a winner. Actually, we have more than one! First, there’s Dr. David Powers (who represents his 10-year-old son Abishai Powers), and some mouthwatering Mexican Meatloaf Sliders. At the tender age of 10, David’s son is already a budding chef and MasterChef Junior devotee. And David, as it turns out, is a hardcore Tim Ferriss fan. Abishai said he’d love to travel with his dad to the dinner if he won, despite the fact that “he’ll act like a little fangirl when he meets Tim.”

The Powers explained that ChefSteps inspired them to start measuring ingredients by weight instead of volume for better accuracy as well as less mess. And the family used our Slider Buns recipe, adding a Southwestern twist by sprinkling some taco seasoning into the mix. The delicious-looking recipe is on the forum and on Abishai’s blog. In addition to promoting the creation there, the family posted a video on YouTube along with a bunch of other social channels. All in all, pretty great.

And there’s another winner, too!

Sebastian's gorgeous dish, featuring beef chuck transformed via sous vide cooking.

Sebastian’s gorgeous dish, featuring beef chuck transformed via sous vide cooking.

We were also super-taken with the entry submitted by Sebastian Nava. “I was captivated by the idea of transforming a tough cut into a tender steak through cooking sous vide,” wrote Sebastian in his entry. (To learn all about that—and get a bunch of great meaty recipes—sign up for our Cooking Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics class.) He settled on beef chuck, cooking it at 136 degrees farenheit for 24 hours to yield a texture that rivaled premium steaks at a fancy chophouse. He served this meat with fresh chimichurri plus roasted red bell pepper spheres, buttermilk mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, and crispy garlic chips. Dang, right? Sounds (and looks) delicious. He promoted this masterpiece on a bunch of social media channels, making use of new tool Periscope, and doing lots of smart tagging and hashtagging. All in all a very impressive show from Sebastian. So impressive, we named him a co-winner and invited him to attend dinner with Tim and the Powers men, too. We can’t wait to meet the whole crew.

Stay tuned!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest—it was so fun checking out what you made—and stay tuned for the next ChefSteps competition. Meanwhile, we’ll update here with pictures and details of the yet-to-be-scheduled dinner once it happens. Keep cooking, and keep sharing your pics with us on the forum, Facebook, instagram, and Twitter. We can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

Make a Three-, Five-, or Seven-Course Version of our Tasting Menu!


Want to cook a tasting dinner, but not so much into menu-planning? Want to impress your friends with some ambitious, chef-level dishes from our Tasting Menu: Spring feature, but aren’t ready to commit to the full 14-course odyssey? Maybe you just want to host a warm-weather wine pairing party, and need some suggestions for what to serve.

In any case, we totally get it—and we’ve got you covered. Here are three shorter versions of our spring tasting dinner that are big on flavor and fanciness, but way easier to pull off than the whole shebang. Click on the recipes for wine pairings and suggestions on serving dishes, along with notes and everything else you need to try something new and novel.

Once you’ve selected a menu and served it, please share some photos on the ChefSteps forum. As always, we can’t wait to see what you make.

Three-Course Menu


1. Water and Oil (Nick’s Nasti Salad Soup)
2. Boeuf Bourguignon
3. Henna Egg

Chef’s notes: Jump-start your guests’ palates with the intense Water and Oil—right out of the gate they’ll get a dish that’s acidic, earthy, and packed with distinct textures. You can follow that labor of love with a dressed-up version of Boeuf Bourguignon—a meaty main course with an umami-packed demi-glace. The silky, sous vide–cooked beef offers a texture you won’t find in the previous dish, giving guests something new to chew on. End with the dramatic henna egg, a light-and-lovely conclusion to a short meal with Indian-inflected spices and rich, tongue-coating textures.

Five-Course Menu


1. The Field
2. Farm and Garden (Savory Ice Cream Salad)
3. Chicken and Dumplings
4. Boeuf Bourguignon
5. Matcha Rice Pudding

Chef’s notes: This menu starts out with the Field—a homemade oat cracker that offers guests a fun, crunchy bite. From there we transition into a creamy, lightly sweet ice cream that melts away in your mouth and is accompanied by tender fresh herbs—the perfect thing after the briney, nutty cracker. From there, we go straight to the savory safari that is this globe-trotting Chicken and Dumplings riff, featuring fun textures and a broth with enough kick to jump-start guests’ palates. Ah and there she is, that Bouef Bourguignon—sexy and substantial with the hearty savory notes we’ve been building up to. To end the festival of flavors: Matcha Rice Pudding, which is complex in flavor and showcases some fun new techniques you’ll learn while making it.

Seven-Course Menu

1. The Bay
2. Water and Oil (Nick’s Nasti Salad Soup)
3. Northwest Pozole
4. Boeuf Bourguignon
6. Black Forest Glen
7. Garden Tea

Chef’s notes: Set the tone for a fun evening with The Bay, a faux-risotto featuring cucumber and caviar that just pops and melts in your mouth. Next up, the Water and Oil salad-soup offers a hit of acid along with a playground of textures. Then comes our take on pozole, transitioning your palate into more savory flavors with chewy geoduck hidden below a bed of fried tortillas. Your guests will need a little refreshment after all that, so here comes The Park, an aerated sorbet. Ratchet up the intensity once more with Black Forest Glen, a party of chocolate and cherry, followed by refreshing Garden Tea—fresh greens steeped in honeyed water.

Head to ChefSteps for hundreds of recipes, techniques, and tips designed to get you cooking.

Transformation Contest: We Have a Winner!

Tough choices! The team was totally charmed by all the Transformation contest entries.

Tough choices! The team was totally charmed by all the Transformation contest entries.

Last month we launched a contest all about transformation: taking cheap, overripe, or leftover ingredients and turning them into something delicious. We asked you to send us pictures or videos that demonstrated your favorite transformative techniques—those game-changing ideas that take something sleazy and turn it into something sexy. And oh boy, did you show up. We got over a hundred submissions, each completely unique, covering topics from butchery to baking, sous vide to food sculpture. You showed us how leftover carrot tops could become bright, beautiful pesto; how a freshly-hunted wild boar could become honey-baked ham; how some foraged clams could transform into a fragrant chowder. And that’s just the beginning. We spent days reviewing gorgeous modern plates, mouth-watering braises, and homemade charcuterie. Needless to say, we were amazed by the creativity, skill, and enthusiasm with which you attacked this project.

After much deliberation, we came up with a list of five runners-up and one winner. Given all the amazing entries, it was truly difficult to narrow it down. To thank you all for your amazing efforts, we’re offering each participant a free ChefSteps class. (We’ll be in touch about that soon.) Already purchased them all? Have we mentioned we love you? You can give the free class away as a gift.

Without further ado, let’s get to the results.

The Runners-Up

These five entries were all in the running for the big win.

Bjorn Storm, San Diego, CA
Transforming a storebought rotisserie chicken


Dayna Palmer, Hyde, MD
Gold chocolate bars

“I tempered dark chocolate via the seeding method,” writes cocoa whisperer Dayna Palmer, “melting the bloomed chocolate to approximately 38 degrees C, then adding tempered chocolate ‘seeds’—for nucleation sites—and stirring until the chocolate reached about 30 to 32 C. Once it reached this temperature, I cast a shell of this dark chocolate using a polycarbonate mold that I had painted with gold cocoa butter! I deposited the tempered dark chocolate into the mold, tapped out air bubbles, then emptied the excess chocolate so that just a shell was left to be filled.”

The results speak for themselves. You can see more of Dayna’s work at her Etsy shop, called Chocolate Theory.

Writes Palmer: "The before photo is untempered dark chocolate that has set with noticeable fat bloom!" The after images shows the spectacular gold candy bars she made from it. Photo courtesy of Dayna Palmer

Writes Palmer: “The before photo is untempered dark chocolate that has set with noticeable fat bloom!” The after images shows the spectacular gold candy bars she made from it. Photo courtesy of Dayna Palmer.


David Statman, Elmont, NY
Transforming mandarin and tangerine soy dipping sauce into soy candy

“What to do with leftover mandarin and tangerine soy dipping sauce?” asks transformer David Statman. “I first thought I would use it as a marinade to grill vegetables, but then inspiration struck and I knew what to do: Turn it into candy! I reduced the sauce on the stovetop and poured it onto a wannabe Silpat to cool and harden. These sweet and savory shards are quite potent, especially as the soy and ginger get more concentrated.”

So crafty! If we could reach into that picture and grab one of those treats, we’d be a happy crew.

Statman started with leftover mandarin-and-tangerine-soy dipping sauce. He transformed that sauce into shiny candies! Photo courtesy of David Statman.

Statman started with leftover mandarin-and-tangerine-soy dipping sauce. He transformed that sauce into shiny candies! Photo courtesy of David Statman.


Linas Zymantas, Chicago, IL
From oxtail to pho

Writes Zymantas: “I seared the oxtails and then added them to a stock pot with onion, carrot, daikon, ginger, and spices. I simmered the broth for about 12 hours until the oxtails were falling apart tender. The broth was seasoned appropriately, and the shredded oxtails went back into the super silky broth to make a delicious pho!”

Okay we’ll just admit it. The way to our hearts is oxtail pho. Forever. Every time.

Zymantas started with oxtail, an inexpensive tough cut, and transformed into gorgeous pho. Photo courtesy of Linas Zymantas.

Zymantas started with oxtail, an inexpensive tough cut, and transformed into gorgeous pho. Photo courtesy of Linas Zymantas.


Ryne Orechia, Kirkland, WA
Lamb shoulder dish

This Rainier Club cook gave his boss a shoutout, letting us know the chef there encourages creativity in the kitchen. And Orechia clearly takes advantage of the opportunity: he transformed tough lamb shoulder into a remarkable dish via the magic of sous vide. Watch him tell you how he did it in the video below, then check out his remarkable before and after.

Awesome, right? Now check out the pics.

Orechia took on one of our favorite tough cuts: flavor-packed lamb shoulder. He gently cooked the shoulder sous vide to create this lovely dish. Photo courtesy of Ryne Orechia.

Orechia took on one of our favorite tough cuts: flavor-packed lamb shoulder. He gently cooked the shoulder sous vide to create this lovely dish. Photo courtesy of Ryne Orechia.

And the winner is…

Teodosiy Teodosiev, Walnut Creek, CA
Amazing escargots

ChefSteps user Teodosiy Teodosiev stole the show with this incredible transformation featuring the slimy little fellas that populate gardens and sea rocks all over the world. Check out his stop motion video for the full contest-winning story.

Congratulations, Teo! We hope you enjoy that $500 worth of goodies that Grant plucked from the DeLaurenti shelves.

Ready to create your own amazing transformations? Sign up for Cooking Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics and discover incredible, easy techniques for making custards, carnitas for a crowd, Kung Pao ribs, and so much more.

ChefSteps Invades NYC

Picture or it didn’t happen, right? The ChefSteps team snapped plenty of images during our invasion of New York City for the James Beard Awards last week. Were we nervous about the awards ceremony? Hell yeah we were. Still, what were we going to do, let a few butterflies prevent us from making the most of one of the world’s greatest food-and-drink cities? Not this crew.

So, from an epic dinner at Wylie Dufresne’s Alder to a morning-after-the-awards recovery session at the amazing Joe Pro Shop in Chelsea—and taking down no small quantity of cocktails in between—we made the most of our few days in the incredible city. And amazingly, we ended up winning in both award categories in which we were nominated, a major honor and an achievement that would have been impossible without you, our fantastic community.

Anyway, here are some of our favorite photos of the trip, along with commentary by the team members who represented us at the awards: Grant Crilly (co-founder), Chris Young (co-founder), Reva Keller (photographer/videographer), Hans Twite (audio engineer), and Rick Wallace (art director).

Drinks at Balthazar

Grant: Balthazar was one of the team’s pregame stops before the happy hour we hosted. I love this place. I stop here every time I am in New York for at least one glass of wine. This time we had a Picpoul from their cellar that was just insane.

Reva: I ate a salad here. It was the first of many beet-based food and drinks of the weekend—guess beets are trending in New York right now.


Pregame Picpoul at Balthazar Left to right: Reva Keller, Rick Wallace, honorary Chefstepper Jen Utley, and Grant Crilly.

Feeding another obsession

Hans: Whenever I go to New York, I make it my mission to see as many musical instrument shops and historic musical spots around the city as I can. My “touristy” activities include walking to Greenwich village to go by Cafe Wha?, and staring longingly at the front of the minimally ornamented Electric Lady Studios. By far my favorite places in the city to see instruments of unique and historic quality are Rudy’s Music SOHO and 30th Street Guitars.


The incredible lineup at Rudy’s Music

ChefSteps community happy hour at Booker and Dax


Community member Odette Plavinskas bonds with Rick and his iPhone.

Chris: I’ve been friends with [Booker and Dax owner] Dave Arnold ever since he and I were the warm-up act for various Food Network stars at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival many years ago. Dave’s a genius—his incredible book, Liquid Intelligence, garnered a Beard this year—and Booker and Dax was really the perfect place to invite our community, since there’s a lot of overlap between its fans and ours. Above all, what made this great was how excited our community members are about what we’re doing at ChefSteps and it gave us an opportunity to talk with them in person. At the end of the day, even as a digital content and technology company, we’re still in the hospitality business. It’s great to hear we’re making people happy.


Booker and Dax owner Dave Arnold plus Chris and Rick.

Grant: The Eater editors were great; it was so nice to meet some of our media partners in person. Many relationships that we have at ChefSteps are digital, so I just love actually talking with people face to face. It was also amazing to watch the Eater team take home three(!) Beard awards this year. What an accomplishment. We are huge fans!


Eater editors Sonia Chopra and Amanda Kludt check out the cocktail menu. Their team took home an amazing three James Beard awards this year.



One of the incredible cocktails at Booker and Dax.

Reva: I was super-impressed to hear about the recipes from the site that our community members had made—ambitious things like Kouign-Amann and Wine Gums. Quite a few people mentioned liking the One Reuben to Rule Them All video, and wanted to know more about Camp. Mostly I took pictures.


Cheers, Grant.

Dinner at Alder


Reva and her camera go behind the scenes at Alder.

Reva: Halfway through dinner, Grant did a very Grant thing and asked Wylie if I could go to into the back and take photos in the kitchen. Unexpected, but super fun! Wylie was very nice and let me hang around while they plated a couple of things. He insisted that I take a picture of their dishwasher and said he was the only one doing any real work. Later: pickled beets and a beet cocktail. (See what I mean about the beets?) Oh, and then there was “leech guy” Mark Siddall—a curator at the American Museum of Natural History—telling Rick and me about something called pu-erh tea that we should try.

Grant: The food was as interesting as Wylie’s food always is, but even more delicious than usual. I kept drinking these amazing dirty martinis that tasted like there was coconut water in them—the bartender thought I was crazy! I had Wylie try, and he said: “Oh yeah, we don’t wash the bar glasses” in the flatest Wylie tone.


There is no coconut water in this drink, Grant.

Rick: Course after course of tiny, amazing bites of food—I remember lots of beet flavor. We talked about a variety of things here, but what sticks in my mind is the series of stories about people driving into swarms of gigantic insects. But that’s what happens when you eat dinner with interesting weirdos.


A standout among an amazing set of dishes at Alder: Chicken Liver Mousse, Almond, Verjus, and Asian Pear.


Seriously, Grant. No coconut water.

Dry-ice ice-cream demo at Saveur


Dry–ice ice cream: breakfast of champions

Chris: I’m a huge fan of Saveur magazine, and although 7 AM came pretty early the day after the happy hour at Booker and Dax and then Alder, I managed to pull myself together and then make a big mess with the dry ice–churned ice cream. Pretty much guaranteed to happen when you get impatient and want your soft-serve ice cream immediately! Think of what happens when you stick a straw into milk and blow bubbles—yeah, that. Except the soft serve–mix is thicker, and sticky. Of course the Saveur folks asked about the safety of dry ice, and I explained it’s really safe as long as you don’t end up trapped in a closed environment with it—since we can’t breath CO2—and as long as there is a way for the gas to escape. What happens if it can’t escape? Let me demonstrate….


That time Chris terrified the entire staff of Saveur.

Grant: I was super-hungover, but still beat Chris to the Saveur offices that morning. It was totally empty when I arrived; folks only started showing up once Chris was done with his ice cream demo—around 10 AM. So then of course he had to make a dry ice bomb. (The last time we did this, mind you, our office went dark from all the dust falling from our 100-year-old ceilings.) He tried three times! The first time he was too conservative with the amount of dry ice, so everyone waited for 15 minutes while nothing happened. Then we tried again and the same thing happened…but this time it was a shorter wait because Chris was now so impatient he approached the growing bomb and opened it slowly with towels. He loaded it with ice and water. A couple minutes later: MASSIVE EXPLOSION. Very, very loud. People in the office were so freaked out. The staff was hiding behind a wall, full of dread.

Dinner at Buvette

Rick: The food was great, but the decor was amazing. I asked Grant if he’d brought this place back from France, (he lived in Paris for a while), but he didn’t seem to think that was as hilarious as I did.


The beautiful food at majorly French-ified Buvette

Two wins!


Pre-ceremony jitters. Everyone has their own way of coping.


Winning for our documentary and labor of love “Wall of Fire” was an unbelievable thrill.

Chris: These were the third and forth Beard awards for a project I’ve played a role in making happen, and I still felt totally elated when we won. When I started cooking over a decade ago, I don’t think I would ever have imagined winning a Beard award. To get two for ChefSteps this year, I feel deeply gratified and thrilled for our team and so appreciative of our community.

Grant: I cried when we won.


Wait, where did that third one come from?

Hans: Shock and disbelief was the general tone of the night following the announcement of the second Beard award. The award photographer was visibly confused as we waltzed out a second time during the ceremony. We cushioned our transition from disbelief into the realization that we won with a steady stream of complimentary champagne.


All smiles in the official James Beard Foundation shot

The morning after


Man at his best?: Hans, Rick, and Chris in recovery mode at Joe Coffee

Hans: I look more horrible then I felt. Sleep deprivation + añejo tequila = saggy old man face.

Chris: That’s Hans realizing that ordering coffee in a paper cup is a faux pas.

What are your favorite places to eat and drink in New York? Tell us in the comments below!

Midnight Snack Video: New Chefs Rising – Jake Eberle of Le Fond

From Food Republic: In this episode of New Chefs Rising, chef and co-owner Jake Eberle of Le Fond in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, prepares a classic but hard-to-make dish, poule au pot, and talks about his goal of turning out rustic, satisfying food for diners.

Many thanks and credit to Food Republic, Jake Eberle, and everyone else involved in the making of this video. Please share the Midnight Snack with your friends and start cooking!

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 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.

Best of The Forum: Banana Bread and a Most Violent Steak

Welcome to Best of the Forum (BotF), a series in which we highlight fascinating bits from the ongoing conversations happening among our awesome community of cooks. Let’s get to it.

Bloody brilliant

Is it just us, or does the photo above both make you want to up your cooking game and remind you of the opening theme from Dexter? This is the work of community member Lennard Yeong, whose culinary skills and plating prowess just keep getting more impressive by the day. Want to design and plate your own killer dishes? Check out this comprehensive guide from our on-staff food artist Nicholas Gavin.

Speaking of sexy plates

Forum member Rob has been killing it in the plating department as well. Forget Triscuits and cheddar cheese. When this guy gets a mid-morning hankering for a snack, he combines smoked salmon, capers, cream cheese, shallots, toast and pink Himalayan salt for a dish that would fit right in at a fancy restaurant. We like your style, Rob.

Go bananas

There’s banana bread, and then there’s the fruit-forward wonder developed by Nick Gavin. (He’s coming up a lot today, isn’t he?) It’s one of our all-time favorites, so it makes us very happy to see forum member Ethan give it the royal treatment—topping it with toasted brown butter oats, whipped mascarpone, blueberries, AND EVEN MORE BANANAS. Ready to make your own version of our Banana Bread? Be sure to stop by the forum and post a pic. We can’t wait to see what you do with the stuff.

Join ChefSteps today for amazing recipes, tons of techniques, and access to our lively forum of enthusiastic cooks.