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

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.

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!

Office Hours

Oh, man. I see you looking my way, wondering where I’ve been. Quit staring. I am back.

Have you ever wanted to see the ChefSteps space? Well, in exchange for some of your time, say 30 minutes, I’d be happy to walk you through the space and see where all the magic happens. Now is your chance: Every Thursday, I’m going to be hosting user interviews at ChefSteps—If you’re visiting Seattle or are local to the area, feel free to contact me and set up some time to come by. I’ll ask you some questions about how you use ChefSteps and more generally just have some conversation about cooking and how CS fits into your life. Hope to hear from you!

Our New Mobile App Was Built by Unicorns

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


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.


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!

Cook Smarter with ChefSteps on PBS Food!

We’re pleased to announce that our web series  ChefSteps: Cook Smarter is now live on the PBS Food site! We’re very excited to bring our work to a new audience at PBS.

Each week on ChefSteps: Cook Smarter, we’ll publish some of our favorite recipes and techniques, which will appear alongside other amazing food series, like Made in Spain with José Andrés and The Mind of a Chef with Anthony Bourdain and David Chang.

We’re thrilled to be part of PBS Food, which is a curated resource for educational cooking shows, blogs, and recipes from around the world.

Meet ChefSteps’ new Ingredient Wiki – And Enter to Win A Free Class

The web is full of information about ingredients. All you have to do is search for smoked paprika or maitake mushrooms and you’ll find sheafs of information. So why did we decide to launch our own ingredient wiki at ChefSteps?

Well, as enthusiastic cooks we run into the same problems over and over again: the information we find on the web isn’t necessarily food-centric, it isn’t well structured, it is too commercial, and it isn’t always reliable. Even Wikipedia, as great as it is, often bogs down into botanical or pharmaceutical details that don’t help much in the kitchen.

Ingredient Wiki Gallery

Our ingredient wiki is designed by cooks, for cooks. Each entry connects to recipes that use it, and to other ingredients that are frequently used with it. Text sections describe relevant culinary information, such as alternative names, purchasing tips, and seasonality.

The best part? This is an opportunity for you to contribute your time, knowledge or skills. You don’t have to be an expert to help! Of course we are delighted if you are an asparagus-savant and want to write a complete article about it. But we are just as happy if you will take a moment to:

  • add just a sentence or two,
  • copyedit what someone else has written,
  • add a photograph,
  • add a weight to the Volume Conversion section,
  • or simply tag the article as “vegetable” and “Spring”

If everyone contributes just a little, this could quickly become a comprehensive, dynamic ingredient resource that benefits cooks around the world.

To get involved, simply sign in (or sign up) with your free ChefSteps account, and visit the ingredient gallery. You can browse, search the gallery by name, or sort it to find recently added or edited ingredients that you might want to work on.  You can also click through from the ingredient list in any recipe on the site. Don’t see the ingredient you want to write about? Just click on “Add Ingredient” at the top of the gallery and get to work!

Here are some examples of articles that already have quite a bit of content, so you can see what the possibilities are: chickpeas, xanthan gum, garlic.

If you have suggestions about how we can make our new tool better, we’d love to hear from you at

Oh, and about that contest! Anyone who edits any ingredient entry between now and January 15th, 2014 (11:59 PM, Pacific time) is automatically entered to win. We’ll pull names out of a hat and give away free enrollment into a paid ChefSteps class to three lucky winners. (Winners can choose from our French Macarons or Whipping Siphons classes, or wait for the next one we publish.) The contest is over now; congratulations to our winners Marco, Marc, and Diana and thanks to everyone who contributed. Keep those ingredient wiki entries coming!

The Whipping Siphons Class Is Here!










We’re very excited to announce our latest online class: Whipping Siphons! In this class we will show you all of the incredibly diverse applications for this under-appreciated kitchen tool. With whipping siphons, you can garnish dishes with colorful foams; serve fizzy cocktails at your next dinner party; make your own bitters, liqueurs, pickles, sodas, or cold-brew coffee; serve up carbonated fruit to wow your guests; and much more. We’ll show you how it works with concise, entertaining video instruction, simple recipes, and support from the team.

As an expression of our gratitude for the continued support from all of you, we’re offering a 25% discount on the class. Redeem your discount by following this link: and give a class as a holiday gift to your favorite foodie. For more info, check out the Whipping Siphons landing page and FAQ.

Enjoy the class, have a wonderful holiday and as always, we look forward to hearing your feedback!

Chris, Grant, Ryan, and the rest of the ChefSteps team

Typography of ChefSteps

Fortunately, I have the freedom here at ChefSteps to go down rabbit holes I think are important, as long as I can A) Convince the team they are necessary and B) Can execute. So, after feeling like something was a bit off about the typography of the site, you’ll notice in the last couple of months that we moved away from using Raleway and Helvetica Neue on headers and body text respectively, and moved to mostly just Gotham. I love it, and I think the site looks very clean with it, but there was something missing.

It all started with MailChimp’s Archived Post of Rhythm and Grid , and I got started down the path of looking at our own typography and vertical rhythm (it was lacking). Once I started on the path of defining a vertical rhythm, I found several great resources that all coincided with choosing a scale for the typography as well. We’re currently using Gotham as the main font for the site through H&FJ ( A little more digging and bam! 8th light post about choosing a scale.

I started here, with a 9:16 scale, which is a minor seventh in musical terms. I chose 9:16 because of the similarity (while not exactly the same as) to 16:9 aspect ratio, which Ryan shoots the video at. That scale looks like this. The minor seventh looked good, but sounded a tad discordant for my taste. Knowing no one would really care/know about his, I still took the time to change it so it matched up to a perfect fourth. A perfect fourth sounds like the first chord on this song, which was playing everywhere at ChefSteps one day:

17 by Youth Lagoon on Grooveshark

By this time, I’d seen several blog posts about incorporating music into your typography, and Robert Bringhurst’s advice to compose to scale is where a lot of these rooted from. Tim Brown’s article on A List Apart and Owen Gregory’s on 24 Ways are older posts, but also absolutely amazing and in-depth. I’ve not even come close to the thoroughness of the composition for layout as these two do, but it’s a start.

Here’s what I did: I took the Perfect Fourth and associated our scale to those and used the true 16:9 pixel dimension as the magic number (in this case, 1136px for our videos, which is a true 16:9 resolution. So, we’re using the perfect fourth scale now, which was a small adjustment, but gives me a really nice story behind the design :)Here’s the modular scale. We skip a few sizes between h3 and h5, but that also allows us flexibility in typography for different sized text should we need it.

One of the big things I struggled with was em vs. rem. I was defining baseline by em, which was screwing up issues because it was all defined by the parent and ems can compound in size based on inheritance. The only real solution while still using ems is to write more css — The answer was to use rems. I then defined the root for html to be 62.5%, which is the same as what Jonathan recommends, in order to have every X.Xrem to translate into XXpx (1.1rem = 11px). Then I used a SASS mixin to define a baseline of 1.1rem and anytime I add margin, I use $baseline * N for as much space as I need.

All this took a little while, because the rhythm is constantly disrupted by image sizes that don’t fall into multiples of our baseline (11px), but for the most part, the text up and down the page does. It helps the pages look more composed and any new modules we have in the future should fit neatly into the grid, making the entire site more flexible and robust from a UX perspective.

Did you get this far? You must really like typography! You’re probably like:

But I’m like:

Vertical rhythm and composing to a scale: Like doing the robot in a robot suit. Thanks to everyone linked here for helping me figure out how to implement something like this on ChefSteps. What’s next?

Some more resources:



It’s Movember and we’ll be growing a moustache to raise funds and awareness for men’s health. It’s going to be a hairy journey and we want you to be part of it.

Fight for your right to change the face of men’s health, enlist for Movember and JOIN our TEAM now.

A moustache is the mark of a man, and today it is a symbol to spark conversations about important health issues. So guys, pledge to grow a Mo today, or ladies, join the team to support the Mo.


Find out more about why you should join us by taking a look at THE CAUSES WE ARE FIGHTING FOR.

Thanks for supporting and helping us change the face of men’s health.

United We Mo!

Happy One Year Anniversary!


ChefSteps’ first anniversary has come and gone, and, like any good startup, we were too busy working on the next great thing (our online French macaron class) to stop and celebrate.

I asked some fellow team members to weigh in on what it’s been like to work at ChefSteps for the past year, and they had plenty to be grateful for.

Michael Natkin, our CTO, described his favorite part of the job: “I get to combine two of my favorite things: food & code.”

Lorraine Esterling, our social media director, on the work environment at ChefSteps: “It looks a little like the show Breaking Bad, with the mysterious lab and maker builds scattered about; plus an influx of irresistible aromas from the kitchen; Ben’s and Grant’s playlists; Chris’s ongoing dissertations; lots of laughter; amazing food; and coffee, endless coffee. In other words, heaven on earth.”

Software engineer, Huy Nguyen, on the best parts of working at ChefSteps: “Being able to work with so many talented people on a subject I’m passionate about. Getting to talk to people of different disciplines and backgrounds. I enjoy chatting with the chefs in the kitchen, with Hans about music, you and Ryan about video, Lorraine about social media. We have such a diverse and multi-talented team. Not to mention, getting to taste all the food.”

Our product designer, Tim Salazar, told me about his favorite parts: “The people. The freedom to work on a million things. The space, culture, and of course, the food. Lots of things to think about, challenges everywhere, and big things on the horizon.”

I agree with all of it—especially the part about the talented people I get to work with.

We’ve spent the past year developing recipes and techniques, building a clean, easy-to-use platform to feature your recipes, establishing an awesome online culinary community, and listening to input from that community.

I’d like to raise my apple gin gimlet to salute our amazing ChefSteps community, our founders Chris Young, Grant Crilly, and Ryan Matthew Smith, and the rest of the ChefSteps team, which continues to grow.

Many thanks to all of you ChefSteppers for your continued support. If there is anything you’d like to see us improving on in the next year, leave a comment or email me at with the subject line: “One Year and Counting.”

The French macaron class is coming soon!

We’re really looking forward to the upcoming launch. We can’t wait to see all of your amazingly successful macarons!

A few weeks ago, our chefs handed the aprons to the rest of the (non-chef) team, and asked us to beta-test the class. We paired up into teams and made our own batches of macarons—with no support from the kitchen staff. That’s right, no support at all.


They watched us like lab rats as we cooked our way through the class, making sure that the step-by-step instructions and videos were easy to understand and interpret. If we had any obstacles throughout the process, we talked about them and wrote them down. Then, we went back and fixed everything that had been confusing or unclear.

This was such an entertaining and enjoyable activity to do with my coworkers. I hope you will give it a try as well! Speaking from experience, I can say that this thorough, in-depth class will help you perfect your French macaron artistry. I guarantee it!

Before we launch, we’re giving away three free entrances to the class:

Click here to view this promotion.