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FauxPas

Joule Sous Vide from ChefSteps

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Does anyone else have to troubleshoot the phone / Joule connection every time they set up? At first I tracked my problems down to things like having the phone on one wifi router and the Joule on another (don't ask) but now I know my way around that one. It seems that every time I take the Joule out of storage and plug it in, I have to go through a not-so-simple connection process. The phone program has the Joule listed, but it doesn't simply connect - either by Bluetooth or wifi - without starting and stopping equipment and programs more than once.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Ah,  Dang It, Chefsteps!   Please Breville, don't mess up the Joule under your watch.

 

July 16th, 2019
JOINT NOTICE TO NON-EU CUSTOMERS
 
 
Hello! You are receiving this joint notice because you have subscribed to ChefSteps’ services or connected products and, according to our records, you are not located in the EU/European Economic Area (EEA).
 
ChefSteps and Breville today announced a transaction that will provide you with new opportunities and services for all of ChefSteps’ products.
 
Breville has acquired certain assets and ongoing operations of ChefSteps, with the ambition of growing and expanding ChefSteps' product and service offerings globally.
 
Breville will be supporting the continued operation of your Joule ™ products and is excited about continuing to build the community.
 
We anticipate that not much will change for you in the short term from a practical standpoint. Breville, like ChefSteps, wishes to provide you with a seamless service experience. The website www.chefsteps.com will continue to provide information and tools to learn about sous vide cooking, our Joule product, the user forum, recipes etc. that you enjoy.
 
We believe this combination is a great thing for you.  Breville is as excited about our products and offerings as ChefSteps was, and has ambitions to expand the business in fun and interesting ways.
 
With Breville taking over these products and services from ChefSteps, Breville will gain access to your personal data/personal information that ChefSteps has received, such as your first and last name, your postal address(es) for billing and shipping, your telephone number, your email address, financial data (e.g., any retained credit or debit card number), purchase information, including lifestyle and food preferences, and grocery lists, personal details (e.g., date of birth, gender), your IP address, photographs, social media usernames as well as feedback and reviews on the Joule products.
Like ChefSteps, Breville takes data protection very seriously. Breville will be solely responsible for all data processing. We have therefore posted a revised Privacy Policy [https://www.chefsteps.com/privacy] and revised Cookie Policy[https://www.chefsteps.com/cookie-policy] on the website www.chefsteps.comto reflect this transaction. We encourage you to read these two new policies and come to us with any questions.
 
If you have any questions or comments about this notice, please contact Breville at privacy@breville.com or in writing to:
Breville USA, Inc.
Att: Data Protection Officer /Legal Department
19400 S Western Ave.
Torrance, CA 90501 USA
 

 

 

 

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On 3/23/2019 at 11:00 AM, Smithy said:

Does anyone else have to troubleshoot the phone / Joule connection every time they set up?

 

@Smithy, are you still taking responses? If I unplug the Joule without exiting the cook program, then I have to do lots of adjustment when I want to next use the Joule. If I just terminate the program, then I can unplug the Joule and I won't have trouble next time I want to start it up.

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well

 

there is always an Anova to fall back on 

 

"""Breville will gain access to your personal data/personal information that ChefSteps has received, such as your first and last name, your postal address(es) for billing and shipping, your telephone number, your email address, financial data (e.g., any retained credit or debit card number), purchase information, including lifestyle and food preferences, and grocery lists, personal details (e.g., date of birth, gender), your IP address, photographs, social media usernames as well as feedback and reviews on the Joule products. ""

 

sounds a lot like FaceBook to me

 

and I don't FB.

 

Ill say no more as this is a Family Cooking Site

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For me, the issue seems to have been the startup sequence. I *think* the correct sequence is to start the phone app, then plug in the Joule. Unfortunately, it's been at least a month since I used it. I may have the sequence reversed. It seems not to be dependent on the router I'm using, although for a while I thought it was.

 

I like the small size and good heating of the Joule, but I'm inclined to agree with rotuts that the Anova is more straightforward...and more private.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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4 hours ago, rotuts said:

well

 

there is always an Anova to fall back on 

 

"""Breville will gain access to your personal data/personal information that ChefSteps has received, such as your first and last name, your postal address(es) for billing and shipping, your telephone number, your email address, financial data (e.g., any retained credit or debit card number), purchase information, including lifestyle and food preferences, and grocery lists, personal details (e.g., date of birth, gender), your IP address, photographs, social media usernames as well as feedback and reviews on the Joule products. ""

 

sounds a lot like FaceBook to me

 

and I don't FB.

 

Ill say no more as this is a Family Cooking Site

Breville are an Australian company that’s been around for ages. The information they are having access too is the information that chefsteps has on you and no more. Breville also own poly science. They don’t tend to ever do anything “suspicious”: and by all accounts based on the way Breville has been going these last 6 years it’s a really good fit. 

 

But to each there own, I’m on my 4th anova and I give up, this one doesn’t connect to wifi I’ll accept that flaw, I’ll accept it doesn’t connect to Bluetooth either, I’ll also accept that the timer doesn’t work because on this one, my fourth replacement anova it keeps the temp stable. Cause ya just can’t win’em all! 

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I have an older non-bluetooth Anova, still working OK.  I have an even older Dorkfood controller.   The Joule is the most convenient sous vide device I have.  

 

I do have a couple Breville appliances, I love my Milk Cafe.    I will be in the wait-and-see mode.  I do hope Breville keeps the Chefsteps videos safe.  I watch those for tips and entertainment.  They had such good production values in their included videos.

 

I will admit I decided to buy another pre-Breville Joule, just in case. 

 

From the Breville website (Privacy Policy).  

Account Information

You have the ability to access information we hold about you and to update, correct or erase ( the extent allowed by applicable law) your account information at any time by logging into your Breville account. Alternatively, you may contact us at privacy@breville.com and request information we have about you or request that we update, correct, erase (to the extent allowed by applicable law) or not to sell (if you reside in California) information that we have about you, but note that we may require you to provide additional information to confirm your identity. You may also have the right under applicable data protection law to oppose the processing of your information for legitimate purposes, limit the use and disclosure of your information and revoke the consent you have provided for its processing. If you want to exercise any of these rights, please contact us at privacy@breville.com.

 

Joule

Once your Joule is paired with your Breville account, you can de-link it at any time by disconnecting it via the settings on your mobile phone or tablet. Note, however, that Joule must be paired with a Breville account in order to work properly, so if your Joule has been de-linked from an account, you will need to set it up using a new account in order to enjoy its features.

 

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@gfweb    I do believe you may be a bonafide psychic (post from Joule thread 2015)  LOL

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 6.54.11 AM.png


Edited by lemniscate clarify (log)
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The simple fact that the unit won't work unless paired to an account should be cause to boycott it. This means, fundamentally, that you bought it but you don't own it. Buying something like this is a declaration of absolute trust, not just in the company's leadership, but in all future leaders, regardless of what happens economically or who acquires them.

 

This argument is laid out pretty well by Wired, in reference to Microsoft's recent eBook atrocities: https://www.wired.com/story/microsoft-ebook-apocalypse-drm/

 

For what its worth, I like Breville, and aside from the mandatory connectedness issue, I like the looks of the Joule. But I would never buy it.

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Notes from the underbelly

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3 hours ago, paulraphael said:

For what its worth, I like Breville, and aside from the mandatory connectedness issue, I like the looks of the Joule. But I would never buy it.

 

Not for me. I'm opposed to pointless technology.

 

And The North Koreans might hack my dinner.

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16 hours ago, gfweb said:

 

Not for me. I'm opposed to pointless technology.

 

And The North Koreans might hack my dinner.

 

I'm a fan of the size and the build quality. Not the interface (or lack thereof) and the connected stuff.

 

Please write a screenplay about the great North Korean sous vide hack. I'm sure everyone in this forum would show up at the box office (if no one else).

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Notes from the underbelly

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On 7/22/2019 at 4:02 AM, paulraphael said:

The simple fact that the unit won't work unless paired to an account should be cause to boycott it. This means, fundamentally, that you bought it but you don't own it. Buying something like this is a declaration of absolute trust, not just in the company's leadership, but in all future leaders, regardless of what happens economically or who acquires them

Very true and something I dislike as well, however I seem jinxed and unable to keep a Sous vide circulator running unless it’s my poly science chef circulator which won’t die and has been accurate from day 1, it’s also really loud. Anova well I give up there. Another one was cheaper and it leaked and wasn’t silent.

 

i just want one that’s quiet, works and will fit on my bench! I have considered making my own yes.

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1 hour ago, EatingBen said:

Very true and something I dislike as well, however I seem jinxed and unable to keep a Sous vide circulator running unless it’s my poly science chef circulator which won’t die and has been accurate from day 1, it’s also really loud. Anova well I give up there. Another one was cheaper and it leaked and wasn’t silent.

 

i just want one that’s quiet, works and will fit on my bench! I have considered making my own yes.

 

How odd we all have different experiences.  My anova is perfection in and of itself.  You probably didn't buy the orange one.

 

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3 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

How odd we all have different experiences.  My anova is perfection in and of itself.  You probably didn't buy the orange one.

 

I’m on my fourth anova, the first the impeller would rattle constantly and make a huge amount of noise. The replacement they sent developed an issue and wouldn’t hold temp correctly. The third another (that replaced the second that replaced the first) wouldn’t hold temp properly. This last one, it holds temp properly and doesn’t rattle but wont connect to WIFI (no matter how many times I attempt to reset it) and the Bluetooth doesn’t work properly either. BUT it circulates and keeps an accurate temp so I tolerate it existing in my kitchen but I wont buy another anova, I did contemplate buying the new pro version but I shou,dn’t Have to spend 600 dollars for a circulator to work properly. 

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2 hours ago, EatingBen said:

I’m on my fourth anova, the first the impeller would rattle constantly and make a huge amount of noise. The replacement they sent developed an issue and wouldn’t hold temp correctly. The third another (that replaced the second that replaced the first) wouldn’t hold temp properly. This last one, it holds temp properly and doesn’t rattle but wont connect to WIFI (no matter how many times I attempt to reset it) and the Bluetooth doesn’t work properly either. BUT it circulates and keeps an accurate temp so I tolerate it existing in my kitchen but I wont buy another anova, I did contemplate buying the new pro version but I shou,dn’t Have to spend 600 dollars for a circulator to work properly. 

Huh. I have an anova 1.0 that is still going strong. A little noisy, but always has been.

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51 minutes ago, gfweb said:

Huh. I have an anova 1.0 that is still going strong. A little noisy, but always has been.

With electronics, you just never know. I used to work for Radio Shack Canada for a lot of years, back in the day, and - because we repaired what we sold, in-house - we had a better read than most store staff on what was reliable and what wasn't. There are some major brands that I still won't buy, to this day, as a result (though realistically that was a LONG time ago...).

 

But it was pretty random. You'd get one person who's had nothing but grief with major, well-respected brands (in my case anything Sony I ever touched turned to crap) while other people might have nothing but rock-solid reliability from a make and model that had a hideous return rate. After a while you just shrug and fill out the repair ticket, and stop trying to figure it out.

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“What is called sound economics is very often what mirrors the needs of the respectably affluent.” - John Kenneth Galbraith

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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10 hours ago, EatingBen said:

... I wont buy another anova, I did contemplate buying the new pro version but I shou,dn’t Have to spend 600 dollars for a circulator to work properly. 

 

$400. Isn't that half the price of PolyScience Chef?


Notes from the underbelly

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3 hours ago, paulraphael said:

 

$400. Isn't that half the price of PolyScience Chef?

The anova pro in $629 in Australian dollars. The poly science I got was $1200 quite a few years ago which at that time was a bargain and somewhat new to the market so yeah the Anova Pro is half the price but frankly I don’t trust anova, they’ve been really good with the warranty I’ve not had to argue or fight but I’m also not particularly good keeping the faith when unit after unit keeps fudging up, so I’m not exactly willing to fork out for the pro unit

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12 hours ago, gfweb said:

Huh. I have an anova 1.0 that is still going strong. A little noisy, but always has been.

Yeah I have a friend who has the first version as well and it’s brilliant and why I originally ordered an Anova after boring his a few times. 

 

I have not had the same luck. 

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I have been a fan of Chefsteps since before the Joule.  I had bought a premium membership years ago for classes and special videos, et al.   Then Chefsteps kind of stalled with the Joule and the cool innovation went away.  But I still used the site for the existing recipes, I didn't feel particularly abandoned.

 

Then the announcement of Breville buying Joule/Chefsteps came.  Wasn't looking good for the Chefsteps site.

 

But I have to say Chefsteps seems to have been reborn and is vibrant again.  New recipes, not just sous vide based.  They are using BSO and Breville microwaves, but also IP and Control Freaks and freeze driers....etc.   Fun stuff, like an entire turkey turned into separate yakitori and grilling it.

 

They created another pay level above the Premium called Studio Pass, they offered a deal to existing Premiums to upgrade at a quite discounted price.  I went for it.  Some of the legacy Chefsteps followers were unhappy about another pay level, can't argue with that.  But the company leadership did change.

 

So far I feel I'm getting quite my money's worth in watching the new videos (they come out at the first of the month and some are added as the month goes on).  Grant Crilly is relatable, enthusiastic and easy to watch.  The video quality is very good and the write ups are excellent.

 

All the old Chefsteps content is still available too.

 

Just my 2 cents review and experience with the new Chefsteps concept.


Edited by lemniscate spelling (log)
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Posted (edited)

Twice that, Robenco, glad they're back. I've always loved their content and recipes. 

Gents, which containers do you use with Joule when you're cooking large pieces of meat? I use pot (but I have to add more water from time to time), so I've been thinking about getting something even bigger.


Edited by kitchen_muse (log)

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  • Cooking containers: multiple Rubbermaid square food safe tubs & lids
    • 2 - Rubbermaid Commercial Space Saving Food Storage Container, 12 Quart, FG631200
    • 1 - Rubbermaid Commercial Space Saving Food Storage Container, 18 Quart, FG631800
    • 2 - Cellar Made Sous Vide Lids for ChefSteps Joule fits 12, 18 & 22 Quart Rubbermaid Containers

 

Same lid fits both containers. Possibly there are larger containers also.

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    • By ronnie_suburban
      It’s the first day of cooking in Alinea's Food Lab and the mood is relaxed. We’re in a residential kitchen but there’s nothing ordinary about it. Chef Grant, along with sous chefs John Peters and Curtis Duffy are setting up. The sight of the 3 steady pros, each in their chef’s whites, working away, does not match this domestic space. Nor does the intimidating display of industrial tools lined up on the counters. While the traditional elements are here in this suburban kitchen: oven, cooktop, sink, so too are the tools of modern restaurant cookery: pacojet, cryovac machine, paint stripping heat gun…wait, a paint stripping heat gun?
      In the physical realm, the Food Lab is a tangible space where the conventional and the unconventional are melded together in the quest for new culinary territory. With Alinea’s construction under way, the team must be resourceful. This meant that renting a space large enough to house both the office and the kitchen aspects of the food lab was out of the question.
      The decision was made to take over a large office space for the research and administrative aspects of Alinea and transform a residential kitchen into the Lab. Achatz and the team would work three days per week at the office researching all aspects of gastronomy and brainstorming new dishes, while managing the project as a whole. The remaining time would be spent in the kitchen executing the ideas formulated at the office. “At first I thought separating the two would be problematic,” says Grant “but in the end we are finding it very productive. It allows us to really focus on the tasks at hand, and also immerse ourselves in the environment conducive to each discipline.” The menus for opening night—containing as many as 50 never-before-served dishes--must be conceived, designed, tested and perfected. The Alinea team does not want to fly without a net on opening night.
      On a more abstract level, the Food Lab is simply the series of processes that continually loop in the minds of Chef Grant and his team. While there is no single conduit by which prospective menus--and the dishes which comprise them--arrive at Alinea, virtually all of them start in Chef Grant's imagination and eventually take form after brainstorming sessions between the Chef and his team. Menus are charted, based on the seasonality of their respective components, and the details of each dish are then laid out on paper, computer or both and brought to the kitchen for development. In this regard, the Food Lab provides something very special to the Chef and his team. “We consider the food lab a luxury,” says Grant. Once Alinea is open and the restaurant’s daily operations are consuming up to 16 hours of each day, time for such creative planning (aka play) will be scarce. Building a library of concepts, ideas and plans for future menus now will be extraordinarily valuable in the future. Otherwise, such planning sessions will have to take place in the 17th and 18th hours of future workdays, as they did when the Chef and his team were at Trio.
      Today, several projects are planned and the Chefs dig into their preparations as soon as their equipment setup is complete…
      Poached Broccoli Stem with wild Coho roe, crispy bread, grapefruit
      Stem cooked sous vide (butter, salt, granulated cane juice)
      Machine-sliced thin bread
      Dairyless grapefruit “pudding”
      Dried Crème Brulee
      Caramel orb shell made with bubble maker and heat gun
      Powdered interior made with dried butterfat, egg yolks, powdered sugar & vanilla
      PB&J
      Peeled grapes on the stem
      Peanut butter coating
      Wrap in brioche
      Broil
      Micro-grated, roasted peanuts
      Instant Tropical Pudding
      Freeze Dried Powders of coconut, pineapple, banana
      Young coconut water spiked with rum
      Muscovado Sugar
      Cilantro
      Candied Chili
      Jamaican Peppercorn
      Vanilla Bean
      The steps required to comprise each dish are, as one might imagine, intricate and numerous. For the Poached Broccoli Stem, Chef Grant begins by separating the broccoli stems from the florets. The stems are stripped of their fibrous exteriors and pared down until they are uniform in size. Grant comments on the use of the second hand part of the vegetable: “This dish started with the roe. Every year we receive the most amazing Brook Trout Roe from Steve Stallard, my friend and owner of Blis. Typically, we serve the eggs with an element of sweetness. I find it goes very well with the ultra fresh salinity of the week-old roe. This time around we wanted to take a savory approach so I began looking into complimenting flavors in the vegetal category. About the same time, our group had a discussion about secondary parts of vegetables and the stem of broccoli came up. I had a past experience with the stem and found it to be very reminiscent of cabbage. Knowing that cabbage and caviar are essentially a classic pairing, I felt confident that we could work the dish out. Now I'm struggling to decide if this is a broccoli dish or in fact a roe dish, I think they really battle for the top position and that helps makes the dish very complex."

      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

      The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine

      The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours

      Broccoli stems after cooking
      The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter.

      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

      Ready for plating

      A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller

      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

      Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms
      Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe...

      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
      “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype.

      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
    • By ronnie_suburban
      Sometime this week, at an undisclosed location in the city of Chicago, Chef Grant Achatz begins the next leg of his journey to open his new restaurant, Alinea. Grant will christen the 'food lab' where the menu for Alinea will be developed. eGullet will be trailing Grant and his team throughout the process -- not just in the food lab but through every facet of the launch. Over the next six months, we will follow the Alinea team as they discover, develop, design and execute their plan. We'll document behind-the-scenes communications, forwarded directly to us by the Alinea team. We will be on the scene, bringing regular updates to the eGullet community. And Grant will join us in this special Alinea forum to discuss the process of opening Alinea. eGullet members will have the opportunity to ask Grant, and several other members of the Alinea team, questions about the development of the restaurant.
       
      A Perfect Pairing?
      By the time he was 12 years old, Grant Achatz knew that he would someday run his own restaurant. The story of Alinea is the story of Grant's personal development as a chef and a leader. Grant was brought up in a restaurant family. He bypassed a college education in favor of culinary school, after which he ascended rapidly to the position of sous chef for Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Yountville, California. In 2001, Grant took the helm of Trio in Evanston, Illinois, which had previously turned out such noted chefs as Gale Gand, Rick Tramanto (Tru) and Shawn McClain (Spring, Green Zebra). In 2003 Grant won the James Beard Foundation's "Rising Star Chef" award, and other prestigious awards followed. By 2004, Grant was recognized as one of the most influential and unique voices on the international culinary scene.
       
      In January 2004, Grant met Nick Kokonas, a successful entrepreneur who was so obsessed with haute cuisine that he had traveled the world in search of it. After globe-trekking specifically to eat at such culinary meccas as Alfonso 1890, Taillevent, Arpège, Arzak, and the French Laundry, Nick was in near disbelief when he realized that the "best food in the world was 10 minutes from my house." Nick had not previously consideredbacking a restaurant, even though he has both relatives and friends in the industry. But in Grant, he saw an opportunity to help create something great.
       
      Through Grant's cuisine, a bond formed between the two men. So inspired was Nick by Grant's culinary ideas that he returned to Trio almost monthly. Finally, he challenged two of his friends, one from New York and the other from San Francisco, to fly to Chicago and experience Trio. He wanted to prove definitively to his skeptical, coastal buddies that Trio was the best and most important restaurant in the country, assuring them that "if the meal at Trio isn't the best meal you've ever had, I'll pay for your meals and your flights." Nick won his bet: his friends were blown away.
       
      Later that night, after service, Grant joined Nick and his guests at their table. The men chatted about a variety of topics and in the '14 wines' haze of the late evening, they discussed Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure, Joseph Wechsberg's gastronomic memoir. The next day, Grant emailed Nick to ask again about the title of the book they had discussed. Not only did Nick remind him, but, within a few days, sent Grant a copy of Wechsberg's book. A friendship was born.
      Shortly thereafter, Grant sentNick his business plan for Alinea, sending an email after evening service. By the following morning Nick had read it and replied with his own enthusiastic amendments. With a burgeoning friendship already in place, trust developing between the two men and proof they could work together crystallizing before their eyes, it became clear that they would become a team. Says Grant, "I think most people, in a lot of ways, look for themselves in other people in order to match with and I think to a large degree, the reason why we get along so well is that our personalities align very well."
       
      Nick felt the same way. "It's one of those situations where everything just lined up right. I had the interest, I'd started a number of different businesses and I felt like it would be an opportunity to work with someone who I'd get along with very well. I wouldn't want to build a restaurant just to build a restaurant and I doubt I'll ever develop some other restaurant. I think this is the right situation at the right time."
       
      Grant adds, "I think we're both very driven and passionate people. So for me, it was about finding someone I could trust, someone that I knew was going to think like me, be as motivated or more motivated than me. Those things were very, very important--and something I hadn't seen--or something I didn't believe in--that I saw in Nick." Nick continues, "I think a lot people come to a chef with their pre-existing vision of the restaurant they want to build. I didn't even want to build a restaurant before I saw his vision, so it wasn't like I was saying 'I'm building this restaurant and I want you to be my chef' -- it was more like 'I think you should build a restaurant, what can I do to help you build it?'" Grant would have the additional supportive backing he'd need and Nick would have another venture -- and one he solidly believed in -- in which to direct his business acumen.
       
      It's All About The Container
      Anyone who's eaten Grant's cuisine at Trio knows that he is intensely concerned with food and the optimal ways to prepare and serve it. His dishes innovate in flavor; they challenge, tease and delight the senses. But Grant is also driven to innovate in service and technique, constantly seeking new vehicles to deliver sensations to the diner. He works closely with a trusted collaborator, Martin Kastner of Crucial Detail in San Diego, CA to create original service pieces for many of his dishes. And as Grant has searched for additional ways to expand the continuity of the dining experience, it has become clear to him that it starts before the diner even gets to the restaurant's front door.
       
      According to Grant, "You can pull it back as far as you want. The experience is going to start before someone even picks up the phone to make a reservation to this restaurant. It's going to be about their perceptions; why are they picking up the phone to make a reservation? What did they see? What did they read? What's leading them up to that point? They call to make a reservation, that's another experience. The drive to get to this neighborhood is another experience. The minute they open their door and take one step out of their car, now they're surrounded by another experience."
       
      Advancing the functional elements of how food is served is an innate part of the cooking process for Grant, who seeks to render the traditional boundaries of dining obsolete. When asked what he will be able to accomplish at Alinea that he couldn't accomplish at Trio, Grant says, "the obvious is to create the container in which we create the experience. I think that's the very exciting thing for me that I've never been able to have a part in." For Grant, a restaurant's physical space represents the ultimate container and the ultimate personal challenge. The result should break new ground in the world of fine dining.   Grant and Nick are intense and competitive. In both their minds, "crafting a complete experience" is the primary focus of Alinea. According to Nick, "the whole idea is to produce an experience where the food lines up with the décor, which lines up with the flow through the restaurant and from the moment you get, literally, to the front door of the place and you walk in, your experience should mirror in some respects--and complement in others--the whole process you're going to go through when you start eating." Grant takes it a step further. "It's about having a central beacon from which everything else emanates and therefore, it's seamless. The whole experience is crafted on one finite point and if everything emanates from that point, then there's no chance that the experience can be interrupted."
       
      The search for Alinea's space further reflects not only their shared philosophy but also their separate intensities. Says Nick, "One of the things we felt really strongly about, and we both came to it, was that we wanted it to be a 'stand alone' building because if you're in something else you can't help but take on some of that identity. And it's really difficult to find the right size building in the right kind of location, with the right kind of construction that was suitable for the identity of Alinea."
      Nick and Grant drove down every street within a chosen geographical band, armed with a giant map and a set of green, yellow and red markers. Once they had found a set of acceptable streets, they asked a realtor to show them every space available on them.
       
      "Once we did find the building," says Grant, "whichever space we would have chosen, we would have analyzed and considered each different aspect to provoke a certain emotion, a very controlled emotion depending on how we wanted it arranged. But I also think that we wanted the neighborhood to feel a certain way, the street to feel a certain way. Is it like Michigan Avenue where I have people 4-deep, walking straight down the sidewalk, non-stop, all day and all night or is it more of a tranquil environment outside? All those things were spinning around and once you identify the golden egg, then you have to go find it."
      While they would probably never admit it, each innovation, each step they take together in building their venture serves as yet another a opportunity for the Alinea team to challenge the restaurant's competitors. Their attention to all the details provides countless opportunities to distinguish Alinea from other restaurants.
       
      Here the two men can share in the creation, combining their diverse skills and experiences into a unified and shared vision. Alinea will be their baby. They want it to be the best --not just the best food -- but the best everything. They even want the experience of calling for a reservation to be a memorable one.
       
      The Path From Here
      In that spirit, the Alinea food lab opens this week. Grant refuses to promote even one of his legendary creations to 'signature dish' status. Instead of populating Alinea's menu with previous favorites from Trio or 'trial' dishes that have been only roughly tested, Grant and his team will take six months to devise, develop and perfect the dishes and delivery modes that will appear on Alinea's opening menu. When the idea of maintaining a kitchen staff for six months before the restaurant's opening was presented to its investors, in spite of the additional expense, "it seemed like a no-brainer" according to Nick. Grant is an equity partner--a true chef/owner--in the venture and there is a solid consensus among all the backers about the priority of his vision.
      * * * * *
      In addition to being one of today's foremost chefs and culinary innovators, Grant Achatz is a long-time member of eGullet, and a lively, provocative contributor to our discussion forums. Read his March, 2003 eGullet Q&A here.
      Photos courtesy Alinea
       
      eGullet member, yellow_truffle, also contributed to this report
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