What's Next From Those That Brought Us Consumer Sous Vide?

When you look at the recent history of kitchen tech, one of the biggest categories to emerge over the past decade is sous vide.  What started as a fixation for molecular gastronomy explorers like Nathan Myhrvold has moved to the early stages of becoming mainstream as big retailers like Target and Best Buy plan nationwide rollouts of consumer sous vide circulators.

And while sous vide is still early in its life from a consumer adoption standpoint, many of those who helped consumerize the technique and the products are busy working on their next act to help make people better cooks through the application of precision, technology and understanding.

Before looking at what's next after sous vide, it's worth looking at what sous vide itself brought to the table (and the kitchen):

It was the starting point for precision cooking in the home. Before sous vide, cooking really was a guessing game with the widely varying precision of traditional cooking appliances in terms of heat and temperature. For the first time with sous vide, a cook knows exactly the temperature they are cooking at and can get fairly precise results.

It's an example of how applying modern technology can democratize a professional cooking technique.  Sous vide cooking has been in restaurant kitchens for well over a decade, but it's only now become more widely adopted in consumer kitchen as companies like Anova and Sansaire use modern technology to bring the price down to consumer levels.

It represents a natural and organic integration of app with cooking hardware. We're seeing more and more kitchen hardware come to market with apps, whether that's connected refrigerators like the Samsung Family Hub or connected ovens, but sous vide apps were one of the first and most obvious examples where connectivity to manage a device makes sense. 

But now, here we are in 2016 and things are changing rapidly. Those that helped pioneer the early sous vide market are still pioneering, only now they're working on new things. Here are some ideas of what they may be cooking up:

Guided Cooking. I wrote about this trend in March, where I saw the fusion of connected cooking appliances, precision cooking and app guidance as the emergence of a new category. In some ways this is a very natural evolution of sous vide, and companies like ChefSteps are essentially creating a guided cooking system in the form of a sous vide circulator. Others like Hestan Cue (which is the result of the acquisition of Meld) are working on what we call a guided cooking system, with the help of veterans of the sous vide world in Darren Vengroff and Christoph Milz.

The Hestan Cue Pan and Induction Cooktop

The Hestan Cue Pan and Induction Cooktop

New Cooking Appliances, New Ways To Cook. One thing that is clear is that once you add more computing power, connectivity and software to a cooking device, it not only gives you a more intelligent device, but it can also fundamentally change the way you cook.  The folks at Innit and June see the possibilities from applying machine learning and data analytics to a cooking device. NXP's RF cooking division (previously Freescale) is working with home appliance makers to create new ways to cook food with radio frequency technology. Anova, the leading consumer sous vide company, has made it clear they don't plan to stop with sous vide circulators and could be exploring new cooking devices.  

New Scientific Techniques May Mean New Consumer Products. Other cutting edge culinary explorers like Dave Arnold are also busy trying to create new products, and after the Searzall, a steak searing accessory that pairs well with sous vide, Arnold is busy working on a consumer friendly home centrifuge machine that could do interesting things with sauces and mixing drinks. Not exactly cooking, but an example of some of the new approaches we'll see from folks fusing scientific technique and the kitchen. 

The Searzall

The Searzall

And Then There's Modernist. After helping to usher in the modern food science revolution, the folks at Modernist Cuisine seemed content to mainly write books and put out some specialty cooking kits .

But that may be changing. The company recently brought on a new technical director, someone who is pretty well know both in the sous vide world as well as Modernist Cuisine: Scott Heimendinger. Scott had worked at Modernist Cuisine previously as the director of applied science, but had in recent years had been focused on launching his own sous vide startup in Sansaire. He is back at Modernist, working on, according to his Linkedin, some stealth products.

I've asked Scott what he's working on and he's remaining tight lipped for now, which makes me wonder if Modernist is working on creating some new product(s) that could help change the way consumers cook. Time will only tell, and we'll have to see if Modernist Cuisine CEO Nathan Myhrvold - who is speaking at the Smart Kitchen Summit - has any news to talk about in October.  

Looking forward, I expect to see lots of innovation in cooking, and there's no doubt the foundations for much of the innovation we'll see in the kitchen over the next decade. 

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Mike WolfComment