In this installment of Sous Vide Stars I talk to Philip Preston from PolyScience. Philip has helped drive the creation of several home and professional items that are out of the normal realm of kitchen appliances such as their Smoking Gun, AntiGriddle, and recently their Sous Vide Professional immersion circulator.
1) Many years ago you released the first immersion circulator that was really focused on professional chefs. Can you give us a little bit of your history and how you came to do that?
Our first sales to restaurants was in 2005. Our first customer was Matthias Merges who at that time was Chef de Cuisine at Charlie Trotters. Shortly after we worked with Wylie Dufresne and Grant Achatz.
2) You're known for going into some of the best professional kitchens, demonstrating your machines, and talking with the chefs. We're all very jealous! Can you share any fun or memorable experiences you've had?
Two experiences come to mind:
When Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas were working on building Alinea we met to get them some sous vide equipment. When Grant saw our facility I showed him that we build thousands of refrigeration systems every year. That meeting led to the AntiGriddle. We made the first prototype in about two weeks and that was the unit he had for the opening.
The other experience was after filming a day of "The Next Iron Chef" at CIA with Wylie we had to find a place to eat near the hotel. I still smile every time I think about my dinner with him at Ruby Tuesdays.
3) I know you've been expanding into the home market more with your Sous Vide Professional and your deal with Williams-Sonoma. You're now competing with everything from other immersion circulators down to PID controllers and even beer coolers! Can you tell us why your equipment is still so highly regarded?
I believe the main reason PolyScience has become the brand of choice for professionals is because we support chefs.
An Immersion Circulator has been proven as the most accurate and most versatile tool for the job. We manufacture non-stirred baths and we offered them to chefs for a very short time. I just felt that the control was not good enough for the professional chef and takes up too much room. An Immersion Circulator works as well for dinner for two as it does for 20 and can be stored in a drawer.
Good temperature control requires mixing the water. Anyone who has been in a bath tub with warm feet and a cold rear knows that you have to mix the bath for uniformity. Non-stirred baths, rice cookers, and beer coolers all fall short on mixing and therefore it will be hotter near the heater than on the other side of the bath.
4) What is your favorite dish to cook sous vide? How about the most impressive sous vide dish you've eaten?
I love cooking secondary cuts of beef, eggs, turkey and salmon sous vide. If I had to pick just one it would be turkey. The breast is super moist and the dark meat can be treated like confit.
I think the most impressive dish was the first time I ate sous vide fish. Matthias Merges at Charlie Trotters prepared a cook-at-home pouch for me with Tasmanian Sea Trout. The texture is so much more luxurious than what is possible in a traditional technique.
5) As a passionate cook and industry leader, and someone tapped into some of the best restaurant kitchens, what do you think the future of sous vide will be?
I see sous vide as just one more tool in the kitchen. It does not replace any current tools but it does add possibilities. Where I see sous vide going may first mean a name change. Why under vacuum? I think precise temperature poaching without sealing under vacuum can deliver sous vide taste and texture with less risk of anaerobic bacteria. This can be especially beneficial for fish where vacuum sealing can change the texture just by compression during the sealing process.
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