The source of sous vide

When you finally start sous vide cooking at home, thank Sterling’s Cuisine Solutions.

Cuisine Solutions
Photo courtesy of Cuisine Solutions

Sterling attracts the most talented chefs in the world, chefs from Egypt, Brazil, Korea; chefs from the top restaurants; chefs with Michelin stars; chefs from hotel chains and cruise lines. These chefs aren’t working in Sterling restaurant kitchens. And these chefs might not even realize where they are after three days and $2,500 worth of training in the methods of sous vide or cryoconcentration or molecular gastronomy in the confines of the laboratory that is Cuisine Solutions.

But it is in Loudoun County where they are trying to make sous vide happen. It’s already infiltrated restaurant kitchens, but it’s yet to demand space on the countertop.

“Within 20 to 30 years everyone will have a sous vide machine at home,” says Gerard Bertholon, the chief strategy officer of Cuisine Solutions. Because as Bertholon likes to point out, it was only a handful of decades ago that people used to say, “I don’t want to be killed by a microwave.”

Cuisine Solutions is a multipronged company with a presence on multiple continents, producing precooked packaged foods, which it sells as first-class entrees on airlines, egg sandwiches at Starbucks and 12-pack lamb shanks at Costco. There’s also the Culinary Research and Education Academy, which trains chefs in its Sterling headquarters and will send instructors to kitchens across the world to teach entire staffs about its scientific cooking methods.

Cuisine Solutions claims to have “pioneered the science of sous vide” under the guidance of its chief scientist, Bruno Goussault. Before joining Cuisine Solutions, Goussault was tasked with figuring out how to create a more tender roast beef and came up with sous vide’s principles.

“The whole technique is about time and temperature,” says the heavily French-accented Goussault during a demo at Cuisine Solutions. Though most people think of a whole fish suctioned into a plastic bag and submerged in a gently simmering bath of hot water for hours and hours as sous vide, that is just the current employment of the science.

Cuisine Solutions
Photo courtesy of Cuisine Solutions

Sous vide is cooking at precise temperatures beyond what an oven with hotspots can do. Breaking down cooking into parts—texture is developed by time and color is developed by temperature—Cuisine Solutions teaches chefs the ways to cook not by feel or gut, sight or practice, but by even measuring the amount of salt seasoning raw meat.

One issue today, Bertholon says, is single-use plastic. Because sous vide is about technique and not equipment, they know methods will change. Plastic might not be the future, and “it doesn’t define our technology,” he says. They are talking to a woman in Spain who has worms that eat plastic for a compost-style solution. They are also following research on edible plastics. But it will be years before these changes impact sous vide cooking.

After decades of a mostly business-to-business strategy, Cuisine Solutions is preparing for a more public presence. The company plans to add more products (and in smaller quantities) to its website. And last year they launched a glossy magazine, Sous-Vide, available at Costco, which is where consumers can buy both Cuisine Solutions-brand food and sous vide equipment. (Cuisine Solutions is not a manufacturer but is a retailer selling vacuum sealers and tanks on CREA’s site.)

In what is probably their biggest reach for attention yet, Cuisine Solution’s marketing department is in talks with Virginia Congressional offices to start paperwork for a national sous vide day. They’re hoping for Jan. 26, Goussault’s birthday.

Restaurants Gerard Bertholon recommends to show off sous vide cooking to Cuisine Solutions chefs and guests:

• Clarity
• Harth
• 2941
• The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm
• La Fromagerie
• Restaurant Eve

(August 2017)

*This post has been updated with a new date for national sous vide day.