Cuisine Solutions had pioneered sous vide on an industrial scale, using it to manufacture precooked food that it sold to large institutions like hotels, airlines, and the military. The company had a vested interest in introducing the technique to top U.S. chefs. . . . And in Merges the company found an eager adherent.Trouble was, there were no affordable, readily available immersion circulators on the market. Merges picked up the phone and called PolyScience, in Niles, which manufactures high-precision temperature-controlled medical and industrial equipment. He reached a customer service rep who had no idea what he was talking about but transferred him to the company's president, Philip Preston, an avid home cook.
"I remember one day when I'm cooking on the line—it's so brutal," he recalls. "It's like, 'I wish I can manipulate the temperature and control it to a point that is so much more refined than I can do with my hands.' I'm like, 'There has to be a way to get this [technology] from this million-square-foot factory into a 900-square-foot kitchen.'"
Preston had never heard of the sous vide method, but he was fascinated. He took one of his immersion circulators to Trotter's and Merges told him all about the technique. Within eight months Preston had formed a culinary unit in his company. "We ended up with probably about 13 of our units in just the Trotter's kitchen," he says. Today sous vide cooking is ubiquitous in fine-dining restaurants in the U.S., and PolyScience is the leading supplier of immersion circulators to restaurant kitchens.Sula's piece also highlights Grant Achatz, Rick Bayless, Ina Pinkney, Homaro Cantu protege Chris Jones of Just Mayo, and Paul Kahan of One Off Hospitality (Blackbird, Big Star, the Publican, et al). The last, a longtime member of Lean Cuisine's Culinary Roundtable, has worked with Nestlé food technologists to develop cheffy-ish prepared meals like mushroom mezzaluna ravioli—and may even have had a hand in creating Taco Bell's 7-Layer Burrito.