Chris Young, CEO and co-founder of ChefSteps, demonstrating the Joule sous vide cooking device at the GeekWire Summit in 2016. (GeekWire File Photo / Dan DeLong)
ChefSteps, the high-tech cooking startup financed by video game titan Gabe Newell, cut an unspecified number of jobs on Wednesday, significantly scaling back its operations.
But the company plans to remain in business, and continue selling and supporting its Joule sous vide cooking device, according to co-founder and CEO Chris Young.
Founded in 2012 at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, ChefSteps built a community around online videos, vivid photographs and cooking insights from its expert founders, before expanding into hardware with the Joule device. The $199 circulator, controlled via smartphone, heats water to precise temperatures to cook immersed food evenly over extended periods of time, using the sous vide cooking technique.
A post on The Food Oasis reported Wednesday that ChefSteps had “laid off almost their entire staff and will be shuttering day-to-day operations.” However, Young told GeekWire via text Wednesday evening that ChefSteps remains in business and will continue to sell and support Joule.
Further details on the cutbacks weren’t immediately available.
People familiar with ChefSteps said the company had employed about 50 people in addition to contractors. The company is currently #51 on the GeekWire 200 index of the Pacific Northwest’s top privately held companies.
ChefSteps co-founders Chris Young, far left, and Grant Crilly, far right, with other early members of the ChefSteps team at their Pike Place Market studio and kitchen in 2012. (GeekWire File Photo / Todd Bishop)
Young and co-founder Grant Crilly are known in part for their past roles collaborating with former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, the Intellectual Ventures chief, on the epic Modernist Cuisine cookbook. Young previously was the founding chef of Heston Blumenthal’s influential Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen. Crilly’s experience includes serving as chef de cuisine at Busaba in Mumbai and Mistral in Seattle, and head development chef at Delicious Planet.
The company has been funded through a low-interest loan from Newell, head of video game company Valve, the operator of the Steam video game platform. In a 2014 GeekWire interview, the ChefSteps co-founders credited the funding from Newell with giving them the ability to focus on the long-term goals of building and serving a large, high-quality community of users, without the short-term pressures of monetizing that community or generating a quick return.
It’s not an easy business: Another Seattle startup that made a sous vide device, Sansaire, shut down and ceased production last year.