Three alumni of the Modernist Cuisine project have left Nathan Myhrvold's Bellevue, Washington Kitchen Laboratory and set off on their own to start the online culinary school ChefSteps. Chefs Chris Young, Grant Crilly, and photographer Ryan Matthew Smith, all of whom worked on the first Modernist Cuisine book, have set up shop in Seattle's Pike Place market with a mission: teach people how to use modern techniques in their cooking. For free, online. As Young tells Eater, "We picked up where Modernist Cuisine left off."
The goal of ChefSteps is to "see if we can take modernist cuisine from the page to the internet and do it in a more collaborative, engaging way." Modernist Cuisine is emphatically a print-only endeavor, but ChefSteps is online, free, and collaborative. The courses are comprised of step-by-step lessons with videos and photography as well as quizzes and tests (that you can skip if you want). The ChefSteps team will hold online office hours during which students can ask them questions. Young also envisions at some point the site will become a forum for chefs from around the world to share ideas with one another. A ChefSteps app for iPad, iPhone or Android is also an eventual possibility.
The school is run out the group's 4,000 square foot experimental kitchen in Seattle's Pike Place Market, which Young says "rivals the kitchen we had at Modernist Cuisine." Which means centrifuges, "a bunch of machine tools," a photo studio, the works. In addition being home base for ChefSteps, the kitchen will also be used to consult on "innovative food products" with clients — which in turn will help fund the ChefSteps project. (The consulting arm of the project is called Delve Kitchen.)
ChefSteps is a work in progress: the current beta launch includes one preview course, on sous vide cooking, and the group is looking for feedback as they add courses. Young says they've got "phenomenal experts" to signed up to run courses early next year, and while he wouldn't name names he does mention that "we'd really like to find people who aren't celebrity chefs but are really an amazing cheesemaker, or they just know a lot about barbecue. We'd like to create a platform for those people to share their ideas with the world."
Young says the school will not just be for professionals. While he admits the sous vide course "will obviously appeal to professionals," he also thinks many of the courses will interest "anyone who's an enthusiastic cook." In other words: "Sure, we'll show you how you do this if you have a multi-thousand dollar vacuum packer, but we're also going to show you how to do it MacGyver fashion without more than a ziplock bag and a $20 thermometer." The ChefSteps website, blog and preview course on sous vide are live now.