Posted: May 18, 2018
We are seeing more and more requests for sous vide concepts. We decided to dive a little deeper and look into the trend that is sous vide. We ran across an interesting article about the history of sous vide cooking that was very interesting and a bit controversial, which we summarized below.
Ambrose McGuckian wasn’t looking for accolades from food critics and gourmands. He wanted to impress hospital patients at the Greenville Hospital System in South Carolina who’d been complaining about the “institutional dullness” of their food. In 1968, he worked for W.R. Grace as a consultant on a regional study to overhaul hospital foodservice. He’d been instructed to improve the quality of food while keeping costs down. So he studied existing food service programs and methods of food preparation until he found a formula that boosted taste and extended shelf life. He wrote in the May 1969 issue of Cornell Hotel & Restaurant Administration Quarterly that “water bath cooking, in which the food product is first vacuum packaged in a plastic pouch and then immersed for a specified time in water heated to and maintained at a designated temperature,” locked in flavor and streamlined foodservice, he wrote.
Most sources credit two French chefs – Bruno Goussault and George Pralus – with independently developing sous vide, then working to refine it.When Goussault, who’s known as the “father of sous vide” developed the technique in 1971, he was looking for a way to improve the tenderness of roast beef. Pralus, who’s also been called “father of sous vide” discovered in 1974 that wrapping foie gras in plastic prevented the fatty liver from shrinking as it cooked. A few years later, the two chefs teamed up with Cryovac, a plastic manufacturer, to fine-tune the method.
McGuckian called his technique “the A.G.S. System” named for the company formed to produce food and distribute it to the three hospitals in Anderson, Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C. But it’s more commonly known as “the Cryovac System”, for the manufacturer of plastic packaging and water bath cookers used in the project. Cryovac was a division of W.R. Grace. He patented the technique in the U.S. and a few other countries, but Cryovac claimed ownership of the technique because he was one of its contractors when he developed it. They went back and forth over the rights for years, based on documents and correspondence he saved. Sometime in the early ’70s they reached a cross-licensing arrangement, with A.G.S. as the formal assignee for his patent.
But in 1978, he wrote in a letter to A.G.S. that Cryovac lawyers told him the patent wasn’t worth “really anything”. He writes that he decided “ownership of the patent, worthless as it may be, would mean more to me than the ownership of 4,000 shares of AGS stock.” He asked for an exchange. “[The patent] was important to my father because it was his baby and it was a significant development in the food industry at the time,” remembers his son Paul McGuckian. Paul, a retired judge, served as his father’s attorney during negotiations with Cryovac and W.R. Grace in the 1970s. “He hoped he could make some money from it.” As far as we know, he never did. Eventually the patent faded from everyone’s memory.
You can read the full article here:
According to sousvidewizard.com, some upcoming sous vide trends are:
- Infused alcohols
- Infused vinegars & oils
- condiments and sauces
- stock for soups & sauces
- custards & dulce de leche
- pickled vegetables
If you are interesting in sous vide cooking at home, here are a few books sousvidewizard.com recommends:
- Sous Vide at Home: The Modern Technique by Lisa Q. Fetterman
- Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Sous Vide by Jason Logsdon
- Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide by Thomas Keller
Food Days this week:
- May 13 – National Apple Pie Day, National Fruit Cocktail Day, National Hummus Day