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March 17, 2006 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Upset that the NYC Department of Health has ordered(nytimes) restaurants around the city to stop using Sous-Vide methods and machines? Buy your own, do it yourself, or maybe drive to DC.
posted by jrb223 (17 comments total)
Must be good - Michael Richard/Citronelle was just nominated for another Outstanding Chef award from the James Beard Foundation.
posted by junesix at 10:38 AM on March 17, 2006

Well, told them to stop using them until they've worked out some reasonable food safety guidelines. Not sure I'd be too delighted if served with some food that had been handled then vacuum-packed and left for a few days before cooking.
posted by mpk at 10:42 AM on March 17, 2006

That's the first place I was able to try sous-vide -- it was venison, and it was to die for.
posted by jrb223 at 10:43 AM on March 17, 2006

What confuses me about the whole thing is that the technology has been around since the '60's, why has it taken over 30 years to figure out there weren't guidelines?
posted by jrb223 at 10:44 AM on March 17, 2006

Do it yourself sous-vide?

Bad idea.

Unless, you know, you want to try do-it-yourself botox or lose about 40 pounds.
posted by dios at 10:48 AM on March 17, 2006

What confuses me about the whole thing is that the technology has been around since the '60's, why has it taken over 30 years to figure out there weren't guidelines?

It was originally considered to be an industrial process to preserve food for train & plane meal services. The haute cuisine aspect seems more recent, especially in the US.
posted by ernie at 10:50 AM on March 17, 2006

The problem with sous vide cooking, of course, is that the food is cooked at temperatures of around 140°F, far too low to kill significant numbers of nasty microbes. Moreover, placing food in a vacuum can trigger the growth of botulinum spores, which, as dios notes, is the kind of diet plan you probably want to avoid. Done right, you can get spectacular results. Done wrong, the result can be, I guess, equally "spectacular." Sure, Thomas Keller uses the sous vide technique with "Swiss watchmaker precision," but what about the lower end restaurants knocking off his techniques? I think temporarily halting the practice until some guidelines can be put in place seems reasonable.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:58 AM on March 17, 2006

you want to try do-it-yourself botox

that made me laugh. it's true, bad idea.
posted by matteo at 11:08 AM on March 17, 2006

I think most people would be amazed at how little cooking most restaurants do. For example if you order some meat dish that has a heavy distinctive sauce, unless you are at a very high end restaurant, there is a very good chance that what you are eating was bought in its complete form frozen.

It is much more economical, timely, and consistant to go this route.

These incentives also apply to high end restaurants and sous-vide lets them exploit them.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:19 AM on March 17, 2006

Sure, people should be careful about getting nasty buggers in their food, but to assume that expensive restaurants are models of cleanliness is just as stupid. I mean, you guys have read Kitchen Confidential, right? I'd trust myself more than a prep dude I've never met.

/preview; Kind of what MSN just said. I've gotten plenty sick eating at both low and high-end restaurants. Not often, but enough to know that you're always taking a chance. No seafood on Mondays for starters.

That said, I was pretty stoked to see an episode of Iron Chef where the challenger was a sous-vide guy.
posted by bardic at 11:29 AM on March 17, 2006

but what about the lower end restaurants knocking off his techniques?
Standards are good, I agree, however given the cost of the equipment from places like Cuisine Solutions, there isn't much in the way of 'knock-off' sous-vide out there as far as I can tell. As I recall from a longer sous-vide piece in the nytimes last September, many of the machines come with an on-call food scientist to provide training etc. All that said, sure folks are right, they aren't arbitrarily closing down michelin-rated restaurants just cause they use sous-vide (might make a cool movie though, Iron Chef meets V for Vendetta), they're just putting it all on hold to get the rules on paper.
posted by jrb223 at 11:32 AM on March 17, 2006

Is it done in the dark ?
posted by Smedleyman at 12:18 PM on March 17, 2006

or maybe drive to DC.

Or Chicago.
posted by deadfather at 12:24 PM on March 17, 2006

A salesman for Chef Francisco explained how an elegant menu could be offered out of a tiny kitchen. I think I would feel better about a freshly thawed dish than one stored at a temperature that risks toxicity.
posted by Cranberry at 12:53 PM on March 17, 2006

Something that bugged me when first reading about this, particularly as my wife was pregnant with a boy at the time, is that there seems to be no discussion of the health impact of the plastics. I don't want to be delivered food full of feminizing phthalates with no warning. (I don't want botulism either, but I feel safer that people are at least worrying about it!)
posted by Aknaton at 1:46 PM on March 17, 2006

jrb223: Sous-vide is still relatively new in America so I'm guessing it only recently appeared on the radar of NY health authorities. Of the hundreds of thousands of restaurants in the country, only a handful in the large cities are using it on a regular basis.

Though Pralus was using it at Troisgros in the 60s, it wasn't seen as more than a kitchen "trick" until Herve This started formalizing the science of sous vide as part of "molecular gastronomy" in the late 80s. Even then, it only became legitimate when European chefs like Ferran Adria (El Bulli), Heston Blumenthal (Fat Duck), and Pierre Gagnaire (Pierre Gagnaire) started winning recognition, awards, and Michelin stars for their molecular gastronomy cuisine (as taught by Herve This) in the late 90s and early 2000s. Thomas Keller, Michael Richards, and Charlie Trotter picked it up from This for American diners. Now it's become all the rage with the opening of new restaurants like Moto, Alinea (Chicago), and wd-50 (NY) and Herve This can't keep up with the demands for his lectures around the country.
posted by junesix at 3:49 PM on March 17, 2006

There are an abundance of pathogens that flourish in a low oxygen environment that will spoil food with no visual or sensual clues. The fish that looks so fresh in its' pouch and doesn't smell fishy when you open it may still have you sick for a few hours. And the high cost of the training and equipment to cook this way correctly is not going to stop anyone from fudging it with a stockpot of hot water.

That being said, dining out is always a suspension of disbelief. You would hope that the truly dirty kitchens are weeded out by "market forces" but that ain't the case IMHO.

I think the NYC DPH is surprisingly on the ball.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:44 PM on March 17, 2006

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