When Georges Pralus championed sous vide cooking back in the 1970s it was because he believed the technique produced the best possible foie gras.
Through cooking using low and constant temperatures, over a long time, with precise water baths. He found the finished foie gras was moist, maintained it's original appearance and had a much better texture. Pralus claimed to many that sous vide was the future but, as with most visionaries, no one listened.
Jump forward more than 30 years to 2005 and sousvide equipment was being used by some of the worlds best chefs and no longer just for foie gras. Heston Blumenthal, Ferran Adrià, Grant AchatzandThomas Kellerhad all cottoned on to the virtues of sous vide cooking and were now using water baths for meats, fish and vegetables. Spreading this super soft, succulent and flavor enhancing method of cooking to the world.
This is not the end of the sous vide story. Over the next ten years - a technique once seen as high-end and reserved only for the science savvy chefs of Michelin kitchens - slowly became more appealing to the home cook of the 21st century.
As chefs became superstars, TV channels churned out more and more food centric shows and people actively engaged with food - sous vide became the must have kitchen gadget - a trend that's continued to grow year on year.
In Europe one company, sousvidetools.com, has seen an increase last year in domestic sales of sous vide equipment of around 400%, a figure that Alex Shannon, the company director, says is still on the rise.
"In the last twelve months the domestic sales of sous vide equipment have just been getting bigger and bigger. When the business first started we were just selling commercial baths to restaurants, then we were approached by an American company who had developed a range of domestic sous vide equipment for the home. We thought we'd have a try, ordered ten and they were sold before they'd landed."
"Then one day I was working from home and heard this 'beep beep beeep' looked out the window on this little culdesac and thought 'that's strange' who would have an arctic lorry on this street?' I went outside and the guy said: 'This vans full of water baths for you mate.' That's when I realized just how much demand there was for these things."
Far from being the culinary students or professionals you may expect to purchase such equipment, the people Alex says are buying sous vide tools are mainly amateur chefs and people who are starting to take up food as a hobby.
"It's people who've watched TV shows like the Great British Menu, seen Heston Blumenthal using sous vide techniques and they want to try it for themselves. Sometimes they've visited a restaurant, tried a really well cooked piece of meat and found out that it was cooked using sous vide techniques - then they want to try it at home.
"People want to eat good food, they want to eat healthy now and there's more interest in how to cook well than there has ever been. We couldn't have done this ten years ago - there just wouldn't have been a market for it."
With growing attention on fine dining, palates becoming more refined and people now consciously looking for healthy ways to prepare food, it's not surprising that so many people are turning sous vide. In line with this trend, it's the Nordic countries that are currently showing the most interest but Alex says that he can see a time when every household has a water bath on the kitchen counter. A strong prediction and one that shows just how much the emphasis there now is on high quality food at home.
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