The Hestan Cue as presented by Williams-Sonoma

It was at last year’s Housewares show in Chicago I first noticed a trend which I call ‘guided cooking’. Guided cooking, also called ‘smart cooking’ by some, employs a combination of sensor-enabled cookware, precision heating and software to create a cooking system that both educates the consumer and orchestrates a cooking experience.

Here’s how I described ‘guided cooking’ in my piece:

It was this combination of the pan, burner and app and the guidance system they had built that really led me to see the possibilities around this new category. I am not a great cook by any stretch of the imagination, but I cooked one of the tastiest pieces of salmon I’ve ever had in about 20 minutes. The experience was enabled through technology, but the technology didn’t take me out of the experience of cooking. Further, I can see as I gain more confidence using a system like this, I can choose to “dial down” the guidance needed from the system to the point I am largely doing most of the cooking by myself (though I don’t know if I’d ever get rid of the automated temperature control, mostly because I’m lazy and it gives me instant “chef intuition).

The product I describe here is an early version of the Hestan Cue, a guided cooking system developed by Hestan Smart Cooking, a division of cookware giant Meyer. The Hestan Cue caught my attention that day because of its ability to have the different elements of cooking – pan, heat source and the education/recipe information from the app – all work in concert together well to actually make me cook better.

Since last year, more companies have begun to embrace the concept of guided cooking. However,  I don’t think I’ve seen as compelling a combination of the these elements as I’ve seen with the Hestan Cue, so now, a year later, I’m am watching with significant interest as the company looks to bring the product to market through partners such as Williams-Sonoma

Williams-Sonoma has created a video showing consumers talking about the product:

Will it succeed? While it’s too soon to tell – mostly because it’s really hard to predict the exact mix of utility, pricing and presentation that will capture the imagination of the consumer in a short term time horizon – I am fairly confident that the combination of automation and software guidance is an irreversible long-term trend we’ll see more of in coming years.

The Williams-Sonoma video starts by asking the question, “Can a machine really teach you how to cook?” I like that approach because my first thought using the device was I could learn from the Hestan Cue, that it could be my “cooking buddy” to help me figure out new meals and recipes. This messaging also taps into the growing appetite among millennials to learn more about cooking. Beyond the explosion of online video tutorials, increased interest in things such as cooking classes and teaching kitchens has shown people are hungry to learn cooking skills, and the Hestan Cue and products like it offer a new approach.

However, I also think it’s important to emphasize the ease of use and utility of Hestan Cue. If you’re like me, once you learn to cook a meal, you want to eventually cook it again. This means over time you will want to deemphasize the teaching aspects and transition to lighter cues and guidance around the cooking of a meal. My first impression of the Hestan Cue is that it could do this, that it does have significant convenience utility, and so I think it will be important for the company and its retail partners to emphasize this aspect over time.

Long term, the products should also be interoperable with built-in cooking appliances. The Hestan Cue comes with its own small induction burner pad, which makes it great as a starter cooking appliance or for someone who wants to try out induction heating. However, many if not most people will want to work with their own cooktops.

My sense is the company will continue to iterate on the concept of guided cooking beyond this first product. Meyer founder Stanley Cheng, who as an early innovator in non-stick cooking surfaces helped make Meyer one of the world’s biggest cookware companies, is personally invested and excited about the concept of smart cooking. Having helped usher in the modern world of cookware, I can imagine he sees the Hestan Cue as a starting point for the next generation of cookware.

If you want to see the Hestan Cue as demonstrated by one of its creators, Jon (JJ) Jenkins, you can watch my video interview taken at the Housewares show below:

A Walk Through Of The Hestan Cue from The Spoon on Vimeo.

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