Phil Tessier is a busy guy.
In his day job as culinary director for Hestan Smart Cooking, he’s spent the past couple years working with a team of software developers, hardware makers and culinary experts to bring a new smart cooking system in the Hestan Cue to market.
He’s also spent much of the past few years helping the US win its first silver (2015) and gold medals (2017) in the world culinary championship, Bocuse d’Or.
And if that wasn’t enough side-gigging for you, Tessier just published his first book, Chasing Bocuse: America’s Journey to the Culinary World Stage, his account of the journey to the pinnacle of competitive culinary cooking.
I caught up with the Chef to talk about his new book, hear the story of team America’s ascent to the top of competitive culinary world, and to see how an elite chef like Tessier views technology’s role in bringing a new generation of cooks into the kitchen.
But first, since Tessier had previously worked for one of America’s preeminent chefs in Thomas Keller and is currently seeing his own star rise rapidly since he helped America come home with the gold, I wanted to ask him about the emergence of chef as celebrity in America and beyond.
According to Tessier, being a chef became more desirable over a long period of time in large part due to the advancement of technology. “In the 1800s, one of the highest mortality rates in a profession was being being a chef. You’re breathing in coal smoke all day long. With the invention of modern stoves and ventilation in kitchen, that profession has been able to elevate with advancements in the kitchen.”
Tessier also believes perceptional shifts in the broader culture helped contribute to the chef as celebrity. “When you look at how that’s changed culturally, you’ve seen this change from a blue collar profession, where it was ‘I’m not smart enough to do anything else’ to where this is is a goal from a young age.”
Tessier says that the switch towards chef being a high-status job happened in places like France and Japan first, while the shift in US happened more recently as shows like Top Chef created what eventually became the celebrity chef.
After helping win team US win silver as a competitor in 2015 and gold as the head coach this year, Tessier spends lots of his time nowadays thinking about the future and how to help instill the excitement of cooking in young people. Conveniently, this is an area where his work with the Hestan Cue aligns well with his role as a coach and teacher of young chefs.
“One of the most intriguing aspects is it is the excitement that kids have,” said Tessier.
Tessier recalled a recent event in New York City where his team “had an 11 year old do the brown butter sauce we did in the competition on the Cue. We measured everything out and she did it all by herself.”
“It would be so hard to teach someone all the important steps along that way. For us, bringing people into the kitchen, getting people excited about ‘I made this’, that’s where it gets really exciting and rewarding for us.”
If you want to hear my full conversation with Philip Tessier about the journey to Bocuse, the evolution of being a chef in America and abroad, as well as how he thinks technology can help create more excitement in the kitchen, you’ll want to check out the latest episode of the the Smart Kitchen Show.
Just click play below or download the podcast on Apple Podcasts!