Update: The Spoon has confirmed that Chris Young, former CEO of ChefSteps, has left the company. 

ChefSteps, the Seattle based cooking hardware and content startup recently acquired by Breville, today unveiled Studio Pass, a $69 a year paid content subscription service.

The service was announced via email, which described the new service like this:

So, we are now introducing the ChefSteps Studio Pass. This is your virtual key to our kitchen. We are letting you into our cooking studio in the heart of the Pike Place Market—online, at least—to see the creative science in action. ChefSteps Studio Pass gives you access to our chefs through behind-the-scenes videos, exclusive new cooking guides, scientific insights, and online Q&A sessions.

In a way, the service marks a return to the company’s roots, which was that of a high-gloss cooking content startup before it went down the path of getting into the hardware business.

What isn’t clear, however, is how this new service is different from the company’s previous premium offering – called, naturally, “Premium” – which the company still offers on the website for a one-time payment of $39. And, from the looks of the comments in the ChefSteps community forum, subscribers to Premium aren’t sure of the difference either.

One Premium subscriber wondered what exactly what they were getting that was different:

Part of the problem with the company’s original foray into paid content was that they offered a lifetime subscription to Premium with a one-time payment, something I wrote about in my post about ChefSteps’ financial problems:

I do think the company made a strategic error early on by choosing to not ask its ChefSteps Premium customers to renew access annually (it was a pay-once, permanent subscription product), which negated any revenue growth opportunities as the company grew its subscriber base.

With its latest effort, it looks like ChefSteps is trying for a do-over with a new paid offering that would allow for it to capitalize on building a large subscriber base of annualized, renewable revenue. From the looks of it, however, they’ll need to do some explaining to those who plunked down $39 for what they thought was lifetime access to the company’s premium offerings.

The service was announced via an email from ChefSteps cofounder, Grant Crilly.  Crilly starts the email by mentioning the elephant in the room, ChefSteps recent troubles and their acquisition by Breville:

Let’s talk. This last year was the toughest one of my career, but it was also the most clarifying. I took a break from ChefSteps to try out some other creative projects. I drove 12,000 miles through Mexico. And when I came back, our investor wanted to make some changes. We had to lay off most of our staff and ultimately, I had a breakup with my founding business partner. It was a hard time.

Then, after months of negotiations, Breville acquired ChefSteps. And honestly, I cannot think of a better partner. Breville is obsessed with making the best products possible to help their customers have amazing food moments in their kitchens. They see ChefSteps the same way I do.

While the email was largely about the new paid content offering, Crilly made a cryptic reference to what’s perhaps even bigger news: Chris Young, his cofounder, has left ChefSteps. While Crilly doesn’t refer to Young by name, The Spoon has confirmed that the former CEO has indeed left the company he cofounded with Crilly after the acquisition by Breville.

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  1. I’m a “premium” member. Around 1 October, I got an email offering me me membership in the new program for $30 for the first year, which pretty deftly addresses the concerns of legacy premium members.

    I find myself wondering how many newcomers will take the $70 hook without first seeing what the scope and quality of the new content will be. I suspect that they will need to offer a deal such as a limited-term (one month?) trial membership to overcome that. $70 isn’t that much but users are pretty used to getting content for free, New York Times Cooking to the contrary notwithstanding.

    I hope and expect that they will succeed. Grant is an enthusiastic and attractive presenter, even though I don’t plan any time soon to, say, start sifting my coffee grounds in pursuit of the kind of culinary perfection in their vision.

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