ChefSteps CEO Chris Young shows off the inner workings of the Joule sous vide circulator

Big news today in the world of the connected kitchen. As Chris Albrecht previously reported, Breville has acquired ChefSteps, maker of the Joule sous vide appliance.

I caught up with ChefSteps CEO Chris Young to ask him about the deal. Below is a transcript of our conversation.

Congratulations on the news. Can you tell us a little about how this came together? 

Young: When the bad news broke, Breville quickly reached out. They had been longtime admirers of what we have done. As we met with Breville team in Sydney, as I got to know their CEO Jim Clayton and talked about what we were doing with software, community and content, and we talked about what we accomplished with Joule, they saw a real opportunity to accelerate what Breville was trying to do by putting us together.

How do they plan to integrate the company?

They are keeping the Seattle offices. They are going to be investing more in our software team and capabilities. I can’t talk about future roadmap plans, but I think there will be a lot of opportunity with what we’ve done with Joule and how it might work together with Breville products in the future, and I think you are going to see a lot of investment in content and community from the Chefsteps side. In a lot of ways, this is a great outcome. Everything we want to keep doing is going to continue to happen and our community has a great steward in Breville so there’s continuity of our business and work.

Are you are going to stay on?

Young: Right now [I’m] involved in Breville, having conversations about how my role will evolve. We’re working it out. Grant [Crilly] is staying on, most of the team is staying on, and I expect be involved in Breville in some way going forward.

Can you tell us the acquisition price?

Young: No. Those terms are confidential. But I will say everyone who is involved, though it’s been a very challenging few months, feels very good about the outcome.

Why Breville?

Young: I’ve known Breville for a very long time. I had worked with them back when I was with the Fat Duck.

April was a very tough time. Had to let go a lot of my colleagues, stabilize the business, take time to figure things out. But when I made list of who I think was the right company to go forward with, Breville was at the top of my list. So when they reached out, I was really happy. It made it really easy. We have a shared DNA, how we think about products, how we think about innovation, that we’re fundamentally there to serve our community of cooks. We’re never just about doing a product at a particular price point and a set of features, that’s never how we approached things. I also think it’s real validation [that] what we built, what we shipped, was really one of a kind.

You had been working on a number of other products. Can you tell us what will happen to the ChefSteps product roadmap under Breville?

Young: This is one of the changes for me. Breville has to make a lot of decisions. We’ll absolutely see Joule go forward. There is a lot of eagerness to see our roadmap go forward. Will everything go forward? I have no idea, but I know there are several things we are very close I think we will be able to ship to our community later this year and I am quite excited about that.

You’ll be paired with precision cooking pioneer Polyscience under Breville. Thoughts about that?  

Young: We worked with Polyscience early on. They were a pioneer in the commercial space. With Joule, Breville was not only wanting to have a commercial offering, but also wanted to have the best offering in the consumer space with Joule.

The consumer sous vide market has been really competitive and some companies have struggled. Any thoughts on how it looks going forward?

The sous vide market is growing tremendously. The market is growing very fast, over 40% per year. Prime Day was fantastic for us. [I] think there has been a challenge in the industry. Some of it is a timing question. Some of the obvious strategic buyers that would give startups an exit, they’re maybe not ready yet to transform themselves with technology and they’re struggling out to figure out how they would benefit.

That is sort of the problem: there are not a lot of buyers that yet have the vision they need for the technologies that companies like ChefSteps pioneered. Breville gets it. They were already committing to a connected future and we just provided a great opportunity to accelerate it. I think until you get more companies recognizing they absolutely need this technology as part of their future, you’re going to see these companies struggle. But fundamentally, I think we’ve proven this technology is absolutely worthwhile and the relationships with their customers are invaluable.

Is the Joule Ready sauce business dead?

Young: I don’t think any final decisions have been made. We’re not putting back into production immediately. These are assets that Breville has acquired. There was a lot of things we were developing behind the scenes our customers absolutely loved. To be candid, I wish that business had a little bit more time to mature because their growth numbers were tremendous. I don’t know if I would say its dead, it might just be a question of priorities before anyone can turn back to it.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I have been a fan of chefsteps for years, and I use joule multiple times a week. Hopefully this will be a good move for them. Many friends and I got into their brand via chefsteps’ YouTube channel, which was fantastic but has been all but dead for months. I’ve assumed they’ve shifted focus to marketing joule, but I hope part of this deal will see a shift back to developing high quality content (which I would bet has gotten them MANY customers like myself). Good luck and Godspeed, chefsteps.

    And if you haven’t made their bagels or English muffins, you are missing out big time.

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