You Can Now Cook With Facebook Messenger. Here’s Why That Is Awesome.

Four pm on a Thursday, and it’s been a goat rodeo of a workweek. A rumbling in your gut reminds you that dinnertime nears, so you mouse over to your favorite Facebook group — Cook With Joule. “Mmm, steak,” you think, leering, Homer Simpson–style, at a recently posted ribeye pic.

“Hey, Joulebot,” you type into Messenger. “Let’s make the exact steak Tommy D posted in Cook With Joule today.”

“Sure,” the bot texts back, scanning the image. “To get Tommy’s results, you need to cook your ribeye for one hour at 129 degrees Fahrenheit. Want me to get that started?”

“Yup,” you text, and in seconds, your sous vide device at home starts heating a pot of water. “Hey, while you’re at it, order a drone delivery of those steaks from Utah I got last time — two of them.”

“Great,” replies the bot. “They’ll be at your doorstep in 30 minutes.”

You pick up the conversation on the train ride home, summoning Joulebot on iChat to help you find a fresh side salad to serve with the steak.

Back in your kitchen, you pop the freshly delivered beef into the water and begin chopping salad ingredients. Realizing your hands are messy from prepping the vegetables, you ask Alexa how things are going with the steak. Alexa lets you know that while you can leave your steak in the water as long as you want, you’ll get the results from the photo in as little as 30 minutes.

A half hour later, your significant other walks through the door, bleary-eyed from a rough day at the office. As she takes in the still-steamy, restaurant-quality steak dinner on the table, a smile spreads across her face.

Don’t be surprised if you feel sorta like a superhero at that moment. Because you, sir or madam, just saved the day.

Okay, full disclosure: some aspects of the above scenario belong to the future. But when it comes to creating the connected kitchen of tomorrow, our team at ChefSteps has already made major strides. A few months back, we introduced a custom skill for Amazon’s Alexa, creating the first voice-controlled sous vide experience on the planet. And we’re heads down on some slick skill updates too. Soon Alexa will offer expert advice on, say, how to cook specific foods or the time and temperature to use for most anything you want to make.

And today, we’re happy to announce another breakthrough: text-controlled cooking with Facebook Messenger. Right this minute, you can head to Messenger to start the Joule sous vide tool, check in on a cook, or change your desired temperature. Joulebot is already a pretty good customer service agent and is studying hard so it can offer tons of kitchen tips in the days to come.

Excited as we are about these developments, they’re really just two small steps forward for an ambitious AI initiative we call Conversational Cooking. We see Conversational Cooking as the nerve center of tomorrow’s connected kitchen, where smart tools communicate with cooks in their own language — spoken and written — and function seamlessly across the services people already use to communicate each day.

How We Got Here

At ChefSteps — it may be obvious by now — we talk a lot. This was true from our earliest days, when three uber-opinionated Modernist Cuisine alums gathered in (startup cliche alert!) a garage to create a new kind of cooking company. We didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do, but our experience researching that supersized book had taught us this: there was a hyper-engaged, underserved community of home cooks who ravenously sought out new tools, content, and ingredients. Beyond that, they wanted to find each other. So we built an online forum on our website that quickly grew into a hub of essential cooking information utterly unique on the internet.

And that’s when we realized we didn’t need to decide what kind of company to be — our community was going to tell us.

This community’s devotion to sous vide cooking — coupled with their frustration over the clunky tools on the home market — led us to our first hardware product. Shipped in 2016, Joule is a smart sous vide tool controlled by your smartphone or tablet. Because we update Joule with new content and features as quickly as we can develop them, we are connected to our users for the long haul. Gone are the days of walking into a department store, buying an appliance, and hoping for the best. Joule’s greatest asset is the fervent community of curious, like-minded cooks that comes along with it. From the start, ChefSteps has anchored a group of passionate home cooks who share ideas and knowledge on our website. That group, now millions strong, makes ChefSteps what it is today — the world’s biggest sous vide community, cooking hundreds of thousands of meals with Joule every month. The Joule community reaches across multiple social platforms, with thousands of Joule owners helping each other make sous vide masterpieces, whether by posting advice to a community-created group on Facebook, sharing stories with #CookWithJoule on Instagram, or hosting real-life supper clubs to taste the fruits of each other’s labor.

With every new Joule owner, the network grows ever stronger — more advice, more ideas, more people to turn to. And as the network grows stronger, so does Joule: with every connected cook, Joule gets smarter and more responsive. And we’re hard at work integrating our community even more into the experience of owning Joule. That means when you buy Joule, you’re not just buying a piece of hardware; you’re getting instant access to the internet’s most helpful, knowledgeable, and passionate cooking community.

Continuing the Conversation

While smart tools like Joule can create extraordinary solutions for the contemporary cook, our community has convinced us that cooking is first and foremost a conversation. So we’ve devoted ourselves to bringing conversation to every aspect of the kitchen experience, using AI technologies to create virtual sous chefs that can control hardware, offer insightful tips and inspiration, and deliver on-demand customer service 24 hours a day. No more learning an app or website’s unique user interface and language every time you want to do something. A seamless, totally natural online experience is on the horizon, and we believe it will revolutionize the way we live — and certainly the way we cook.

This vision led us to Alexa, Amazon’s groundbreaking virtual assistant. A few months back, Joule became the first sous vide tool with a custom Alexa skill. Like an efficient and obedient sous chef, Alexa allows users to cook with their voices alone — incredibly handy when you’re elbows deep in bread dough or the Bachelor is down to two roses.

Now that we’ve added Facebook Messenger to the mix, dinner starts the moment a user texts us their desired time and temperature. Skeptics may ask: “Why do I need to cook on Facebook? I waste enough time there looking at my ex’s baby pictures as it is.” But here’s the thing: Facebook is where people are (1.86 billion of them, all told. And 8 in 10 adult internet users in the USA). And anyway, Conversational Cooking isn’t about a single website; it’s about offering options that fit naturally into people’s lives. It’s about talking to them in a human way, through familiar interfaces. Hate Facebook? Control Joule with the app or Alexa — or the app and Alexa. We’ll be adding new services as fast as we can to create a seamless experience that works on your terms.

We founded ChefSteps on two loves: cooking and conversation. Everything we build brings our vision of a connected world of like-minded cooks into clearer focus. We envision the kitchen of the future as a place where the tools are smart, the conversation is natural and lively, and the food is amazing. Where ingredients, recipes, and fellow cooks are only a text bubble — or a voice command — away. If this vision whets your appetite, download the Joule app today and have a look around. We can’t wait to hear what you think.

Psst: If you’re an ambitious thinker who wants to jump aboard and help us create the first fully connected kitchen, we’d love to hear from you. Engineers, ethnographers, food scientists, Elvis impersonators — we are eager to know what you can bring to the table. Get in touch through our jobs page, and let’s talk about how we can build the future together.

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